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This Canadian bridge holds 120 years of history despite numerous weather threats

Monday, January 18th 2021, 5:56 am - The Hartland Covered Bridge has been a landmark of New Brunswick for more than a century.

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The Hartland Covered Bridge in Hartland, New Brunswick, was opened in 1901. It's the world's longest-covered bridge, measuring 1,391 metres long.

Hartland Bridge when it opened on July 4, 1901. Hartland Bridge, opening day. July 4, 1901. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Since its creation, the bridge has been the centre of some interesting history. In 1901, Dr. Estey was the first person to cross the bridge, responding to an emergency call. Before the bridge was built, the only way Dr. Estey could have crossed the Saint John River was by ferry.

A fire almost burned the bridge in 1907, but it wasn't as impactful as the 1920 river ice, which collapsed two spans of the structure. The bridge was closed for two years before it was reopened with concrete piers instead of wooden ones.

In 1945, a pedestrian walkway was added. And in 1966, vandals tried to burn the structure down. In 1980, the bridge was officially declared a national historic site.

 new brunswick bridge Courtesy of Twitter/@mynewbrunswick

In 1982, a car drove into part of the bridge, causing part of it to drop. The bridge closed for repairs again, reopening in 1983.

In 1992, the first wedding took place on the bridge, which has been the backdrop of many celebrations. It appears in thousands of weddings, graduation, vacation, school class, sports team, and family photos.

On July 4, 2001, the Town of Hartland celebrated the bridge’s 100th birthday by re-enacting the original opening day celebrations, including a parade, ribbon cutting, dinner, dancing, and a firework display.

The bridge had nearly five strong years.

On Wednesday, January 18, 2006, ice jams threatened the bridge again. There were extreme rain and unseasonably warm temperatures, which caused bodies of water to swell, floods, and ice jams.

NB bridge ice

That day, so much ice had jammed beneath the bridge that it came within two metres of the bottom of the 105-year-old heritage site.

Hartland's mayor, Neville Hargrove, said "If it raises it up under that bridge, there's always the possibility that it could lift the bridge off the piers," adding, "And that's it: goodbye, tourist attraction."

Hargrove said, "It's all up to Mother Nature now," but "If the weather stays cool for a period of days, the water will drop and the ice will drop, and we'll be out of this situation."

There were discussions of mechanically removing the ice or blasting it with dynamite. The bridge made it through and even appeared as a Google Doodle on Google's Canadian homepage (to celebrate its 111th anniversary).

On August 5, 2018, the Town of Hartland turned 100 years old. To honour the anniversary, the bridge was turned into a restaurant, serving 500 people at a celebratory dinner.

To find out more about the ice buildup, listen to today's episode of "This Day In Weather History."

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by The Weather Network that features unique and informative stories from host Chris Mei.

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