ELGIN AND THE PRETORIA BRIDGE

Quick facts

Story kiosk location

  • Corner of Elgin and Catherine

Important dates

  • The Pretoria bridge was constructed between 1915-1918, & heritage activists successfully fought for its refurbishment rather than replacement in the 1970s.

Audiofile

  • No

What happened here?

  • The bridge was designed by Strauss Bascule Bridge Company of Chicago the same company that engineered San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. 

Where Elgin meets the Rideau Canal, you’ll see a table-lift bridge known as Pretoria Bridge.

It links the neighbourhoods now known as Centretown, the Glebe, and Old Ottawa East.

Pretoria replaced an earlier wooden swing bridge located to the north at the end of Argyle Street.

Photo of the Elgin Street approach to Pretoria Bridge, 1938

The Pretoria Avenue Bridge was an innovative table lift bridge that elevates so that watercraft can pass underneath. The bridge was constructed by Roderick Brewder of Ottawa and Dominion Bridge of Montreal. Its construction was a major event and attracted sightseers and visitors.

In the late 1950s the roundabout that had featured in the main approach to the bridge from Elgin Street since the 1930s was demolished to maximize traffic flow.

Photo of residents viewing the construction of Pretoria Bridge

The bridge is a continuation of Pretoria Avenue, named after the capital city of the Boer South African Republic which was successfully besieged by British troops in 1902 marking the end of the South African War (1899-1902).

 

Many Canadians, including volunteers from Ottawa, served in the British forces and the renaming of Jane Street to Pretoria commemorated that victory and their service. By the 1980s, however, the name seemed to mark the apartheid regime in South Africa and an unsuccessful campaign was launched to rename the street and bridge to honour anti-apartheid activist and future President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela.

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