Historic Sites of Manitoba: Redwood Steel Through Truss Bridge / Harry Lazarenko Bridge (Red River, Winnipeg)

Link to:
Photos & Coordinates | Sources

Built in 1907-1908, this steel through truss bridge over the Red River remains the oldest surviving bridge in Winnipeg. Conceptualized in August 1906 as a four-pier, 36-foot wide roadway, with two 6-foot wide sidewalks, the specifications would undergo changes prior to tendering, with city engineer Henry Ruttan playing a lead role. Site surveying was completed in November 1906 and the eastern approach to the bridge was donated by William Hespeler, where later the timber-reinforced ramp would be built at a cost of around $350. With no objections raised by a Dominion Government engineer during a bridge site visit on 10 January 1907, sub-structure work began under the contracting firm of Kelly & Sons of Kenora, Ontario. Work continued for three months before it was realized the project lacked the approval of the Federal Minister of Marine. With expenditures of over $10,000 on an unapproved project, construction was halted by the Board of Control. This early attempt also made no plans for how to combat the seasonal ice flows and failed to adequately accommodate river traffic, a concern voiced by steamboat operators and owners.

The bridge’s original piers had to be re-situated to meet a federal requirement for 100 feet between piers, thus abating interference concerns of routine watercraft travel. Once passed that hurdle, the new federally-approved plans redrawn by city engineers then drew flak from City Hall, which voiced concerns about weight distribution and safety. Design changes and necessary approvals now acquired, work resumed with the removal and rebuilding of pier #3 and #4. With four new and re-situated piers, the superstructure was built by the Dominion Bridge Company at a cost of around $88,000, not including an approved $14,315 buffer to allow for changes (including span length, equipment, machinery, and the reinforced concrete floor) since their original tender submission of 12 December 1906. The new structure allowed a river clearance of around 30 feet from the average high water line, though progress was delayed to mid-1908 on account of labour unrest. With concrete paving of the roadbed delayed to late October 1908 due to cold weather, a backup plan was hatched to lay a wooden floor over the roadbed, thus making it serviceable to general traffic within a month’s time. Work progressed into November, along with the paving of roads leading to the structure.

The entire length is comprised of two 150-foot spans, a shorter 98-foot span, and a central 250-foot swing span. Built with 700 tons of reinforced steel, it featured a 25-foot wide roadway flanked with six-foot wide sidewalks, and a mid-river swing span. Intended to be powered by electricity, a temporary 50-horsepower gasoline engine was settled on. To safeguard the structure against ice flows, an accompanying permanent icebreaker (then known as a fender) was built during the winter of 1912-1913. By 1947, it required an overhaul, having slowly been worn down over its year of service. It was again restored in 1979, at which time the restored protective measure was enlarged and reinforced further.

To control traffic during swing span operation, gates were purchased for $931 from the Railway Supply Company of Chicago and installed along the roadway. The bridge, originally targeted to open on 11 November 1908, was opened to road traffic on 12 January 1909, with some minor details still needing completion.

With the project’s completion, street car infrastructure was also added to, over, and from the bridge about two years after its opening. The pedestrian sidewalks would later be fully barricaded from the roadway following a coroner’s inquiry into the death of a young boy in August 1935. The gates at each end of the bridge have all been removed, with the bridge seeing numerous maintenance upgrades and improvements over the years, including a $8.1-million refit in 2006, which saw it closed for much of the year. The swing span was reportedly last used to permit ship passage in 1978, though it was tested for operational status as recent as 1985. Five years later, the city gave notice under the Navigable Waters Protection Act of its intention to remove this equipment, and the mechanisms and the overhead pilot cabin were removed.

Known for most of its life as the Redwood Bridge, it was renamed at a ceremony on 3 October 2014 in honour of long-time city councillor Harry Lazarenko.

Photos & Coordinates

Redwood Bridge piers against the backdrop of the Elmwood Cemetery and Point Douglas

Redwood Bridge piers against the backdrop of the Elmwood Cemetery and Point Douglas (August 1908)
Source: Archives of Manitoba, Winnipeg - Bridges - Redwood #1.

Redwood Bridge after completion

Redwood Bridge after completion (1909)
Source: Archives of Manitoba, Winnipeg - Bridges - Redwood #3.

Redwood Bridge with visible overhead pilot cabin, swing span in operation, and Drewry Brewery in the background

Redwood Bridge with visible overhead pilot cabin, swing span in operation, and Drewry Brewery in the background (1958)
Source: Archives of Manitoba, Winnipeg - Bridges - Redwood #4.

Redwood Bridge / Harry Lazarenko Bridge

Redwood Bridge / Harry Lazarenko Bridge (October 2014)
Source: Gordon Goldsborough

Redwood Bridge / Harry Lazarenko Bridge

Redwood Bridge / Harry Lazarenko Bridge (October 2014)
Source: Gordon Goldsborough

Aerial view of Redwood Bridge / Harry Lazarenko Bridge

Aerial view of Redwood Bridge / Harry Lazarenko Bridge (July 2019)
Source: George Penner

Dominion Bridge commemorative plaque

Dominion Bridge commemorative plaque (February 2024)
Source: Jordan Makichuk

Commemorative sign on the Harry Lazarenko Bridge

Commemorative sign on the Harry Lazarenko Bridge (November 2015)
Source: Nathan Kramer

Site Coordinates (lat/long): N49.91607, W97.12673
denoted by symbol on the map above

See also:

Manitoba Business: Dominion Bridge Company

Memorable Manitobans: Harry Lazarenko (?-2021)


“The old bugbear of the alderman,” Manitoba Free Press, 1 August 1906, page 8.

“Redwood Bridge,” Winnipeg Tribune, 7 August 1906, page 3.

