Visitors are invited to come to "The Kissing Bridge," the long-standing nickname of the West Montrose covered bridge.
The heritage structure – Ontario’s only remaining covered bridge – is part of a heritage walking tour during Doors Open Waterloo Region on Sept 20.
Built in 1881, it was “appropriately nicknamed due to the intimacy and privacy that the covered bridge offered its travellers,” Canada’s Historic Places says.
The iconic one-lane structure is located in one of the province’s most picturesque landscapes as it spans 60 metres across the Grand River.
It also represents the early history of Woolwich Township and of an earlier time in the village about 20 minutes north of Kitchener-Waterloo.
The walking tours of 45 minutes leave at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. from Letson Park at Rivers Edge Drive and Letson Drive.
Along with the bridge and the nearby Lost Acres variety store and bakery, the walk includes West Montrose village, one of Ontario’s first recognized Cultural Heritage Landscapes.
The bridge, with its red-painted wood panelling and gable roof, was designed by local contractor John Bear and built with his brother Benjamin as a replacement for an earlier open bridge at that site.
It was originally constructed entirely of wood but over the century improvements have included adding stone, asphalt, concrete and steel to maintain its function and integrity.
COMMON THREADS THEME
Doors Open Waterloo Region has a “common threads” theme with 41 sites, some of which are not normally open to the public participating, said coordinator Karl Kessler.
Watersheds are one of those threads with the Grand River and its tributaries meandering through the local landscape marking events now and years gone by.
A river runs through five sites including the kissing bridge, the Heritage Cambridge Grand Avenue South Walking Tour, McDougall Cottage and Grand River Conservation Authority Headquarters in Cambridge, and the Quarry Building in St. Jacobs.
The Cambridge walk of 30 minutes is along Grand Avenue South and the Living Levee Trail beside the river with all of its views and vistas. Participants can take in the "rich cultural heritage landscape, enjoying the built and natural heritage elements in the neighbourhood that tell its unique history.”
Walks leave from the McDougall Cottage at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.
There’s also the late landscape artist Homer Watson’s Youth in Upper Doon’s “Oregon” Heritage Walking Tour.
Watson spent his early years in this historic settlement of Oregon, in Upper Doon (now Kitchener), a Heritage Conservation District.
The half-hour walks begin at his birthplace in 1855 and include sites from his youth. They leave at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. from 1021 Doon Village Rd.
A longer, self-guided Upper Doon walking tour of heritage sites will be available in print form.
Doors Open events give the opportunity to “visitors local and out of town alike to explore the secret, unexplored parts of Waterloo Region,” Kessler said.
Most sites are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. but several have shortened hours and visitors should check the listings on the map/guide or at the website: regionofwaterloo.ca/doorsopen.
Doors are opening in 24 communities for heritage touring opportunities next month.
This includes London and Windsor on Sept. 27 and 28, and two in October in Bradford-West Gwillimubury, Oct. 4, and the last of the season in St. Thomas on Oct. 18.
Joining the program this year is Wellington North on Sept. 27 with 19 sites including several to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the First World War and the Village of Arthur’s designation as “Canada’s Most Patriotic Village.”
Doors open in Middlesex and Huron County on Sept. 13 and 14; Port Stanley-Sparta, Sept. 20; Haldimand, Sept. 21; Ajax, Burlington, Grimsby, Markham, Mississauga, Muskoka Lakes, Oshawa, Parry Sound and Walkerton on Sept. 27; and Gananoque and Halton Region on Sept. 27 and 28.
The popular annual program from the Ontario Heritage Trust is a free architecture and heritage open house. Details at doorsopenontario.on.ca