A Tale of Two Bridges: History of Port Huron’s Blue Water Bridge

Freighter Saginaw Under the Blue Water Bridge

Untitled, photo by Diane

The website Michigan History was produced by someone at MSU. While I have no idea who or why they gave up on what was shaping up to be a cool website, the history checks out. The page on Port Huron’s Blue Water Bridge says:

Perhaps Port Huron’s greatest claim to fame is the Blue Water Bridge, a historic arcing bridge that serves as a means of transportation between Canada and the United States. The bridge is located over the St. Clair River, and connects Port Huron, Michigan, to Sarnia, Ontario. In 2013 the Blue Water Bridge celebrated its 75th anniversary, and a closer look at its history show why Port Huron residents take pride in the structure.

The original Blue Water Bridge was constructed in 1938, and was built by the American Bridge Company of New York, and the Hamilton Bridge Company of Ontario. The original bridge is an arch cantilever bridge, which was designed to not only support large amounts of traffic, but also to have an aesthetic arching look. In the late 1980s the border crossing became so popular that plans for a new bridge were brought up. However, instead of demolishing the old bridge, a new one was built in 1997 beside the old bridge, to support eastbound traffic.

The Michigan cost for building the new bridge, and renovating the old one was $62.6 million dollars. (Michigan Department of Transportation) The project was considered an enormous success and won awards from the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Ontario Institution of Steel Construction, and the Federal Highway Administration. For Port Huron residents the bridge signifies the close connection with Canada, and the willingness of the two sides to work closely together.

Click for more about the history of Port Huron. If you want to get really in depth, The Construction History of the Blue Water Bridge (pdf) is an excellent account that details the political maneuverings and construction challenges of both bridges.

View Diane’s photo of the freighter Saginaw passing under the Blue Water Bridge background bigtacular and see more in her Freighters and the St. Clair River slideshow.

There’s more Michigan bridges on Michigan in Pictures, and since you’ve read this far, Boatnerd’s page on the Saginaw has everything you’ll want to know about the self-unloading bulk carrier that was launched May 9th, 1953 as the John J. Boland. It’s one of three near sister vessels built by this shipyard: The John G. Munson which is still plying the lakes and the Detroit Edison that suffered a career-ending grounding in Lake Michigan in December of 1980.

Ice Harvesting in Michigan

Ice Harvesting, Shooting Cakes into the House

Ice Harvesting, Shooting Cakes into the House, photo courtesy Detroit Publishing Co / Library of Congress

Today’s feature comes via eatdrinkTC, and you can head over there for some photos of ice harvesting in Traverse City and a cool video!

There was a time when the winter ice harvest was as critical as any other harvest, allowing folks in Michigan and elsewhere to enjoy & keep fresh food in summertime. Knowlton’s Ice Museum of North America in Port Huron is dedicated to chronicling what was once a huge industry for Michigan that is now almost forgotten. They explain:

Michigan was one of the main sources of ice harvesting because in those times people cherished the clear hard ice harvested from the beautiful Great Lakes. In the winter months farmers would make money to feed their families by working on the ice fields (rivers, ponds and lakes). Using primitive ice tools they would scrape snow off of the field, measure ice thickness, and saw ice cakes or blocks of ice.

The 300 lb. blocks would then be loaded onto horse drawn flat-bed type wagons and moved off the ice field. The horses hauled the load to stick built ice houses created along rivers and lakes where the ice was stored until the summer months when it could be sold. The ice was stacked and packed inside the ice house. Sawdust was used for insulation and placed in between layers of ice. Some ice houses stored over 1,600 ton of ice. The work these men did each long day was dangerous and cold. Once a luxury, ice became a common household and business commodity by 1900. The ice delivery man would weigh ice blocks and deliver ice by horse drawn covered wagon to homes and businesses. Each order was carried into the home and placed into the top shelf of an ice box to keep food fresh.

We found the above photo from the Detroit Publishing Company via Emily Bingham’s excellent Found Michigan website that has a really nice article about ice harvesting in Michigan.  Also check out an article about ice harvesting and ice saws from the Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society.