Pandemic Bridge at Porter's Island – Ottawa, Ontario - Atlas Obscura

Pandemic Bridge at Porter's Island

The metal truss bridge served as the sole entry point to an "isolation island" for smallpox outbreaks throughout the 1870s and early 1940s. 


Built in 1894 by Dominion Bridge Company, this defunct bridge still connects Porter’s Island to St. Patrick Street. It remains a rare example of a multi-span, pin-connected truss bridge in Ontario.

Ottawa’s first major outbreak of smallpox was reported in 1871. When the existing hospital infrastructure was deemed unsuitable for patient isolation, Porter’s Island became the new location. In 1894, an isolation hospital and bridge were constructed.

While the bridge remained intact, the hastily-built hospital fell into disrepair and was demolished in 1902. The island remained a quarantine area until the eradication of smallpox in Canada in the mid-1940s. Today, Porter’s Island is a retirement residence and long-term care facility.

The original 1894 bridge remains largely intact. The only observed alteration was pipe railings to replace the original lattice railings. A single panel of the lattice railing can be seen from the south end of the bridge.

Know Before You Go

The original Porter's Island bridge (located at 45.436869, -75.680757) is blocked off at both ends and remains closed to all traffic (including pedestrians) due to the deteriorating wooden deck. It can still be viewed via the modern bridge on Island Lodge Road and from the sidewalk on St. Patrick Street.

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