Stop the world and hold a picnic on Hamilton's High Level Bridge

Hamilton businessman Patrick Bermingham says his picnic idea on the High Level Bridge is gaining traction.

Hamilton businessman Patrick Bermingham says his picnic idea is gaining traction

In 1930 John Lyle was hired to design the city's new High Level Bridge. Construction began in 1931. On June 17, 1932 the new High Level Bridge was formally dedicated. This photo dates from 1932. (Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)

An imaginative idea to close the High Level Bridge on Hamilton's York Boulevard and picnic on it is gaining traction.

A Hamilton businessman and bridge-dinner-party enthusiast, Patrick Bermingham, has been floating the idea in recent years, ever since his own 50th birthday party happened on a bridge.

On a bridge, Bermingham argues, a person can eat "suspended in time".

He wants Hamilton to stop for an evening on Hamilton's grand entrance, the Thomas B. McQuesten High Level Bridge.

To take a breath, to take a couple of moments to enjoy the view, a sunset, to say, "We live here and we love it."

Committee to meet next week

Patrick Bermingham is CEO of a fourth-generation company that does business around the world. He also has dreams about bridges. (Paul Wilson/ CBC)

Bermingham told CBC Hamilton on Wednesday that a group is forming to put some plans together for a celebration on the bridge sometime next June, in time for the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

The first meeting is next week, he said.

At this point, planning is in the early stages, Bermingham said. The event could include public events, an open picnic, a catered fundraiser. People may arrive at the bridge by boat, by canoe, or park a car or a bicycle at Dundurn Castle. Perhaps there'd be Chinese lanterns, maybe even fireworks.

A view repossessed

The High Level Bridge covers a waterway connecting Lake Ontario to Cootes Paradise and Dundas. (John Rieti/CBC)

But the important part, to Bermingham, is to close the street to remove the distraction of traffic on York Boulevard between Dundurn and the Royal Botanical Garden.

And while the street is closed, he hopes people will take a few moments to gaze out to Cootes Paradise in the west, and the harbor in the east. To "repossess" that view and that space that is so often whizzed past in a vehicle.

"We can close the roads for construction – no problem," he said. "But we don't close it for life."

'One of the best and most welcoming views of the entire city'

Perhaps people may even be permitted to climb into those four "niches" in the towers and be photographed in black and white. Hamilton star architect John Lyle designed them for statues that were never built.

John Lyle designed four niches for statues that were never commissioned. Patrick Bermingham imagines that visitors to the bridge when it's closed down for an evening might be able to pose in the niches. (Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)

A small-scale, trial run of the idea happened when Bermingham treated former Mayor Bob Bratina to eggs Benedict and orange juice on the sidewalk there three years ago. He earned a fan of the idea then.

Paul Wilson's original CBC Hamilton story about the idea spawned a Raise the Hammer article and thread with more ideas pitched in.

"It's one of the best and most welcoming views of the entire City and, hypothetically, a riveting spot for a leisurely picnic to absorb the lovely setting sun over Cootes Paradise," wrote Margaret Lindsay Holton.

kelly.bennett@cbc.ca | @kellyrbennett


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