A Peculiar Notion: Foot Bridge Across First Narrows, 1909

LEG1709.1 - First Narrows. Proposed Suspension Bridge for Foot Passengers Only 1909 F. Tytler?.jpg

LEG1709.1 – First Narrows. Proposed Suspension Bridge for Foot Passengers Only. 1909. Plans signed by Frederick Tytler.

The plan above appears to have been one of the first proposals for a crossing of the Burrard Inlet at First Narrows (preceding the very different Lion’s Gate Bridge by about 30 years). It was the brain child of William Thomas Farrell¹ of the Burrard Wire Bridge Company and his draughtsman, Frederick Tritely.

In a June 19, 1909 article in the Vancouver Daily World, the proposal was described as follows:

Briefly, the plan is this: To erect on either side of the Narrows a tower of sufficient elevation and strength to maintain at a proper height cables that would carry with safety pedestrians from one side of the Narrows to the other; as a recompense for the outlay a small toll would be charged for the privilege of crossing. . . . To maintain at a height of 240 feet above high water the center of the span, it will be necessary to have the towers at each end of the bridge 335 feet above sea level, which allows for a sag of 66 feet in the center. The towers will be 1280 feet apart, or nearly a quarter of a mile, which will place this third on the list of long spans. . . . To guard against falling or being blown over the side a fine-mesh wire netting, strongly supported, will be placed on either sides of the roadway and will be eight feet high. It will be almost impossible to even scale this fence owing to its peculiar construction. An electric hoist will transport passengers from the base of the level of the bridge. . . . Mr. Farrell, the promoter, states. . . . “From a tourist standpoint I believe we will have something that will add to the fame of our city as much, if not more, than the beautiful natural forest at our western gate….It will be gratifying to learn that Mr. Farrell has been successful in interesting enough capital to erect and maintain the proposed bridge, and he only awaits the consent of the park board to begin its construction.

I’ll enumerate the principal facts of the proposal in summary form:

  1. It would be for pedestrians only. There weren’t many automobiles in the city at the time; indeed, the first BC driver’s licenses would be issued only in 1925.
  2. There would be a “small toll” charged for each individual who chose to cross the Inlet using the bridge.
  3. The towers would have elevators installed within to take pedestrians up to bridge level and down to ground level.

screen-shot-2017-02-27-at-2-57-40-pmThe advocate of this proposal, W. T. Farrell, had been responsible for the construction in 1903 of the first Capilano Suspension Bridge (450-feet long). It is interesting that the office space of Farrell and that of his draughtsman, F. J. L. Tytler was in the same building (522 West Pender Street). In Room 8 at that address, Tytler maintained his civil engineering consulting office and there he also fulfilled his responsibilities as Principal of the Technical School of Civil Engineering & Surveying. Tytler didn’t have many years left to live following the conclusion of this proposal. In March 1912, it was reported that he “dropped dead on St. Andrews avenue, North Vancouver.” (Chilliwack Progress, 6 March 1912).

Whether it was strictly true that Farrell’s First Narrows proposal had adequate capital behind the scheme is difficult to know. But what was certain was that the Vancouver Parks Board had the power to approve the proposal or nix it. It need hardly be said that nix it they did.

[The proposal was] laid before the board, but the expressions of opinion were adverse to the proposition and Mr. Farrell for the [Burrard Wire Bridge] company asked permission to withdraw the petition for the present without a vote being taken. This was granted. (Vancouver Daily World, 15 July 1909)²


¹The William Farrell referred to in this post was not the William Farrell who was the first president of BC Tel.

²Other decisions taken by the Parks Board at that meeting included the following: The city solicitor would be asked to draft a by-law requiring dogs to be leashed when in the park (the dogs “harried the peacocks and swans and did other damage”); steps were being taken to get another cow buffalo for Stanley Park, as the buffalo resident there until recently had died; and the Board agreed to pay half the cost of fencing between the park and Mr. J. Z. Hall’s property, provided  no barbed wire was used. “Mr Hall’s request for a private entrance to the park was refused.”

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