Text: Raymonde Paradis | Copyediting: Marie Léger-St-Jean
Photos: Martine Doyon
Pierre-Luc Bouthillier designed the Jacques Cartier Bridge logo for another series of T-shirts he created for his company PLB Design.
Pierre-Luc, what does this emblem of Montreal’s road network mean to you?
I’ve always found the structure of the Jacques Cartier Bridge impressive, even more so since it’s illuminated. I’m interested in its history and wonder, among other things, why it’s topped with small turrets in the shape of the Eiffel Tower.
At Pierre-Luc’s request, I did a little research to learn more about how the bridge —an architectural gem of the city of Montreal— was built.
As early as 1875, there was talk of building a new bridge to connect Montreal to the South Shore: Victoria Bridge was the only at the time. The idea resurfaced from time to time for a few decades, but was set aside during the First World War, which took up a great deal of resources.
The project finally moved ahead in the 1920s. The construction of the bridge mobilized several thousand workers for four consecutive years. They delivered it a year and a half earlier than planned. It was commissioned in May 1930 as the Montreal Harbour Bridge.
The bridge was renamed Jacques Cartier in 1934 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the explorer’s first trip to Canada. The French government donated a bronze bust of Cartier for the occasion: it’s still by the exit ramp leading to Saint Helena’s Island.
As for the turrets reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower, they were an an aesthetic element in the original plan: they were not added afterwards. Toll booths were set up as soon as the bridge was inaugurated but they were decommissioned in 1962.
Fun fact: when the bridge was built, a cornerstone was integrated into the pillar at the corner of Notre-Dame and Saint-Antoine streets. This stone contains more than 50 objects —newspapers, coins, photos, maps, etc.— that bear witness to our history. The exact location of the stone is unknown, but it will be a treasure trove of valuable information when it is discovered.
In 2017, a new era opened for the Jacques Cartier Bridge. Indeed, it’s been showcased as part of the 375th anniversary of the founding of Montreal. The project to make the bridge into an interactive light show was entrusted to multimedia studio Moment Factory. With the help of local partners, the firm developed a lighting system that runs through the whole gamut of colours.
The bridge thus transforms itself with the seasons. It also supports animations and light movements associated with themes such as traffic, the weather and the daily activities of the city. The Jacques Cartier Bridge now plays a part in positioning Montreal as a leader among smart cities.