From the archives of the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library:
Remember This? . . . Highline Bridge
Algoma Steel, our local steel plant, experienced rapid growth during the early part of the twentieth century resulting in many immigrant families arriving to fill the demand for a larger workforce.
Many of these families initially moved into neighbourhoods that were developing adjacent to the steel plant. By the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, the residents living in the Tagona, Bay View and Buckley neighbourhoods, many of whom worked in the steel plant, needed a more direct route to get to work.
The answer to this dilemma was the construction of the Highline Bridge.
It was built over the street car tracks near Tagona Station in Steelton and opened in early September of 1912. The overhead bridge provided Sault residents with a direct route from the James Street neighbourhood to Bay View and on to the Base Line area. The construction of this bridge resulted in the closure of about 400 feet of Korah Road, from Tagona Station to Cathcart Street.
At the same time, the Steelton Town Council arranged for the opening of a new road running between the new overhead bridge at Wilde Avenue to Wellington Street and located parallel to the Algoma Central Railway tracks, for the convenience of traffic that did not wish to use the new bridge. This meant that all traffic choosing not to use the new bridge had to pass right through Steelton!
This was thought to be a very smart business decision.
According to the recorded Sault Ste. Marie Oral History with Don and Mary Santana, Don explains that the bridge connected James Street to Bay View, “it was an extension of James Street”
He explains that it went on an incline over the tracks above Algoma Steel and (he) didn’t know how it was held up, explaining that he figured “God held it up” all those years. According to Santana, the bridge connected Gate No.1 at Algoma Steel (located at the end of Queen Street in 1912) with Tagona, Buckley and Bay View districts of the Sault area.
As a youngster growing up in the James Street area, Santana said that sometimes people walked under the bridge but it was considered to be “dangerous”.
After many years of using the Highline Bridge, the decision was made to close the Sault landmark in April of 1958. The steel plant was planning an expansion project which would involve the relocation of the railway tracks. This meant that the Highline Bridge, located at the entrance to Algoma Steel would need to be demolished in order to make way for the expansion.
The removal of this transportation route added an extra load to the already heavily used traffic arteries leading to Conmee Avenue and Second Line.
The closure of the bridge meant major changes for thousands of steel plant workers in getting to their jobs. Algoma Steel employees reporting for work on the 11 p.m. - 7 a.m. on the night of April 5, 1958 entered the plant over the Highline Bridge for the last time and left the No. 1 parking lot the next morning by way of the new exit at Patrick Street.
According to an interview that Traffic Sgt. Fred Clarke gave to the Sault Star at the time, cars that formerly travelled to and from Gate No. 1 gate along Cathcart Street now had to use John Street or some other artery leading to Second Line in order to reach Patrick Street.
The removal of the Highline Bridge was considered to be one of the contributing factors that led to the decline of the formerly vibrant and thriving James Street neighbourhood.
Each week, the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library and its Archives provides SooToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past.