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Visiting Gatineau, Quebec: Viewed From the Pont Alexandra / Alexandra Bridge, Dating From 1898/1901

Updated on February 3, 2020
Flag of Quebec
Flag of Quebec | Source
Alexandra Bridge spanning Ottawa, Ontario and Gatineau, Quebec
Alexandra Bridge spanning Ottawa, Ontario and Gatineau, Quebec | Source
Seen from Alexandra Bridge: Aqua-Taxi, an electric boat which ferries between the Museum of Canadian History and Ottawa Locks Quay
Seen from Alexandra Bridge: Aqua-Taxi, an electric boat which ferries between the Museum of Canadian History and Ottawa Locks Quay | Source

Past — and future — and spatial — complexities of naming: monarchical? interprovincial? international? entry point to a future republic?

It is often forgotten that Gatineau is Quebec's fourth-largest city. The fact of its proximity to Ottawa, Ontario, without doubt gives it a special character, but in many ways its distinctness to its neighbour on the southern / eastern bank of the Rivière de l'Outaouais / Ottawa River is driven by a whole series of geographical, historical, linguistic and cultural factors.

The fact that a number of bridges now link those two banks of the Rivière de l'Outaouais / Ottawa River at Gatineau (1) and Ottawa may, then, be at the root of at least part of the erroneous perception of Gatineau as a mere dormitory of Ottawa.

But the building of the Pont Alexandra / Alexandra Bridge (2), which began in 1898, with the official opening occurring in 1901, was indeed the catalyst for the bringing together of the two banks of the Rivière de l'Outaouais / Ottawa River in a major way.

The length of the Bridge is 563.27 metres; its width is 18.89 metres; its height is 28.95 metres. Structurally it is a five span truss cantilever bridge built of steel.

Prior to the1960s, trains operated across the Bridge; indeed, it was originally built on behalf of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The structure was, however, subsequently converted entirely to road vehicle and pedestrian use.

I have supplied two photos, both taken from the Bridge, one of which shows its steel structure and the Gatineau shoreline with its high-rise buildings beyond, with the Collines de la Gatineau / Gatineau Hills just visible in the distance. The other photo is taken looking down at the bank of the Rivière de l'Outaouais / Ottawa River at the gardens of the Musée canadien de l’histoire / Canadian Museum of History, where the berth of the Aqua-Taxi (3) is situated, from where sailings to the Ottawa side of the river depart.

The naming of the Bridge has in fact been quite complex. This is partly because of the circumstances of the times in which the Bridge was erected. In 1898, when work began, Queen Victoria (1819-1901) was of course still on the Throne and indeed would live until 1901. But by the time of the Bridge's official opening in 1901, Edward VII (1841-1909) had acceded; and it was decided to name the Bridge for the new Queen Consort, Queen Alexandra (1844-1925), until a few months previously known as Alexandra of Denmark, Princess of Wales (see portrait photo, below).

For a short while prior after its opening, the Bridge had another name, and one which is still sometimes used: the Pont interprovincial / Interprovincial Bridge. A few months later in 1901, however, during the visit to Canada of the new Prince of Wales, George (later King George V), the Bridge was officially named Pont Alexandra / Alexandra Bridge.

Interestingly, it might be thought that the name Pont interprovincial / Interprovincial Bridge refers simply to the geographical fact that the structure links two Canadian provinces: Quebec and Ontario.

This historically is not, in fact wholly the case; the actual name is derived from the engineering company which built it, called the Ottawa Interprovincial Bridge Company.

In 1995, after a vigorously fought referendum, Quebec narrowly missed becoming an independent republic.

As regards the future naming of the Bridge, therefore, if the outcome of an independent sovereign republic were ever achieved in Quebec, one wonders whether any future republican authorities would still be content for the Bridge to be known by the name of a Queen Consort which stressed the former constitutional links with the British monarchy, or by the name alluding to Quebec's former status as a province of Canada.

(In my humble opinion, both of these options seem doubtful.)

One could even say, at the Bridge, as regards future developments wrought in time and space, 'watch this space...'

January 28, 2020


(1) Earlier literature on the Bridge refers to Hull, which name lives on in the Secteur de Hull / Hull Sector of the Ville de Gatineau / City of Gatineau.

(2) See also:

(3) See also:

Some sourcing: Wikipedia

Queen Alexandra when Princess of Wales (1844-1925)
Queen Alexandra when Princess of Wales (1844-1925) | Source
Republican flag of the Patriotes
Republican flag of the Patriotes | Source

Also worth seeing

In Gatineau itself, the Musée canadien des civilisations / Canadian Museum of Civilization is Canada's most visited museum. Gatineau's Masion du citoyen / Citizen's House has a noted art gallery and the Hall des nations / Hall of the Nations containing valuable cultural artifacts from around the world. Parc de la Gatineau / Gatineau Park has exceptional recreational and scenic possibilities.

In Ottawa (distance: 2 kilometres from Downtown, Gatineau) possesses cultural treasures, structures of architectural excellence and noted museums which are too numerous to mention properly here; but a few of these include Parliament Hill, Rideau Hall, the Chateau Laurier, Laurier House, the Rideau Canal, and the Bank of Canada's Currency Museum.


How to get there: Air Canada flies from various North American destinations to Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport / Aéroport international Macdonald-Cartier d'Ottawa, where car rental is available. However, travellers may prefer to use OC Transpo public transit for travel within Ottawa / Gatineau. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

Map location of Gatineau, in Quebec
Map location of Gatineau, in Quebec | Source

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