A moment in history: Oct. 12, 1914

A moment in history: Oct. 12, 1914

· The Pulse

On this day in 1934, Edmonton's city council was getting creative in its attempt to build a new bridge over Latta Ravine.

The Latta Bridge isn't one of the flashier bridges in the city, but it was one of the first. The first Latta Bridge (and the ravine it spans over) are named after David Latta, who built the first span out of wood near his home on Jasper Avenue and 90th Avenue.

Latta wasn't an engineer. He had come to Edmonton just before the turn of the century to chase the Gold Rush. But instead of continuing north, he settled in the growing city and opened a blacksmithing and carriage shop. It would prove to be a great success, and Latta would go on to own several other businesses, becoming a city alderman in 1906. (He only served one term, apparently too fed up with bickering to seek re-election.)

The first Latta Bridge allowed Jasper Avenue to span the ravine, but it wasn't exactly an ideal setup. It was only 21 feet wide. That, combined with its wooden construction, meant it was ill-suited for automobiles. And the bridge was not well-aligned with the road, making it a bit of a hazard for travellers. It was also a no-go for streetcars — the Highland Line, which ran along Jasper Avenue, had to jag north to avoid the bridge.

Still, Latta's handiwork survived for decades. By the 1930s, it was apparent to everyone that the old wooden bridge needed replacing. However, bridges were expensive, and it was the middle of the Great Depression. The city simply didn't have the money to finance a new bridge.

However, with some clever planning, two ideas formed. First, the bridge would be built largely out of recycled materials: steel girders that had been left over from a 1931 realignment of the High Level Bridge would make up the main structure, reinforced with scrapped streetcar rails. As for labour, the city used a fund set up by the federal and provincial governments to alleviate unemployment. The city got its essential new bridge by deeming it a make-work project.

The new steel bridge was completed in the summer of 1936. For the grand opening, a dance was held on the bridge, and it was adorned with lights and decorations. In 1952, the city marked the history of the Latta Bridge by installing a bronze historical plaque.

For nearly a century, the Latta Bridge connected Jasper Avenue and symbolized ingenuity during the difficult decade of the Great Depression. But, like the first Latte Bridge before it, its replacement also reached the end of its life. This August, the bridge was closed down so that construction on a third Latta Bridge could begin. That work is expected to be done in the fall of 2023.

This is based on a clipping found on Vintage Edmonton, a daily look at Edmonton's history from armchair archivist @revRecluse — follow @VintageEdmonton for daily ephemera via Twitter.