Construction of the Original Span

The Blue Water Bridge, spanning the St. Clair River between Point Edward/Sarnia and Port Huron was an idea, which took more than a decade to realize. In June 1927, the suggestion was made at Port Huron that a bridge project then mooted in Detroit be transferred to the St. Clair. While the transfer did not materialize, the idea lingered.

As a result, John Harrington, New York bridge promoter and consulting engineer, approached the Port Huron and Sarnia councils with a bridge proposition. Maynard D. Smith of Port Huron submitted a similar proposal. This was followed by others from the Port Huron and Sarnia Ferry Company: Stranahan, Harris & Oatis of Toledo and Chicago; and E. M. Elliott and Associates Inc. of Chicago.

Original Span

First endorsation was given by the Port Huron and Sarnia councils to Harrington's $3,000.00 project. Early in 1928, bills for a bridge franchise were introduced in the United States Congress and the Dominion Parliament. Harrington formed the Canadian-American Bridge Company.

After some months' delay, however, the Sarnia council withdrew its support, and endorsed the proposal of the St. Clair Transit Company, backed by the Maynard Smith interests. Harrington ultimately abandoned his efforts to secure passage of his franchise, and eventually President Calvin Coolidge signed the St. Clair Transit bill, and the equivalent Canadian measure was approved by Ottawa. On May 31, 1928, Sarnia held a celebration to mark the passage of the bill.

The depression years came, and delayed the project. However, it was never quite dropped. In 1930, the franchise was renewed, but construction still hung fire. Another renewal was granted in 1934. Two years later the franchise was transferred to the Michigan Bridge Commission, this at long last proceeded with the financing and construction of the bridge.

W. T. Goodison, M.P. of Sarnia, had actively supported the bridge idea in its early stages, and after his untimely death his successor, Ross W. Gray, M.P., kept up the fight, with strong support from William A. Guthrie, M.L.A. Gray was a potent influence in welding together the forces, which made the bridge a reality; and his legal talents were exceedingly helpful in the negotiations, and in the difficult work of international financing.

Original Span

An appropriation of $3,614,000.00 was made for the project of which $2,350,000.00 was for the centre span and purchase of ferries, $629,000.00 for the U.S. approach, and $635,000.00 for the Canadian approach. The first sod was turned at Port Huron on June 24, 1937. The bridge was completed and formally opened in 1938.

The structure was located at the narrowest point of the river between Fort Gratiot and Point Edward. Of steel cantilever construction, it has a total length of 6,392 feet, with a centre span length of 1,523 feet. The suspended span over the St. Clair River, 871 feet long, is 152 feet above the navigating channel, with the top of the bridge 210 feet above the surface of the river. The Canadian approach is 2,657 feet and the Michigan approach 2,301 feet.

First bids (American and Canadian approach and main piers) taken May 15, 1937.

Construction work started June 24, 1937.

Opening date: October 8, 1938.

Built by Michigan and Ontario Highway Departments and State Bridge Commission of Michigan. Modjeski & Masters and Monsarrat & Pratley, Consulting Engineers.

After dedication ceremonies on October 7th, 8th, and 9th, the Bridge was opened for regular traffic on October 10, 1938.

Officiating at the dedication of the Bridge were Mitchell F. Hepburn, Premier of the Province of Ontario and Frank Murphy, Governor of the State of Michigan.

Other dignitaries at the opening ceremonies were United States Senator Prentiss M. Brown, Ross W. Gray K.C., M.P., Wm. Guthrie M.P.P., Mayor Charles Rettie of Port Huron, Mayor Fred Pelling of Sarnia, Reeve David Ross of Point Edward and V. B. Steinbaugh, Chairman of the Michigan State Bridge Commission.

Construction Highlights:

  • November 20, 1935 - Soil boring
  • June 24, 1937 - First sod turned
  • July 21, 1937 - Canadian approach started
  • December 15, 1937 - First steel raised
  • April 14, 1938 - Steel over water on Canadian side
  • July 9, 1938 - Centre span completed

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