The Honeymoon Steel Arch Bridge

Niagara Falls, New York – Niagara Falls, Ontario

1897 – 1938

The bridge was designed by Engineer, Leffert L. Buck.

The Upper Steel Arch Bridge was built in 1897-1898 by the Pencoyd Bridge Company of Philadelphia, under the direction of Engineer R.S. Buck. It was located 14 feet closer to the American Falls than the suspension bridge it replaced. At that time it was the greatest steel arch bridge in the world. The bridge was a two hinged arch with a latticed rib and its span was 840 feet (256m) long with trusses connecting the main span to the top of each shoreline. The abutments for this bridge extended to the base of the gorge and were situated next to the rivers edge.

The bridge had one road level which provided a double track for electric car service and was sufficiently wide to provide ample room for carriages and pedestrians as well. This bridge was situated just north of the American Falls and was the fourth bridge at this site. It also provided an excellent viewing platform. The method of its erection was very similar to the first Whirlpool Arch Bridge. The suspension bridge components were removed after the arch was erected.

The dismantled suspension bridge was moved to Queenston – Lewiston where it was re-erected providing a single electric car track and room for other vehicles as well. It became the second Queenston-Lewiston Bridge. This bridge remained in service until 1962 when it was replaced with a larger and more modern bridge. The suspension bridge was sold to a Buffalo, New York firm and dismantled.

Similar to the suspension bridges, high winds were a major factor causing the bridge span to sway. Quite often the winds nearly blew pedestrians and vehicles off the bridge. On one such occasion, crowds of people celebrating the 1925 Festival of Lights went out onto the bridge along with street cars and other automobiles to better view the illumination and fireworks. The bridge span began swaying so much that pedestrians had trouble walking and several of the bridge lights broke. The bridge was vacated without incident but showed a particular weakness in its construction.

Another problem was that the bridge had a wooden floor which became very slippery when wet. In one such accident, in 1930, an American motorist crossing the bridge into Canada applied the brakes of his automobile and skidded off the bridge and into the gorge, falling to his death.

In 1899, one year after the completion of the Upper Steel Arch Bridge one of the most spectacular ice bridges ever to be seen formed below the Falls. The ice gathered around the abutments of the bridge to a height of 80 feet (24m) extending to the base of the arch. The pressure of the ice applied so much pressure against the steel abutments that it caused several steel pieces to bend. Men on both sides of the border were employed to blast the ice away from the abutments. During the summer months a series of protective walls were built around the abutments to further protect them from the onslaught of winter ice.

These precautions seemed sufficient until January 23rd 1938, when a sudden wind storm on Lake Erie sent a deluge of ice over the Falls. Within twelve hours the river below the Falls was jammed with ice, of such enormous proportions, that the pressure pushing against the bridge abutments and the hinge supports of the arch caused severe structural damage. It was inevitable that the bridge would collapse.

The bridge remained intact for several days, drawing thousands of people who came to wait for the end of the bridge to come. The end of the Upper Steel Arch Bridge (Honeymoon Bridge) came at 4:20 p.m. on January 27th 1938, when the span broke free and fell into the gorge onto the ice on the river below. The ice had pushed the bridge away from its abutment on the American side causing the bridge to be pulled of its abutment on the Canadian shore.

The only photographs of the bridge collapse were taken by Frank O. Seed of Niagara Falls, New York and Arthur Pink of Niagara Falls, Ontario.

The bridge fell to the river in one piece. On February 2nd, salvage operations began with attempts to break the bridge into four parts and to remove the debris lying on the slopes of the gorge walls.

For safety sake the span was broken into two pieces by use of dynamite. The two pieces of the center span of the bridge remained on the ice until April 12th-13th 1938 when the ice broke apart and the two pieces disappeared under the surface.

On April 12th 1938 at 7:10 a.m., the American section of the Falls View Bridge sank below the water surface, at 8:10 a.m., the center section of this bridge sank into the river, and at 3:45 p.m. the remaining Canadian portion of this bridge began floating downriver on top of an ice flow. As the ice flow reached the area of the Niagara River opposite Otter Street (Canadian street) and the Niagara Falls (New York) Waste Disposal Plant, this section rolled off of the flow and sank into the water into what is believed to be the deepest part of the Niagara River.

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