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Bridging Two Nations in the 1000 Islands

Written by on November 26, 2015 in One in The Thousand
Thousand Islands twilight near Ivy Lea. Photo by Kim Lunman/Island Life Magazine/islandlifemag.ca

The Thousand Islands International Bridge between Ontario and New York was built in 1938. Photo by Kim Lunman/Island Life Magazine/islandlifemag.ca

 

It was the year the world met Superman, the year Howard Hughes flew around the world in 91 days, the year Babe Ruth was signed to coach the Brooklyn Dodgers. It was 1938. Ella Fitzgerald’s tune ‘A Tisket A Taskat’ was a number one hit. DC Comics issued its first edition of Superman. World War II loomed as the Nazis invaded Austria. It was against this backdrop in time that the Thousand Island International Bridge was built more than 78 years ago. Today, it stands as an icon not just as a spectacular feat of engineering but of an enduring symbol of goodwill between two nations and neighbours – Canada and the U.S. Hundreds of workers built the bridge between northern New York and eastern Ontario. The Thousand

A Canadian girl and American boy mark the historic opening of the Thousand Islands International Bridge in 1938.

A Canadian girl and American boy photographed by the Kingston Whig Standard mark the historic opening of the  bridge.

Islands Bridge system extends from Collins Landing near Alexandria Bay, New York to Ivy Lea near Gananoque, Ontario covering a distance of 8.5 miles. Dedication ceremonies took place on August 18, 1938 at the border at the International Rift. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister William L. Mackenzie King officially opened the bridges to an estimated audience of over 25,000 people, while thousands more lined the motorcade to the ceremonial site. The two leaders pledged friendship and cooperation between the two nations. ‘The Bridge’ as locals refer to it, is actually five bridges. The bridge was designed and painted green to fit the surrounding natural environment.The crossing over the American channel of the St.Lawrence River, from the mainland to Wellesley Island, consists of a suspension bridge of 800 ft. (main span). The American span from abutment to abutment is 4,500 ft.The Canadian crossing includes the 600 ft. continuous Warren Truss span connecting Hill Island to Constance Island, a steel arch of 348 ft. spans from Constance Island to Georgina Island and a suspension bridge of 750 ft. from Georgina Island to the Canadian mainland (Ontario). The boundary at the International Rift, between Wellesley Island and Hill Island, is bridged by two parallel 90 ft. rigid-frame arched spans of

Thousand Islands Rush Hour. Photo by Kim Lunman/Island Life Magazine/islandlifemag.ca

Thousand Islands Rush Hour. Photo by Kim Lunman/Island Life Magazine/islandlifemag.ca

reinforced concrete with masonry facing. Originally there was only one bridge at the boundary or International Rift. However, increased traffic demanded twinning this crossing in 1959. Remarkably, the bridge – which cost $3-million to build – was finished 10 weeks ahead of schedule in just 16 months. More than two million vehicles cross the bridge annually today, up from 150,000 when it opened in 1938. The toll was $1.25 back then. The toll hasn’t increased much since then. Now it’s $2.75 US and $3.25 Cdn.The Thousand Islands Bridge Authority operates its bridges and facilities without state, provincial or federal funds and does not provide toll revenues to non-bridge operations.

View of the Lost Channel from the Canadian span near Hill Island. Photo by Kim Lunman/Island Life Magazine/islandlifemag.ca

View of the Lost Channel from the Canadian span near Hill Island. Photo by Kim Lunman/Island Life Magazine/islandlifemag.ca

The Bridge is more than a symbol of a unique partnership between Canada and the U.S. on the world’s longest undefended border. We share a River, the mighty St. Lawrence and the world famous Thousand Islands, 1,864 of them in fact. Of course, there’s an international border between us, essentially splitting the River in to our two nations, Canadian islands and American Islands with Canadian flags and American flags flying proudly. The International Rift splits Canada’s Hill Island from America’s Wellesley Island but it’s a narrow divide, just a pebble’s toss

The Thousand Islands International bridge between Ontario and New York is 77 years old.

The Thousand Islands International bridge between Ontario and New York is 77 years old. Photo by Kim Lunman/Island Life Magazine/islandlifemag.ca

away in some spots.

When President Roosevelt joined Canada’s Prime Minister Mackenzie, riding in the same car in a motorcade to cut the ribbon at the bridge opening nearly eight decades ago, he told the cheering crowds who came from both sides of the border to celebrate: “This garden spot of nature, this bridge stands as an open door…Where the boundary is

The Canadian span of the Thousand Islands near Ivy Lea. Photo by Kim Lunman/island Life Magazine/islandlifemag.ca

The Canadian span of the Thousand Islands near Ivy Lea. Photo by Kim Lunman/island Life Magazine/islandlifemag.ca

crossed the only words must be ‘Pass, friend’. How times have changed in a post-911 world we live in today with heightened security at all borders.  The international border separates us and yet the River and the Bridge bring us together. The view of this amazing archipelago from the Bridge is breathtaking with islands stretching out over Canada and America, a panorama punctuated by the same pink granite and pine. Boaters from both countries wave as they pass each other on the River, the same water in their wakes, in the same special place: The 1000 Islands. For more information about the Bridge, check out www.tibridge.com.

 

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