The First Queenston-Lewiston Suspension Bridge

Lewiston, New York – Queenston, Ontario

1850 – 1854

Following the War of 1812, many families had settled along the Niagara River in the settlements of Queenston and Lewiston. Both settlements had become the international hub of trade and commerce. Ferry boat services were developed to provide a means of transportation in order to cross the border between Canada and the USA.

In 1824, Francis Hall, an engineer settled in Queenston with his family from Scotland. Hall was commissioned to design and build a monument to Major General Sir Isaac Brock at Queenston Heights. In the same year, Hall proposed the building of a bridge over the Niagara Gorge between Queenston and Lewiston. However there was no support in Hall’s proposal.

In August of 1836, the Suspension Bridge Company was formed and financing began. In 1849, the Queenston Suspension Bridge Company received its charter to build a bridge to connect Queenston and Lewiston.

The suspension bridge construction began in 1850 under the direction of engineer Edward W. Serrell. Thomas W. Griffith of New York was the construction engineer. Samuel Zimmerman was the Canadian masonry contractor and Mr. Hanson was the American masonry contractor. The first cable was taken across the river by a steam boat.

The $40,000 Queenston – Lewiston Suspension Bridge was completed on March 20th 1851. The bridge had a span of 841 feet (257m) and was 20 feet (6m) wide. The suspension cables were 1040 feet (317 m) long. The bridge would allow the crossing of horse & buggy and pedestrian traffic. It cost 25 cents to cross the bridge.

On February 3rd 1854, a storm with gale force winds caused the center span of the bridge to fall to the river below. Long guy wires which extended from the bridge to the shoreline used to stabilize the bridge deck had been disconnected to prevent damage from the ice on the river below.

In the absence of the bridge, ferry boat service was once again used to shuttle people and materials from one side of the border to the other side.

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