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Visiting Gow's Bridge, Guelph, Ontario: historic stone structure over the Speed River

Updated on May 23, 2013
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
Gow's Bridge, Guelph, Ontario
Gow's Bridge, Guelph, Ontario | Source
Hon. Peter Gow, Member of the Ontario Legislative Assembly for S. Wellington
Hon. Peter Gow, Member of the Ontario Legislative Assembly for S. Wellington | Source
Map location of Guelph, Ontario
Map location of Guelph, Ontario | Source

Recalling a 19th century Provincial Secretary and local business owner

This late 19th century stone bridge crosses the Speed River at Guelph, Ontario.

The road which crosses the bridge is McCrae Boulevard (situated a few hundred metres from the Colonel John McCrae Memorial Gardens and Birthplace Museum).

Known as Gow's Bridge, what makes this structure so distinctive is the fact that it is one of the Province's few, surviving stone bridges.

The design evidenced by the bridge is known as masonry arching. Its building material was limestone, which was locally quarried. Some concrete reinforcement is also present. In recent years the structure underwent a progam of refurbishment.

The bridge and its predecessor have interesting histories. In the 19th century, local road travel which negotiated Guelph's river crossings was complicated by the existence of tolls. Accordingly in 1852 a toll-free wooden structure was erected across the Speed River at the what is now the western end of In the course of time, the need for a more solid structure was envisaged. This is how Gow's Bridge came to be built in 1897.

It may be thought that Gow's Bridge is named for the individual who constructed it, but actually his name was Daniel Keleher. The Gow in question refers to Peter Gow (1818-1886)(1), a prominent, mill owner whose facility was situated close to the Bridge.

In testimony to the resilient nature of the structure, it is still considered suitable for vehicular traffic.

The Bridge has been designated an Historic Place by the City of Guelph (2).

May 23, 2013

Notes

(1) Born in Scotland, Peter Gow also served variously as Mayor of Guelph, Sherrif of Wellington County and represented South Wellington Riding in the Provincial Legislative Assembly. He was notably appointed Provincial Secretary in 1871, a position which today would be approximately equivalent to Deputy Premier (other personalities who served as Provincial Secretary included Ontario Premiers Arthur Sturgis Hardy, Harry Nixon and Prime Minister of Canada Alexander Mackenzie). Peter Gow served the Liberal interest. While the name of the Bridge referred to the immediate proximity of one particular mill owned by this businessman, Peter Gow actually owned a number of businesses in the Guelph area, including mills and a tannery.

(2) Further information about Gow's Bridge may be accessed at: http://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=5518

Also worth seeing

In addition to another well-known bridge at Guelph, the Covered Bridge, both the Downtown area the University of Guelph have various, architecturally distinguished structures; the Colonel John McCrae Birthplace is situated at 108 Water Street, with adjacent, Memorial Gardens.

West Montrose (distance: approx. 23 kilometres) its covered bridge was built in 1881.

...

How to get there: Air Canada, flies to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available. (Distance from Toronto Pearson to Guelph: approx. 71.2 kilometres.) WestJet and Bearskin Airlines fly to Region of Waterloo International Airport, from where car rental is available, from Calgary and Ottawa respectively. (Distance from Reg. of Waterloo Int. Airport to Guelph: 16.5 kilometres.) Via Rail connects Guelph with a wide range of destinations in Ontario and beyond. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please check for up to date information with the airline or your travel agent.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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