“Redwood Bridge,” Winnipeg Tribune, 12 November 1906, page 1.

“Tenders for Redwood Bridge,” Winnipeg Tribune, 21 November 1906, page 10.

“Bridge contract,” Winnipeg Tribune, 26 November 1906, page 7.

“New bridge over the Red,” Winnipeg Tribune, 16 March 1907, page 1.

“Danger of damage to work already done,” Winnipeg Tribune, 28 March 1907, page 7.

“Government rejected plans,” Winnipeg Tribune, 2 April 1907, page 1.

“New plans for bridge,” Winnipeg Tribune, 10 April 1907, page 2.

“Work may be postponed,” Winnipeg Tribune, 11 April 1907, page 9.

“Plans again objected to,” Winnipeg Tribune, 22 April 1907, page 1.

“Redwood Bridge,” Winnipeg Tribune, 5 June 1907, page 7.

“Building new bridges,” Winnipeg Tribune, 10 August 1907, page 1.

“Bridge tenders,” Winnipeg Tribune, 22 August 1907, page 5.

“Government approve plans,” Winnipeg Tribune, 11 September 1907, page 1.

“Many tenders accepted,” Winnipeg Tribune, 14 September 1907, page 1.

“Redwood Bridge operations,” Winnipeg Tribune, 22 October 1907, page 3.

“Redwood Bridge,” Winnipeg Tribune, 1 November 1907, page 10.

“Redwood Bridge,” Winnipeg Tribune, 22 November 1907, page 10.

“Contract for Redwood Bridge,” Winnipeg Tribune, 6 January 1908, page 1.

“Redwood Bridge bungle,” Winnipeg Tribune, 16 May 1908, page 9.

“Redwood Bridge,” Winnipeg Tribune, 6 August 1908.

“Tenders for construction of works,” Winnipeg Tribune, 2 October 1908, page 9.

“To construct approach,” Winnipeg Tribune, 8 October 1908, page 9.

“New Redwood Bridge,” Manitoba Free Press, 30 October 1908, page 12.

“Around City Hall [Ald. Midwinter],” Winnipeg Tribune, 17 November 1908, page 11.

“Fine new bridge opened,” Manitoba Free Press, 12 January 1909, page 5.

“Around City Hall [The new Redwood Bridge ...],” Winnipeg Tribune, 12 January 1909, page 1.

“Buying engine,” Winnipeg Tribune, 30 April 1909, page 5.

“Tenders for supply of gasoline engine,” Manitoba Free Press, 6 May 1909, page 2.

“Cars on Redwood,” Manitoba Free Press, 18 June 1909, page 5.

“Elmwood car service,” Manitoba Free Press, 12 November 1909 page 7.

“Gates for bridge,” Winnipeg Tribune, 8 June 1909, page 11.

“First of commercial fleet passes the Locks,” Manitoba Free Press, 4 May 1910, page 1.

“Delay at city bridges,” Manitoba Free Press, 4 May 1910, page 1.

“Redwood Bridge jammed,” Manitoba Free Press, 4 May 1910, page 1.

“Important - the power poles on Hespeler Avenue [...],” Manitoba Free Press, 21 June 1910, page 21.

“Elmwood [street cars],” Winnipeg Tribune, 4 August 1910, page 6.

“Cars will cross Redwood Bridge,” Winnipeg Tribune, 19 August 1910, page 1.

“Fenderless bridge a great danger,” Winnipeg Tribune, 12 May 1911, page 5.

“Temporary fenders to be constructed,” Winnipeg Tribune, 23 May 1911, page 9.

“Revised Statutes of Canada 1096, Chapter 115,” Manitoba Free Press, 1 September 1911, page 2.

“Tenders for erection of fender at Redwood Bridge,” Winnipeg Tribune, 24 February 1912, page 2.

“Panic on Street Car,” Winnipeg Tribune, 29 September 1913, page 6.

“Board of Control plans better car runs in Elmwood,” Winnipeg Tribune, 9 November 1916, page 5.

“River nearing level of 1916; still comes up,” Winnipeg Tribune, 23 April 1923, page 1.

“Notice to street railway patrons using Redwood Bridge route,” Winnipeg Tribune, 11 August 1928, page 2.

“Death of boy, hit by motor, was accident,” Winnipeg Tribune, 8 August 1935, page 2.

“Temporary closing of Redwood Bridge,” Winnipeg Tribune, 16 October 1938, page 21.

[Photo caption], Winnipeg Free Press, 29 February 1947.

“Winnipeg bridges ’neglected’ city faces big repair job,” Winnipeg Free Press, 9 March 1949, page 3.

“Redwood Bridge may be closed,” Winnipeg Free Press, 11 March 1964, page 3.

“City of Winnipeg Works & Operations Department [Rehabilitation of Redwood Bridge Ice Breaker Pier],” Winnipeg Free Press, 9 December 1978, page 26.

“Redwood Bridge closure,” Winnipeg Free Press, 8 June 1985, page 70.

“Bridges may swing no more,” Winnipeg Free Press Weekly Northeast Edition, 30 July 1989, page 4.

“City wants to lock swinging bridges,” Winnipeg Free Press Weekly West Edition, 30 July 1989, page 1.

“Ship’s owner wants compensation,” Winnipeg Free Press Weekly West Edition, 30 July 1989, page 5.

“Navigable Waters Protection Act,” Winnipeg Free Press, 7 February 1990, page 12.

“Half a coat better than bare bridge,” Winnipeg Free Press, 3 December 2005, page B1.

Winnipeg’s Redwood bridge renamed for Harry Lazarenko,” CBC News, 3 October 2014.

We thank Al Myska and George Penner for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer and Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 17 July 2023

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