West Montrose Covered Bridge

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West Montrose Covered Bridge
The West Montrose Covered Bridge (50399543916).jpg
Coordinates43°35′08″N 80°28′53″W / 43.5855°N 80.4814°W / 43.5855; -80.4814Coordinates: 43°35′08″N 80°28′53″W / 43.5855°N 80.4814°W / 43.5855; -80.4814
CrossesGrand River
LocaleWest Montrose, Ontario
Maintained byWaterloo Region
Designcovered bridge
MaterialConcrete (piers), metal (truss), wood (sides, some beams)
Total length205 feet (62 m)
Width17 feet (5.2 m)
No. of spans2
ArchitectJohn Bear
Construction start1880
Construction end1881
Construction cost$3,197.50 (1881)
Daily trafficMinimal (3 tonne limit)

West Montrose Covered Bridge, also known as the "Kissing Bridge", is a covered bridge in West Montrose, Ontario, within Waterloo Region, one of the oldest covered bridges in Canada.[1] (In 2015, the total number of surviving covered bridges in Canada was below 200.)[2] Built in 1880–1881 mostly of oak and white pine by John Bear, who had previously built barns, the total cost to the Township of Woolwich was $3,197.50.[1] The structure can still be used by pedestrians, buggy traffic and vehicles weighing less than three tonnes for crossing the Grand River.[3] Since 1998, it has been owned and maintained by the Regional Municipality of Waterloo.

The bridge's original design was described as a "two-span hybrid Howe truss" or as a "hybrid Queen Post – Howe timber configuration" with two louvred windows.[4] (Additional windows, visible today, were added at some later date.) The entire structure was originally built of wood. Its weight was supported by 15 piles driven deep into the river bed.[5] At the time of construction, the estimated useful life of the structure was 70 to 80 years. That was significantly increased with subsequent restorations.

The primary modifications during restorations added concrete and steel parts to strengthen the aging structure.[6] However, the current visible form of the bridge remains true to the original design.[7]


Wooden trusses in the interior

The first records of this bridge include a call for tender in 1880 by John L. Wideman of nearby St. Jacobs, Ontario for a covered bridge to span the Grand River. The cost would be shared by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and Communications and the township of Woolwich. The contract was given to the Bear Bros., John and Benjamin. Drawings and five pages of specs were completed by John Bear who indicated that hardwood was used throughout, although the rafters and the sheets over the sides would be made of pine. The wood was obtained from the nearby villages of Bridgeport, Blair and Doon. The opening date of the bridge was 15 November 1881 but it was not painted (with "residual oil and fire proof paint") until May of the following year.[5]

Starting in the mid 1800s, this area of Waterloo County was settled primarily by Mennonite Germans from Pennsylvania. The horse and buggy was the primary transportation and in winter, the wheels were replaced with sleigh runners. This required the township to hire an individual to shovel snow onto the bridge roadway to avoid damage to the flooring. From 1885 until 1950, coal oil lamps were lit inside the bridge overnight; they were replaced by electric bulbs.[1]

This was not the first covered bridge in Waterloo County. The Shingle Bridge in Blair (part of Preston, Ontario), was built before 1835 and it was the first of this type but was destroyed by flood waters in 1857.[5] By 1900, there were only five covered bridges in all of Ontario and no others in this area.

Several restorations were completed over the years. The wooden abutments were replaced with concrete some time after 1900.[5] In 1904, new planks were laid over the oak floor. New wooden trusses were installed in 1933. In 1955, part of the floor was replaced and covered with crushed stone. In 1959, parts from an old Bailey truss bridge were used to replace the internal structure; metal parts were hidden by pine panels. The roof was re-shingled in 1987 and some beams were replaced in 1995 and 1996.[8] In late 2012 to early 2013, a floor beam replacement and some roof repairs were completed.[9][10]

In 1959, the township diverted traffic onto the new Highway 86 (now Township Line 86) after constructing a new concrete bridge. This strategy minimized the number of vehicles driving through the small settlement and helped to lengthen the useful life of the covered bridge.[1]

The "Kissing Bridge"[edit]

Locals driving their horse and buggy rigs began to call the structure the "kissing bridge": a kiss (in relative privacy inside the bridge) was required as a toll to cross it. A historical summary indicates that "local girls learned to be wary when their escort's horse stopped inside the bridge without any command from the driver".[5] This is the reason for the name of The Kissing Bridge Trailway for hikers which passes through this settlement.[11]

Heritage designations[edit]

The West Montrose Covered Bridge was designated as a Provincial Historic Site in August 1960. In 2007, the Township of Woolwich designated it as being of cultural heritage value or interest under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law 60-2007).[1][12] It was listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places on 28 November 2007.[7]

In 2018, the structure was one of the eight recognized under the region's Heritage Bridge Recognition Program.[13]

In popular culture[edit]

The bridge was featured in the film In the Mouth of Madness (1995),[14] and some scenes for It were filmed around the covered bridge.[15][16] The latter movie is set in the state of Maine where nine covered bridges still exist.[17]



  1. ^ a b c d e http://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/discoveringTheRegion/resources/2014_West_Montrose_Bridge_Plaque_FINAL_lores_FINAL-ACCESS.pdf[bare URL]
  2. ^ "Throwback Thursday: Covered bridges; Today, fewer than 200 covered bridges survive in Canada". Canadian Geographic. 27 July 2015. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  3. ^ https://www.woolwich.ca/en/tourism/thingstodo_kissing_bridge.asp. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ http://env-web2.uwaterloo.ca/hrcresearch/attachments/5101eba41b59b2.23220210.pdf[bare URL]
  5. ^ a b c d e http://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/discoveringTheRegion/West_Montrose_Covered_Bridge.asp[bare URL]
  6. ^ http://www.raqsa.mto.gov.on.ca/techpubs/eps.nsf/9ea013f0de8096ba8525729700557ad1/7e600b5d5b55032f85257706004c574a/$FILE/Ontario%20Heritage%20Bridge%20Guidelines-Interim%20-%20Jan%2011%2008.pdf[bare URL]
  7. ^ a b "HistoricPlaces.ca - HistoricPlaces.ca". www.historicplaces.ca.
  8. ^ Ted Brumfett Giffels, Ted (1996). Structural Evaluation Report West Montrose Covered Bridge (PDF). Kitchener, Ontario. pp. 19, 20.
  9. ^ "BridgeKeepers group wants better care of West Montrose bridge". therecord.com. January 3, 2013.
  10. ^ "West Montrose covered bridge closed for repairs". Kitchener. September 21, 2012.
  11. ^ "Kissing Bridge Trailway :: Guelph and area trails :: Mennonite Country". www.kissingbridgetrailway.ca.
  12. ^ http://www.heritagetrust.on.ca/cmsimages/f6/f62ecf60-60a0-476f-b838-d382841ec2aa.pdf[bare URL]
  13. ^ "Heritage Bridge Recognition Program". Waterloo Region. 26 February 2018.
  14. ^ "Reel Toronto: In the Mouth of Madness". Torontoist. 8 September 2017.
  15. ^ "It (2017) - IMDb" – via www.imdb.com.
  16. ^ "Local landmarks shine on the big screen in 'It'". Waterloo Region Record. 8 September 2017.
  17. ^ "Historic Bridges in Maine". State of Maine. 8 September 2017.