Swing bridge area in 1911, and a little of its history
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Tuesday December 20, 2016

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1859 New Wood bridge erected across the river at Belize Harbor, the second of two wooden bridges, to replace the one built in 1818. The metal bridge was installed in 1923. The brick building is the Holy Redeemer Cathedral. The bricks were plastered over sometime after the 1931 hurricane. You can see in this photo that the Cathedral had the red bricks.


This is how the construction of the swing bridge began.


Good photo of the 1859 to 1922 bridge. You can also see the building before Paslow and the distributor building still showed the bricks. This was an unswinging bridge.


British Honduras bridge circa 1800's. The swing bridge before it swung! Photo by Alice D. LePlongeon


1984


1920's




British Honduras Bridge 1890. This wooden bridge preceded the current Swing Bridge.


This postcard was circa 1930s of the Swing Bridge.


Sometime before 1907.


Vintage photo of Belize city iconic swing bridge in action. Still going on until today but we have the new Belcan bridge few blocks away which eases some of the delays today to cross and connect us over on the South side of the city.


1906, Swing Bridge and Market Square

Late 1970's, the building opposite the drug store as kid sold vegetables, the night club Melting Pot was next to it. Photo courtesy Eddie Joseph

Looking southward. that's the Melhado Building on the right next to the car. Later, in the early 1970's there was a car rental business there. Horse droppings on the bridge.



Swingbridge in action. Photo credit: Michael F Blundy. Notice the traffic to the left side of the swing bridge. The old iconic market was still aroung back then, today it's just a distant memory.



Men hard at work on the Belize city swing bridge.


Daybreak at Swing Bridge, New Year's Eve 2017. Photo credit: Alan Jackson.



1950's bicycle parade? Perhaps the eve of the Holy Saturday Cross Country Race.


Check out the vehicles, there is one of those old garbage trucks on the bridge. Look at the difference in the windows at the old fire hall between the picture above and just below. Maybe a hurricane took those big windows out and they decided to replace with smaller ones?


Probably the 1940’s looking at hats and photo paper etc. and photographer on bridge is using a larger format camera also. Had to be before Independence... check out the Union Jack flying.


Albert Paul Avila: In all my years I have never really noticed the area of the bridge that they inserted the cranking mechanism to turn the bridge. I assumed there was a place for it somewhere in the middle of the bridge. Passing over the Swing Bridge the other day I couldn’t located the hole.
Christopher Nesbitt: The crank is near the middle of the bridge. There is a “key” which needs at least four men to turn. I did it a few times. Whoever had the job seemed to have no shortage of volunteer help.

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Swing bridge area in 1911, and a little of its history

The engineer that built the bridge was an American man by the name of Robinson. He also built Paslow building. He came to build Paslow Building and the government put out tenders for the bridge and he won the bid (lowest) but he did only the bridge not the approaches since the contract was only for the bridge. It turned out to be very expensive. He ended up doing the approaches for additional money. The bed rock is only 15' and the whole thing is balanced. Hydraulic jacks at both ends so it doesn't see saw with vehicle weights.

1818 March 9th, "The Grand Belize Bridge" First known bridge to built across at the river mouth of Belize was completed.

Her Majesty Government granted £1,000, towards the cost for building,

1859 New Wood bridge erected across the river at Belize harbor to replace the one built in 1818.

1922 July 28th, A Temporary wooden bridge across the river at Belize declared open at noon. This bridge was used during the dismantling of the old and the erection of the new swing bridge.

1923 The Swing Bridge was constructed in 1922 and opened in 1923. April 11th, at a cost of $84.000.00 new swing bridge across the Belize River, open.

Built to allow the passage of fishermen to and from the main harbour, this manually-operated swin bridge has faitfully stopped morning and evening traffic every day since 1923, manually turned by men for river traffic to past from the main harbor every day (in the morning and evening)

SWING BRIDGE UNDERGO A MAJOR REPAIRS IN 1998

Mennonite contractor, Abe Bannan, 59, was contracted by the Government to build a temporary bridge and repair the Old Belize Swing Bridge. at a cost of approximately one million dollars.

Banman has built a number of bridges in Belize, including the San Roman Bridge at Albion Island and the Maypen Bridge in the Belize District. His most recent work has been the Busman Arnold Bridge near Mile 60 on the Western Highway.

During the nine month repair period the Swing Bridge was closed completely to both pedestrians and motor traffic.

The Swing Bridge included a changed of the whole decking. The repairs included re-placement of steel beams with galvanized substitutes, repairs to the bridge's superstructure and repairs to the massive rollers on the turntable so as to allow for smoother movement when the bridge is being swung.



Swing Bridge, Belize Oral History



The Belize City Swing Bridge in Belize is a historical landmark and a very popular tourist attraction. Built in 1922 and installed in 1923 the Belize City Swing Bridge remains one of the oldest swing bridge in Central America and one of the few manually operated swing bridges in the world. The Swing Bridge requires a minimum of 4 men to hand crank the bridge until its parallel to the Haulover Creek to allow boats to pass in and out of the harbor. Today the Belize City Swing Bridge serves as a vital traffic corridor from Northside Belize City to Southside Belize City along with the BelChina Bridge, Belcan Bridge and the Chetumal Street Bridge.

Cool Fact: The Belize Swing Bridge was featured in the 1980's film "Dogs of War" starring Christopher Walken.

