Chester’s Old Stone Bridge
We all have things that we treasure; objects of all shapes and sizes that we cherish, not for their dollar value, but because of the way they connect us to the people, places and events of our past.
Throughout our province, these treasures are found in the physical reminders that surround us; the rich assortment of structures and sites that embody the unique history of this place and its people. From landscapes to landmarks, historic homes to industrial factories, churches to cemeteries, built heritage represents our collective past and thanks to Nova Scotia’s Heritage Property Act, we are able to preserve these gems.
Administered by the province’s Heritage Property Program, the Act helps identify, protect and rehabilitate sites of significant heritage value. To date, nearly 1800 different structures and places have been designated as either provincial or municipal heritage properties.
This past fall, the Old Stone Bridge in Chester became the latest official addition to the Provincial Registry of Heritage Property. A vestige of Nova Scotia’s industrial past, the bridge was constructed around 1882 after the famed Saxby Gale of 1869 destroyed the original wooden bridge. Located on Victoria Road with Chester Back Harbour to its west and the Old Mill Race Stream to its east, the bridge carried horse carriages back and forth and serviced Hawboldt’s Foundry, a marine engine manufacturer founded by Chester inventor Forman Hawboldt in 1906.
Believed to be one of the oldest surviving stone arch bridges in Nova Scotia, the structure’s age, rare architecture and historical ties all combine to make it special, however; the bridge’s greatest claim to fame is the fact that cars and trucks still use it today.
A testament to its sound design and structural integrity, the Old Stone Bridge has been in continual use for more than a century. While this is an incredible feat, it did make it more complicated to establish the structure as a historic site. In the past, three other bridges in the province have been successfully registered as heritage properties, but they had all been long retired from public use. The Old Stone Bridge’s status as an active roadway meant that both community and government supporters had to band together to make the designation possible.
Championed by former councillor and local historian Gail Smith and endorsed by Denise Peterson-Rafuse, Minister of Community Services, the campaign for the bridge included local municipal groups such as the Village of Chester Commission and the Village of Chester Tourism and Development Association. Additionally, staff from Communities, Culture and Heritage (CCH) and Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (TIR) provided their expertise and advice.
All of this hard work culminated on September 14, 2012, when Chester residents and government officials gathered for a plaque unveiling ceremony in honour of the Old Stone Bridge’s formal designation as a provincial heritage site.
Once installed, the plaque will be located on a small piece of land adjacent to the bridge that Ms. Smith donated.