Bridging the gap

“It’s halfway to Auckland!” shouted the very vocal opponents of the new bridge proposal. Those who didn’t say that quite so stridently certainly did consider it “too far out in the country”.

All of which must be accepted as strange behaviour for anyone north of the railway track (now Claudelands Rd) because this bridge gave them much  better access to all points north on the west side, whereas for people south of the railway, doubling back to the Traffic Bridge would hardly be a bother.

Even for folk south of the Traffic Bridge, the Fairfield proposal let them escape the horrors of the “city centre” but not the railway crossings of what probably seemed in those days, interminable Rotorua and Taneatua Express trains.

Well, the decision was made and the Waikato County chipped in and Caesar Roose built it. What is interesting is the “time-tabled” construction. A study of a series of photos showing the construction, indicates that the Roose Shipping Company could always navigate about the works – as the first arch was being built the barges and paddle steamers could still navigate the other side of the river. When the first side was finished and construction moved across the river the boats went under the completed section.

At the time of construction it was well outside the city boundary (by 1937 standards) being nearly a kilometre north of Boundary Rd (well outside? Some thought so.)

The Fairfield area did not become part of the city until 1949 but the original Hamilton Borough boundary on the west side reached north to the Number One Bridge – within 50 or so metres of Fairfield Bridge. The attitude to the proposal must surely have been entirely based on the location of the detractors or the supporters. The bridge cost £22,426. That is in the money of 1937. In today’s money that is $44,852.00! In today’s value? Perhaps it’s better we don’t know.

The bridge opened in April 1937 and Hamilton, a growing city, now had two bridges! Um… well, not for long. The traffic bridge was promptly closed for much need repairs. The Hamilton folk really did get a mixed blessing that year but by year’s end they did indeed have two bridges which are both now listed by the Historic Places Trust.

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