Aldrian Williams: Love it i remember sometimes going to Matinee at majestic or Eden theatre's we're anxious for the boats to hurry so as to get across and on Sunday not much traffic so some people start running across before the bridge is locked in place thinking about it it's still funny.

Eugene Trench: Growing up I’ve witnessed many swinging of the bridge was the rumour true if you were caught on the bridge whilst swinging you had to pay City Council a fine.

James Crawford: Not so I used to get caught up many times on the bridge I end up helping swing it was fun back then

Michelle Rivana Buckley:

The opening and closing of the Belize swing bridge for the boats to pass thru was exciting to watch. Many onlookers would watch the men toiling in the evening around 5pm or early morning rotating the bridge with those large metal arms and walking around in a circular motion. They would swing it to be parallel to the river. One end faces the sea and the opposite end the river. Cranking up the bridge took time and manual labor. It took about 5-6 men to maneuver it. For safety precautions the police would be very strict and patrol both sides. You could see them holding their batons to keep order. Very rarely was there disorder I guess because we all found it exciting. Belizeans would line the pavement chit chatting about how long it took to turn or having to get home on time. There would be a gathering of crowd for such a weekly routine. It was very exciting crossing if you saw your friends or family on either side of the bridge. You would give a shout out, a wave of your hands or turn around and meet and greet each other at either the market, pharmacy, post office or Vogues. The chain would be hung across the street on both sides of the river to prevent pedestrians or vehicular traffic from approaching the edge. At times a few pedestrians would be on the bridge while the rotation takes place just for the ride. For me, I once got on it and it scared the living daylights out me. It would get stuck and traffic would be backed up on Albert Street, Queen Street, and North Front Street for a lengthy time. It was a joy ride like no other to be stuck on the bridge while schedule for swinging. Imagine the additional weight.

It was always fun watching the kids whom were label “Bad Boys” jumping off the rails into the river late at night for swimming. The mouth of the river is Brackish water. This is where nature allows the sea to meet the river. The river came alive early morning and late evening. The kids would be standing near the wharf that was opposite Vogue and this was the area they swam to after every jump or dive. Once in a while speed boat or dorey (wooden canoe) would go by, The street lamp for the bridge was their only light and it would be dark at night. You could hear their shouts of laughter, daring each other and the loud splashes they made. YAHWEH kept them safe as they were innocent to the danger of a late night swim. My dad use to say shark and crocodile would move along the river and swim up stream to Belcan Bridge. The joys of childhood innocence for those children. Often you would see tourist or the British soldiers taking photos of those kids. They were not bad I believe just poor, homeless and without supervision. Many of them came from Far West street or thru Majestic Alley. Who could blame them for having fun the only way they knew how? As a spectator I use to wish I had the courage to do what they did. I am a Caye gal and I know the joys of doing a cannonball jump in the sea. When you are a kid or teenager you are fearless. They are all grown up now and I could picture them discussing that adventure.

Better than watching the kids was the standing on the bridge to watch the school of Long Guard fishes or Catfish jumping around in a frenzy or just swimming up stream. I’ve been informed that the Long guards are Needle Fish. I often wonder what they we’re feeding on. I thought maybe Sprat (sardines). Nature ran its course beneath the bridge. At the base of the bridge was a large round concrete mound that held the machinery for the bridge. The kids would often be seen sitting on it after a jump.

Another was the floating of the logwood out to the merchant ships waiting in the harbor. As far as my eyes could see there was a tugboat pulling the load of Mahagony logwoods as it floated for miles. I could always remember the sun setting in the direction of the oncoming logs. They were huge and very long in length. Some of those trees that was cut for logwood were very old in years. They came from the saw mill that was further up the river. The skill of the creole men that were the guides In there khaki pants, white shirts and basket weave hats collecting the stray logwood and keeping the load together on their side of the logs. Pole in hand and keeping a keen eye on the logs. They were very skilled and were often in imminent danger of getting crushed. I did recall seeing the logs being bound together with ropes or maybe chains but not sure. It was captivating to watch as a child. My sister and I would stand there pointing and picking the biggest logs as it floated by. It was a game of who had the most.

The bridge is still going strong and many of stories has been written about the old swing bridge. It’s one of our iconic landmark of the past. At the opposite area of the river and city in a Westernly direction was the Belcan Bridge which also swung to allow the boats from the dockyard further up river near the Northern Highway to pass thru. These bridges linked both sides of the city together.

Many thanks to those men who worked tirelessly using manual labor to swing the bridge. Without them we would not have gotten home to enjoy our family, meals, school and work in the city. Ubuntu (I Am because You Are.) to all of them.


Looking at this vintage photo (probably early 1930’s), there’s only two of the original structures still around today, arrows indicating, the structures are not as you see them here, they are a bit different today with all the alterations done to them through the years. Left hand drive was still being enforced.

Harold Usher: No motor vehicles. Notice the LARGE Canopy covered Mule and Cart, at the left going toward the Bridge - that was the type of transportation that Hood's and Lyons Bakeries used to use deliver bread to the shops to be resold, in the 40's and earlier. Also, notice the smaller box covered bicycle cart travelling toward us - That was a travelling food cart, selling things you can get in a restaurant, such as Jam roll, panades, etc. for mid-morning breaks. Lots of this stuff you can purchase at various stands along Albert Street today.

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