[1-West Montrose Covered Bridge in St. Jacobs County over the Grand River in Ontario - click to enlarge]
One of the local attractions close to St. Jacobs is the "Kissing Bridge" in West Montrose that was built in 1881 by John and Benjamin Bear and is the last remaining covered bridge in Ontario. Originally constructed out of wood, repairs to the bridge have been made with a combination of steel, wood concrete, asphalt and stone to replace the abutments, piers and deck. By designing a bridge with a cover it was found to last 70 or 80 years longer than a regular bridge of 10 to 15 years.
“John Bear wrote the specifications in longhand to accompany his drawings. The bridge was to be 198 feet long, 20 feet wide and 13 feet from the low water mark to the top of the corbel. Hardwood was used throughout the structure, but pine was reserved for the rafters. The original timbers were very large, measuring 50 feet long and 9 to 18 inches thick.
“When the bridge was built it measured approximately 208 feet long, 17 feet wide and 13 feet high. Originally, the substructure (pier and abutements) was made of cedar cribs filled with loose stone. The oak planks for the floor were joined with 7 inch wrought iron spikes.”*
In 1904 the bridge was closed for the first time to have the original oak floor planked on top. The wooden trusses were replaced in 1933. Further repairs were made between 1955 and 1996 while maintaining the original appearance.
Load limit is 3 tonnes.
The covered bridge was recognized as a historic site by the Ontario Heritage Foundation in 1960.
The specifications for this bridge are available at the Kitchener Public Library’s Grace Schmidt Room and the Elmira Municipal Archives.
The name “Kissing Bridge” comes from the traditional cost of the toll as it is being secluded and against the law to travel faster than a walk. Local girls learned to be wary when the horse stopped of its own accord without any signal from the driver.
[2-Mennonite Buggy after crossing the Montrose Covered Bridge - click to enlarge]
St. Jacobs is home to a small population of Mennonites. The rural areas around St. Jacobs are populated with many Old Order Mennonite farmers who retain the religion, customs and lifestyle of their 19th century forefathers. They are separate from the other Mennonite orders in Canada.