Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Collapse of the Bridge

An interesting photograph walked into the O'Dell House Museum today. This is not a totally uncommon event. As it is known that the Annapolis Heritage Society collects archival material for the western part of Annapolis County, we have people offering us archival documents on a regular basis. These include ledgers, manuscript records, recordings, videos and, as in today's donation, photographs. Since we have a limited storage capacity, we only collect material directly related to our region. Other materials are directed to the proper museum or archives who would collect them.

One of the most discussed events in recent Annapolis Royal history is the collapse of the Annapolis Royal to Granville Ferry bridge on June 9, 1960. Those of us who live in the area have all heard the stories of how the last vehicle to cross the bridge was the school bus returning to Granville Ferry. In the telling, this story is sometimes elevated to Hollywood extremes with the bus narrowly escaping as the bridge plunges into the water. I am sure that Hollywood would add a background explosion as the bus turns safely onto the Granville Road.

In all seriousness, it had been known for some time that the bridge was moving more than normal. This had something to do with the ongoing construction of the new Annapolis River Causeway. When the fill for the causeway was put in place, the currents and eddies which had affected the bridge for over 40 years began to change. These changes put new stresses on the bridge which led to its collapse. As a young man, Philip Milo of Granville Ferry was hired to watch the bridge an make notes on its movements. The former Annapolis County Councilor gives an excellent presentation on his time as the bridge watcher if you ever have the chance to hear him speak.

To demonstrate the strength of the tides in the Annapolis Basin, one of the large metal spans broke free and fell into the water. This span spent the night stuck in the mud near the end of the Annapolis Royal Wharf. When the next tide went out, the span was swept out toward the Bay of Fundy never to be seen again. Some local fishermen claim that the span still sits under the water in Port Wade.

When the bridge collapsed the next closest way to get across the river was to drive to Bridgetown and back which takes approximately 40 minutes. To save residents some time an interim ferry system was put in place. Passengers were transported by motor boat until October when some vehicles were allowed to cross the causeway.

It looks like I am having the month of March start with some disasters. My last post was on historic fires in Annapolis Royal and today's is on the collapse of the bridge. I may run with the disaster theme a bit longer and make my next post about some images from a train crash.

All for now,
RGS

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