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Towns & Industry (1860-1880)

Lucius O'Brien's Watercolour

Lucius O'Brien Watercolour

Lucius O'Brien's 1874 watercolour depicting Cartwright's Bridge

The first crossing over the river at Napanee was a wooden floating bridge, located just above the falls. This bridge, depicted in Thomas Burrows 1830 watercolour, was replaced by a more durable covered bridge in 1840. DISCOVER MOREReadmore Arrow

A proposal for another bridge did not come until 1867, when J.J. Burrows and one hundred others petitioned Town Council for a draw bridge over the river at Centre Street. Council set aside $500 for the project and approved plans for a moving bridge with a draw of 28 feet and a width of 30 feet. Completed during 1868, J.J. Vanalstine was charged with opening the bridge for $50 a year. Shortly after, VanAlstine built a house on the south side of the river to use while he served as Bridge Tender.

In the fall of 1868, Richard J. Cartwright, an influential businessman and owner of the Big Mill in the Mill Reserve, east of Centre Street, complained of obstruction in the river. The following year, Cartwright filed a petition to build a second bridge for $600, if Town Council would grant him $200 toward construction. Cartwright built his wooden bridge just east of the Big Mill, at the foot of East Street. The bridge complied with an earlier 1860 Village By-Law that required land owners to build a bridge wide enough for teams to cross. Conveniently, this bridge provided access to his mill on the north side of the river.

Cartwright's bridge with a horse team drawing a wagon load of hay is captured in an 1874 watercolour by Lucius O'Brien (1832-1899). O'Brien, a landscape painter, raised in the backwoods of Simcoe County,was educated at Toronto's Upper Canada College (1844-1846). As a young man, he was employed in an architect's office, and later as a civil engineer. In the 1850's, he prepared drawings for a number of Toronto engravers and lithographers, exhibited at the Upper Canada Provincial Exhibition, and was employed as drawing-master at a Toronto girls' school. Following a trip to France and England, he located in Toronto as an associate of Quetton St. George and Company. He became active in art circles, joining the Ontario Society of Artists in 1873 and becoming Vice-President in 1874. He spent his summers travelling and sketching, visiting the Ottawa region, Owen Sound and Lake Erie.

The Napanee painting, done during the years O'Brien worked in watercolour, reflects his defining interest in the waterways of Ontario. The sense of proportion and precise placement within the painting echoes the Birds Eye topographical view of Napanee published by a Chicago Lithograph Company the same year. O'Brien would on to found the Ontario College of Art and become the first President of the Royal Canadian Academy of Artists, under the patronage of Sir John Douglas Sutherland Campbell, the Marquess of Lorne, and the fourth Governor General of Canada.

By 1884, the Centre Street Bridge had fallen into disrepair and was replaced by a swing bridge, operated by a crank at its centre. In 1887, Cartwright replaced his earlier wooden bridge with a suspension style cable footbridge. Town Council paid H.T. Forward, Richard Cartwright's agent, $50 toward constructing a cable bridge. The cable bridge, built by William and David Edgar, was a popular feature on early nineteenth century postcards.

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