As I am now past the median age in this country, or anywhere for that matter, I can now pontificate on how things used to be, since more than half of you out there were not around to see the things I saw as a kid. For the rest of you, we can now commiserate on much better / worse things are now compared to the olden days.
On that front, my topic today is a local Calgary landmark, one that any long time Calgarian has walked, cycled or driven across – the Zoo bridge, aka, St George’s Island bridge, aka 12 Street Bridge. Pretty much everyone I know calls it the Zoo Bridge, as that is the primary thing on the island it connects to. It is due to be torn down shortly, a victim of time, one too many river floods, and a ton of cars that drive over it every day.
There are not too many things in Calgary still standing that date back to 1908, the year this bridge was opened. If you want to see a picture of what it was like then, check out this Blog article on Off the Beaten Path. It shows the bridge brand new in a circa 1910 post card of the era. You’ll note that the walkway is on the west side rather than its current east side – check out the remnant of that design in the next photo.
You can see that old pathway still there – just hanging out on its own now, with a convenient “Crosswalk closed, use next crosswalk ->” sign, just in case you didn’t get the idea. I always wondered about this as a kid, why was there a pathway on the other side just sitting there with no connection? Seems at some point the secondary span to the south was replaced or changed to move the sidewalk to the east side. It’s been that way for a long time. I talked to someone who walked across the bridge as a kid in the late 50s and they remember seeing the orphan path on the west side. The planks look in surprisingly good shape, a bit warped from all the years, but seem like they would still hold weight. Thank the Calgary dry climate for that.
While the east side has been modified to add alcoves you can stop at to admire the view, the west side is still its original form. You can compare in the next picture (click for bigger from my Flickr account)
Note the less robust railing design, and the wide diamond mesh – a baby could fall through that! You can see main span on the east side is also wood, but much more robust that the deteriorating west side! Different standards for different times. The view is not much different though from what I saw as a kid, I’m pretty sure the railings were not as nice, perhaps chainlink in that time.
It was always exciting to cross that bridge, knowing a great day at the zoo was at hand! When I was little, (70’s) this was one of the main entrances to the zoo, the north side entered on the suspension bridge that now seems to be closed indefinitely. For the south entrance, you’d get off the #1 bus and walk north on 12th Street. You’d see that span of steel rising ahead – it was distinct to any other Calgary bridges in being so tall and slender.
Cross the river and head for the zoo entrance gates right off the end of the bridge. You’d enter the zoo and see the greenhouses in front of you with the main entrance to them straight ahead. It made a great impression at the time. The new greenhouses retain the bones of the two big greenhouse structures of the old greenhouse, but everything else was rebuilt, with less public space, and more “private function space”. I still prefer the old setup, with it’s indoor eating area – on a quiet day you could go buy a hotdog and sit down beside the lush foliage and just pretend it’s not minus 30 outside. Can’t say I’m particularly fond of this new way of funding things. If you’re a private group with enough funds to rent the space, the zoo will cater food in the nice private event space, then have a tour or activity afterwards in the greenhouse. The public gets to eat in the purpose built building that pretty much screams “eat and get out so we can push more people through here”.
I have similar feelings for the new bridge to be built. Nothing special to see here, move on. It will be a better bridge for pedestrians, cars and cyclists – but not noteworthy as a bridge. Although I don’t think all the details have been worked out yet, so there may be some redeeming small details added, hopefully stylistic cues that refer to the bridge that once was.
So that is my rant for today. Below are the pictures I showed above, plus more – clickable so you can see them in Flickr. I’d have made the article pictures clickable as well, but couldn’t figure out how to do that AND right align them – there are ways, just not time enough for me to figure out how to do them with these new fangled Flicker tags.
You can see the rest over at my Flickr account, here is a tag link for them.