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HISTORY OF BRIDGES AND NATIONS

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COLLINS LANDING — Under a large white tent with seats filled and spectators pooling on foot at the side, historian Brian Phillips discussed the history and community significance of the Thousand Islands Bridge.

“At one time there was no bridge. You’d either swim, use a rowboat or take the ferry,” said Mr. Phillips of Rockport, Ontario.

The lecture was part of the bridge’s 75th anniversary open house, celebrated Saturday outside the Welcome Center here. The bridge was constructed throughout 1937, with a dedication ceremony Aug. 18, 1938. The ceremony was attended by then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Canadian Prime Minister William L. Mackenzie King. At the time there was an audience of more than 25,000.

“It was one of the biggest things to happen in the area,” Mr. Phillips said as he clicked through a slideshow of historic photos. “People were excited about the project, excited about having a job in the Great Depression.”

People from throughout the state, as well as Canada, turned out for Saturday’s event. According to Boldt Castle facilities director Shane K. Sanford, an estimated 3,000 people meandered the grounds under the bridge.

“It’s a connection between two communities sharing common values, common heritage,” Mr. Sanford said. “You see more older people here, and some of them are the same who witnessed it being built.”

Boldt Castle was acquired in 1977 by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority and has since undergone extreme renovations.

“It’s my home,” said Ann O. Hunter, a retired Alexandria Bay history teacher. “I look up here every day and see the bridge. It’s peace ... just another way to express our friendship with the Canadians.”

The event was a treated as a large birthday celebration. Organizers even had guests sign two large “birthday cards.”

“This is like Disney World for a day,” said Ian Campbell of Kingston.

For Mr. Campbell and Laurel Taylor of Napanee, Ontario, it is a link to the French Bay Marina, Clayton.

“A lot of Canadians keep boats in the French Bay area,” Ms. Taylor said. “It’s a major link between the two major countries. We’re happy to be here to have its birthday.”

Though everyone appeared to have a good time, there was one thing about the bridge that spectators, and even Mr. Sanford, had to address.

“Nothing’s changed a lot other than security — border security. Specifically following the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001,” Mr. Sanford said. “Much detail and emphasis has been placed on maintenance, safety and now security.”

Asked how often he makes the crossing, Mr. Campbell said, “Not that often these days. It used to be very popular. The lineups have taken away the fun.”

James B. Titus worked as a gardener for Thousand Islands Bridge Authority for about 30 years.

“They’re a lot more security conscious now,” he said. “We all were a lot freer.”

Despite additional security measures, almost everyone agreed that the sea foam green bridge is a welcome necessity — not just for travel purposes, but as a symbol of good will between two countries.






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