The North River Bridge

North River Bridge

North River Bridge c. 1894 - Photo courtesy of PARO Acc2670/22

The earliest mention of a bridge across the North River found by this author comes from an article in the 1829 edition of The Prince Edward Island Register.  The article describes the formation of a committee for the purpose of establishing roads and bridges.  The report stated, “Your Committee with reference to a petition of the Inhabitants of Elliot River, Tryon, Crapaud, and Bedeque, praying for a Bridge at Poplar Island and a road opened thereto, have voted the sum of £40 for exploring and opening said road, and recommend that the sum be laid out thereon, whenever the best line is ascertained; but your committee cannot recommend that any money be appropriated at this time for the erection of a Bridge at Poplar Island.”7  Despite earlier claims that a bridge had been constructed in 1824, this article attests that a bridge across the North River did not exist before 1829.  There is another source that claims that the North River Bridge was built in 1836, which although not yet confirmed by facts, may prove to be correct.  According to the Crosby genealogy, William Crosby Jr. built the first bridge at North River.  “He received 900 pounds, which works out to about 1 pound per foot.”8  The bridge was originally built slightly north of the current causeway.  The road now called Lakeview Drive was the road that led off the bridge.  The North River store was located on the north side of this road on the corner of Lakeview Drive and North Yorke River Road.  The remnants of the old bridge exit could be seen for many years after the causeway was built. 

The next mention of the North River Bridge comes from an article in the Royal Gazette, dated 1843.  The ad called for a tender “for placing Twenty-three Piles to the Poplar Island Bridge”9  This first bridge was made of wood and although not yet confirmed, it has been said that the bridge was destroyed twice by ice before the steel bridge was constructed in 1913.10  An interesting article was discovered in a 1901 edition of the Morning Guardian.  The article provides a summary of a meeting that took place in Charlottetown concerning the construction of a new bridge at a new location across the York River.  The proposal was for a bridge crossing at Dockendorff’s property in York Point to Brighton Road in Charlottetown.  The idea was unanimously accepted among those present, however as anyone traveling to Cornwall now can see in the end the proposal was not approved.

The North River Bridge was also used as a wharf.  As you can see from the photo below taken c. 1894, boats docked along the side of the bridge.  This may have been the case since the bridge was first built.  In a shipping report dated May 12, 1838, it stated that, “The new Team Boat, intended to ply as a ferry between Charlottetown and the opposite side of the Hillsborough, came down the York River and up to the Wharf yesterday afternoon, impelled by the power of three horses.”11  The wharf mentioned may refer to the wharf at Franklin Point near the ferry crossing on the Dockendorff property or the wharf at the bridge.  However, the 1871 census report is much more clear about the wharf at the bridge.   The census indicated that “a large quantity of produce is shipped at Poplar Island Bridge.”12  The wharf at the bridge was used for many years as some of the residents of the area recall small boats being loaded there.

The life-long residents of Cornwall have many memories of the old bridge.  It was a narrow bridge, only wide enough to allow for one lane of traffic.  This would have been frustrating enough, but matters became more frustrating when automobiles became more popular, and the bridge was shared between the new machines and the beautiful animals that were easily spooked by them. 

Travel across the North River was made easier during the mid 1950’s with the construction of the causeway.  The project began in 1953 and was completed in 1955.  In the Annual Report of the Department of Public Works and Highways of the Province of Prince Edward island for the year ending March 31st, 1955, the following statement was made by bridge engineer, J.D. MacDonald: “North River Causeway is near completion and it would appear that this type of crossing is more desirable than a bridge structure in cost, time of construction, life, maintenance and the numerous assets provided by the artificial lake.”13   Further on in the report, the dimensions of the causeway were given, “A causeway eleven hundred (1100’) feet in length, consisting of sandstone fill and a culvert sixteen (16’) feet deep and twenty (20’) feet wide, and one hundred and five (105’) feet long at the deck, was constructed across the North (Yorke) River adjacent to the old North River Bridge.  The closing of this River with a causeway of this type is the first time that a project of this kind has been attempted in the Province.”14  Since the construction of the North River Causeway in 1955, it has undergone several renovations, as can be seen from the photos below.  The early settlers would be surprised to see how different the river looks today.

Causeway 80s nr causeway today
North River Causeway c. 1980's - Photo Courtesy of Don MacEwen The North River Causeway in 2011


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