The metal truss bridge was constructed in 1894 by the Dominion Bridge Company. As shown in our photos, the Dominion Bridge still stands 100+ years later, although it is now blocked off at either end and unused.
Its not safe to walk on the bridge due to rotting floor boards.
The following historical information was written and provided by the Heritage Ottawa Organization.
Porter’s Island is named after John Porter, who served as Bytown’s city engineer. Porter settled in the area in 1844 and lived here until his death in 1888.
And although it had to be abandoned each spring due to flooding, the island, on the Rideau River just south of Edinburgh Park, was used to keep typhoid and smallpox patients isolated from the rest of the city.
Outbreaks in 1871, 1874 and 1885 underlined the need for some kind of quarantine station, a role Porter’s Island served from the mid-1890s. A small “hospital” existed at least as far back as 1902, but its shortcomings were well known. In 1911, as the city suffered outbreaks of smallpox, typhoid and tuberculosis, Chief Officer of Health John W. S. McCullough wrote:
“On Porter’s Island about 300 yds. long and 50 to 100 yards wide lying in the Rideau River just below the St. Patrick’s St. bridge, and used as a dumping ground for city refuse (dry) was situated the Smallpox Hospital, a miserable old clapboard shack 20 x 24 ft. and 1½ stories high, with stove pipe running up the stairway so that one had to go on hands and knees to get underneath it to go upstairs.”
There, he noted, 17 patients slept three to a bed. Two nurses had a bed in a small storage room, a space where patients were also bathed. Outside, 10 patients shared a tent.
The conditions at the hospital, McCullough wrote, were “disgraceful,” and not surprisingly it was an experience few patients were eager to undergo. A newspaper account from January 1912 tells of one resident, Mrs. Couvilion, who refused to allow two public health officers into her Langevin Avenue home, just a half dozen blocks away, only acquiescing once they returned with a police officer. But when they returned again with an ambulance to take her to Porter’s Island, she had barricaded her door. The matter was settled when she was “taken by force” by the police.McCullough’s report helped pave the way for the Hopewell Isolation Hospital, with construction starting in December of that year. Not only was the facility separated from the rest of Ottawa by water, but a stone wall segregated the hospital from the rest of the island. It was designed by architect Frank C. Sullivan, at a cost of $28,000. Named for then-mayor Charles Hopewell, it opened in February 1913, and by October housed 82 smallpox patients, as well as a handful suffering other diseases.
The hospital remained in use until 1945.
In 1960, the city recommended that a seniors’ home be built on the island. The 250-bed facility, called Island Lodge, opened in May 1964.
Today, Porter’s Island is home to two facilities: the Rockcliffe Retirement Residence and the Garry J. Armstrong Home, a 180-bed long-term care facility.
The island is accessible today by a bridge from St. Patrick Street, replacing the metal truss bridge constructed in 1894 by the Dominion Bridge Company. The original bridge remains, although it is now blocked off at either end and unused, even by pedestrian traffic.