When I tell people we live on an island, they invariably ask if there is a bridge. I always say no, because what they are really asking is if we are connected to the mainland. We aren’t. But “no” isn’t an accurate answer. Grenell has several bridges. In fact, I’m not sure if there are any other islands of comparable size that have as many bridges as we do. I’d like to think our bridges reflect the people of our island’s desire to be connected with each other. So here’s a peek at the Bridges of Grenell.
Sam Grenell’s Bridge
The biggest bridge on Grenell was built in 1885 and connected what is now Dor-Sly-Mar Isle—what most of us refer to as Pullman Island—to the island we now call Grenell. Dor-Sly-Mar was originally connected to Grenell and was created when separated by a man-made channel. Story has it that Grenell’s son Myran dug through the sandy soil to make a small canal.
Winter storms blew through and the wind and waves eroded the soil away so soon it was a sizeable gap. But that had to have been a long, long time ago, perhaps in the 1860s. What is strange is that when the bridge was built, Pullman Island was known as Grenell Island and the island we call Grenell Island was known as Grenell Island Park.
Sand Creek News, November 5, 1885
A bridge will be built this fall connecting Grenell Island with Grenell Park on the St. Lawrence. Mr. Gardiner, who built the bridge at Thousand Island Park, will have charge of the work. The new bridge will be 200 feet long and 12-feet wide, built on white oak spikes of neat design and will add much to the convenience of both islands.
By June 1886, several newspapers reported, “A bridge 12-feet wide and 343-feet long, connects the hotel with the park.”
In a picture that was in “The Story of Grenell,” the bridge appears to be L-shaped connecting with Grenell Park near the current Hinds Cottage. The tiny white cottage you see in the far right hand side of the picture is our little cottage on Rum Rock.
Looking at pictures of Pullman House over its lifetime (1890-1904), it’s easy to see that there were several bridges built through the years. After the L-shaped bridge, most bridges looked like they go straight between Pullman and Grenell. Winter ice can be brutal and I’m sure the ravages of Mother Nature and Father Winter required the bridge to be rebuilt several times. The hotel burned in 1904. Without the hotel, there didn’t seem to be a big need for a bridge. This bridge no longer exists.
In my opinion, the most beautiful bridge on the island, connects Grenell with what used to be called Front Island. Today, it’s known as Southpoint, though several islanders still refer to it as Kerr’s Point. The term point is a misnomer. That lot of land was never a point turned into an island because of a man-made channel. It is a separate island from Grenell.
The current Southpoint Bridge has been there since 1911, but there were other bridges connecting it to Grenell before that. Archie Kerr replaced the wood deck on the bridge in the 1960s, but the design and ironwork is original from 1911. The elegant arch and deep water, make the Southpoint Bridge a favorite place for kayakers to cut through on their trip around the islands.
The newest bridge on the island in more ways than one would be the bridge that connects Kirmess property with the Glimpses property. The 1886 Lot Map does not show a channel between Kirmess and Glimpses property. Neither does an 1887 picture.
Sometime after 1887, a channel was dug between the two properties and a bridge was built. For the last few decades, a bridge with wooden planks for a base and galvanized pipes for railings linked the two properties. That bridge was replaced by a beautiful new white bridge last spring. When the water is low, this channel is often without water.
Rum Rock Bridge
The last bridge on our list is currently the smallest of the bridges on Grenell. The channel between our lot and our neighbor’s lot was dug by the Pabst boys in the 1880s to increase water flow to our little cove and keep Sam Grenell’s cows off Rum Rock. Old photographs show that at one time this bridge was much higher and longer. Perhaps the bridge was built higher to accommodate higher water. Like the Kirmess Bridge, the channel often is dry late in the season. The channel is narrow now and cedar boughs hang low over the water. In my opinion, it’s too low for canoes or kayakers to go through, but every year I see a few try.
I don’t know how many times Rum Rock Bridge has been replaced. We can count four bridges in the last 40 years. A bridge in 1979 was washed away by high water only months after it was constructed. In 2011, a large maple tree fell and smashed the bridge. We used a plank for a while, which our neighbor jokingly referred to as the “Sobriety Bridge.” Seems after a few MacDacs on Rum Rock the plank was a true test of sobriety.
By Lynn E. McElfresh
Lynn McElfresh is a regular contributor to “TI Life,” writing stories dealing with her favorite Grenell Island and island life. You can see Lynn’s 80+ articles here (Yes we celebrated her number 80 in July, 2015.) Lynn helps us move pianos, fix the plumbing, and often finds books and people to review…
In this article Lynn helps to build bridges… something she seems to do naturally, as she brings us so much history and interesting pieces about our Thousand Islands.