Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Ambassador Bridge

The largest international suspension bridge in the world is the Ambassador Bridge, connecting Detroit, Michigan with Windsor, Ontario.

The 1920s were an exciting time architecturally in Detroit, with the construction of the General Motors Building, Fisher Building, Masonic Auditorium and the Penobscot Building, among others. Proposals for a bridge to span the Detroit River never came to fruition until John W. Austin approached Detroiter and financier Joseph A. Bower in the mid-twenties. Austin proposed a plan for a bridge that would span the Detroit River and connect the two countries.

Bower came up with the necessary funding and legal proceedings, yet the plan was temporarily thwarted by Detroit’s then-Mayor John Smith. The Mayor vehemently opposed the proposal, at least in part because the bridge would be privately owned. The Mayor’s efforts were defeated on June 28, 1927 when Detroiters voted overwhelmingly in a special election in favor of the bridge construction.

A leading bridge building company at the time, McClintic-Marshall Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was chosen to undertake the bridge construction. The building began in May of 1927 and was completed in 1929, months ahead of its scheduled deadline.

At the time of its construction, the Ambassador Bridge was the largest suspension bridge in the world, with a center span of 1,850 feet. Its record was surpassed two years later by the George Washington Bridge, which spans the Hudson River.

The Ambassador Bridge was constructed with Art Deco architecture and a hint of Gothic styling. Its total length is 7,490 feet, with 1.75 miles spanning between the North American and Canadian checkpoints. The structure is built mainly of steel (21,000 tons), and has a roadway that rises as high as 152 feet above the Detroit River.

On average, more than 10,000 vehicles traverse the bridge every weekday. It is North America’s busiest international border crossing in terms of both traffic and trade volume. With the two countries being each other’s largest trade partner, a quarter of all trade between the U.S. and Canada passes through this border crossing.



Postcard, Ambassador Bridge, 1929     Ambassador Bridge, c. 1972

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