Ran into this antique yesterday, whilst plying the waters of this creek. The creek didn't yield anything noteworthy, but the vistas were sweet!
The Percy Bridge that connects the
municipalities of Elgin and Hinchinbrooke is the oldest covered bridge
in Quebec and the last remaining bridge of its type in the world.
Renewing the drive to save the Percy Bridge
According to an article in the 1989 Chateauguay Valley Historical Society Journal, the Historic Sites and Monument Board of Canada deemed the bridge of national historic and architectural significance in 1984, and in 1987 the bridge was declared by the then Ministry of Cultural Affairs to be a historic monument, guaranteeing its preservation. Now in 2007, the Mayor of Elgin, Mr. Jean-Pierre Proulx has taken up the call to save the Bridge as it sits now in desperate need of repairs.
"I need half a million dollars in the next two years to fix the bridge," says Elgin mayor Jean-Pierre Proulx.
It will not be the great project that I had in mind in the beginning, which was to bring the bridge back to its original conditions with the original roof made from hemlock shingles, but that would have cost up to $2.5 million dollars. Now the bridge is falling apart so I have to forget the fancy project and concentrate on bringing it back to make it able to survive another twenty years."
"A rough estimate made by an engineer is $422,000, and that would mean raising the bridge by eight inches, and we would redo the entrance of the bridge," says Proulx, noting how the first step in getting the project off the ground is to have official plans drawn up in order to have a better idea of the actual costs to repair the bridge.
The Mayor has approached both the Ministry of Culture and Communications and the Ministry of Transport, which will both cover one third of the $30,000 cost to have plans developed. Once the initial restoration blueprints have been completed, a call for tenders can be issued and the true cost of the project will be more obvious. The catch however is that one third of the $30,000 will have to come from somewhere, and it is the mayor's plan to approach the MRC about covering the last $10,000.
A similar situation occurred when it came time to look into repairing the Turcot Bridge. The old iron bridge across the Ch”teauguay River beside the Georgetown Church Cemetery was badly in need of repair and the funds for the drawings were split three ways, with the Mayors of the MRC opting to put up the funds.
"I am going to ask for the same thing at the next meeting so that I can have the funds to have the drawings completed," says Proulx. "I need to know how much it will cost, and the first step is to get the restoration blueprints and since the MRC paid to restore the Turcot Bridge they should also pay for the Percy Bridge."
Once the project has been started and a real estimate has been produced, the Mayor plans to organize a more serious campaign to raise awareness and funds for the bridge.
"I want to start a foundation to save the Percy Covered Bridge," he says, noting how he will be accepting donations, which the municipality will store in a bank account dedicated to the foundation.
"We have to save this bridge. It is unique to the world, it is irreplaceable, and it is important for tourism in the area," he says.
During the periods 1851 to 1869, the McCallum inflexible arched truss was widely introduced on American railways. In Canada covered bridges using the McCallum truss were built by the Grand Trunk Railway, which took over the St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railway, and constructed at least nine McCallum type railway bridges. However, the advent of steel bridges effectively rendered the McCallum design obsolete. The Percy Bridge in Powerscourt is the only McCallum Inflexible Arch Truss structure to have been erected on a roadway in North America and the only remaining example in the world of the McCallum truss. To this day, it remains a mystery why the McCallum plans were used for the Percy Bridge, and it is reported that the complications and difficulties of building such a bridge drove the contractor Robert Graham to bankruptcy and was enough to discourage any further construction of this type in the region.
Covered bridge construction has traditionally been confined mainly to New Brunswick and Quebec in Canada. There were hundreds of covered bridges built in New Brunswick and over a thousand in Quebec on secondary roads. Only seven such bridges have been known to have been constructed in Ontario, and three in Nova Scotia.
In Quebec covered bridges were first erected in the early 19th century in Loyalist areas, mainly the Eastern townships, but elsewhere bridges were built as part of an effort by the government to open up the interior of the province to settlement.