Spotlight: HBCA in words and images

Remnants of the Past: The Hudson’s Bay Company and Winnipeg’s Urban Landscape – The Broadway Bridge

The HBC’s influence on the urban development of Winnipeg is documented in part by the business records and plans and drawings of numerous structures it built and operated in the last two centuries. While some of these structures still stand today, others are visible only in the archival records that provide evidence of their former existence.

Broadway Bridge Plan
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Plan and Profile of Proposed Bridge Crossing of the Red River 1881
HBCA G.1/290

This drawing from 1881 shows plans for a bridge designed by Edward Worrell Jarvis and constructed by American firm Dean and Westbrook Engineers & Contractors. It was a simple iron truss structure, 900 feet in length, consisting of five 140-foot stationary spans and one 200-foot pivoting section that allowed river traffic to pass.

This was the design for the Broadway Bridge, which opened on April 15, 1882.  It was built by a joint-stock company, formed by a group of private investors, called The Red River and Assiniboine Bridge Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of the Hudson Bay Company. Operated as a private toll bridge, the company charged­­­­ merchants and private citizens per use, depending on mode of transportation. Pocket-sized bridge passes were issued as currency.

Photo of the front of the Bridge Pass. “The Red River and Assiniboine Bridge Co. Ltd. Pass: [blank line] During the year ending 31st Dec:[blank line] Why granted: [blank line] President [signature line] Countersigned: Secretary [signature line] ”
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Photo of the back of the Bridge Pass. “Conditions. This pass is NOT TRANSERABLE and will only be honored when presented by the party to whom it is issued, and may be CANCELLED at any time; and the party using it assumes all risk of accident or damage to person or property. In no case will it be honored for the purpose of passing wagon or dray loads, only for a horse and carriage when horse is driven or carriage occupied by the holder of the Pass.”
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Red River and Assiniboine Bridge Company bridge passes [between 1881 and 1909]
HBCA F.48/24

In anticipation of the grand opening of the bridge, local newspapers had enthusiastically reported each stage of the construction. But as the bridge neared completion it became evident that the spring of 1882 would be noteworthy for another reason – a flood!  On April 19th – just four days after first opening, breaking ice formed a jam as wide as the river, which swept away two spans of the new bridge.

Despite this, the damaged sections were rebuilt in 1883, and the Red River and Assiniboine Bridge Co. Ltd. continued to maintain and operate the Broadway Bridge for almost two decades. The Company used returned earnings and bonds to manage ongoing maintenance and repairs.

Photo of Bridge Stock Certificate
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Red River and Assiniboine Bridge Company stock certificate book
1881-1885 HBCA F.48/42

The Red River and Assiniboine Bridge Co. stockholders included many of the city’s business elite as well as HBC officials such as Donald A. Smith, whose purchase of 10 shares in 1881 is shown in this stock certificate book recording sales of shares in the company.

By the early 1900’s the value of the company’s shares had unfortunately decreased and in 1909 the stockholders sold the bridge to the City of St. Boniface for $59,000.00 and the company liquidated. The Broadway Bridge continued to be in operation until 1917 and was replaced by the Provencher Bridge in 1918.

Spotlight by Abigail Auld, a student in the University of Winnipeg’s Curatorial Practices MA program who is investigating the HBC’s impact on Winnipeg’s urban development. Learn more on her project WPGxHBC.

Search the Archives’ online database, Keystone for more information about these records and others documenting the HBC in Winnipeg.

See past features in the Spotlight Archive.

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