In the 1930s, there was still no bridge over the Red River in Selkirk. The federal government built one during the depression as a work relief project. It was to be a toll bridge but residents didn’t agree so took matters into their own hands.
On February 13, 1934, St. Clements residents Tom Hay and Thomas Bunn sent a resolution to the Minister of Labour, Minister of Public Works, and the Prime Minister detailing the need for a bridge. At that time, the existing ferry between East and West Selkirk was transporting approximately 50,000 foot and vehicle passengers. The Government of Canada agreed to build the Selkirk Bridge as one of the Great Depression Government Relief Projects.
Macaw and Macdonald were the contractors for the project. The location for the Bridge was selected at the end of Eaton Avenue in Selkirk. The total cost was estimated at $250,000. However, when the Province of Manitoba refused to provide any funding for the project, Ottawa decided to designate the bridge as a toll bridge. A petition against the toll bridge designation was sent to Ottawa on June 17, 1936 with over 700 names from St. Clements. The bridge was completed by the end of March 1937 but was not open to the public.
As a result of the impatient and angered community, the bridge was mysteriously and unofficially opened on April 29, 1937. However, two government officials were sent the next day to raise the lift span which prevented local residents from crossing. Finally, on Monday May 3, 1937, the bridge was officially opened for vehicle and pedestrian traffic; an agreement was reached between the parties involved to share the funding. During the first navigation season, from May 24 to November 3, 1938, it was recorded that the bridge had over 125 lifts.
Crossing the Red River
Selkirk Bridge geocache site is located in Lockport, Manitoba, Canada at N 50º 08.358´ latitude and W 96º 51.942´ longitude. If you find the geocache and scan the QR code inside of it, it brings you here to learn more. Watch all of our videos on our YouTube Channel. Other heritage content can be found on our Red River North Heritage Youtube channel.
The Selkirk Bridge is the last remaining lift bridge in Manitoba. The bridge was finally opened in 1937, after some major controversy between the RM of St. Clements, the City of Selkirk, the Province of Manitoba, and the federal government.
At that time, the only bridge crossing the Red River north of Winnipeg was the bridge at St. Andrews Lock and Dam, which had been completed in 1914.
The only other means of crossing the river was to use the common flat-bottom rowboat, known as the Red River Punt, to take one of the four river ferries located north of the Lockport Bridge, or to wait until the river froze, so you could walk across on the ice. The RM of St. Clements claimed that 50 000 people had crossed by the Selkirk ferry, on foot or in a vehicle, over the previous years, and so they pressed for the construction of a bridge.
In 1934, in the midst of the depression, the RM and the Town of Selkirk petitioned the federal government for funds from the Dominion Government Relief Program, to build a suitable bridge at this site. $250 000 was awarded for this project.
By April 1935, three piers of the bridge had been constructed before the ice went out, and the bridge was finally completed by late 1935. The bridge had to be a lift bridge to accommodate the boat traffic on the river, such as the Keenora, and other tall mast ships.
The controversy was that the federal government insisted that the cost of the operation of the bridge be assumed by the province and the local governments. All three refused and insisted that it was a federal responsibility. The local governments insisted that they could not pay for it, as they were broke from the cost of the depression, and the province said that it was a municipal problem.
The federal government indicated that the bridge would then be operated as a toll bridge, much to the disgust of the local people. The local ferry, in the meantime, had also been dismantled, which eliminated that option for crossing the river.
In 1936, there was still no agreement as to who would look after the bridge, so it was raised several feet above the deck to prevent people from crossing. However, that did not deter many residents, on foot or bicycle, from climbing up and crossing over. This was quite dangerous, and many ladies carrying eggs to the market lost their produce into the water.
A local resident, Ed Maloney, took matters into his own hands, as he thought this was ridiculous, and quietly one night in April 1937, he lowered the span by manual crank to allow people to cross. The bridge was officially opened a few weeks later.
The bridge was administered by the RM of St. Clements, the Town of Selkirk, and the province until 1967, when the Province of Manitoba took over ownership of the bridge, and it was declared a provincial road, number 204.