History buffs will have a chance to get their hands on their very own rivet from the deconstructed Champlain Bridge that spanned the St. Lawrence River for roughly six decades.
About 4,000 rivets collected from the former bridge, which connected Montreal to the South Shore before it was replaced, will be distributed on Saturday and Sunday to those who want a piece of history, according to the federal body that manages the bridge, the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated (JCCBI).
Nathalie Lessard, JCCBI spokesperson, said on CBC Montreal's Daybreak that it all started when the province announced in 2019 that keepsakes from the bridge would be made available.
"People have been asking for a little piece, or keepsake from the Champlain Bridge," she said.
Roughly 90 per cent of the old bridge's materials were recycled and the rivets, used to hold metal components together, were among the 25,000 tonnes of reclaimed steel.
The rivets have been coated in a varnish to make them safer to handle. (Submitted by JCCBI)
Rivets aren't used anymore, Lessard explained, as builders now rely on nuts and bolts instead. The corporation decided rivets would be the best keepsake to give away, she said.
"They rivets are small. They are pretty easy to handle. Steel is pretty heavy. This is the smallest piece we could have handed out," she said
"We could have also handed out concrete pieces, but they are not as relevant or significant to the bridge as rivets, which are quite unique."
Collected 1 by 1
Because of the way the rivets were installed, each one needed to be broken to pull from the metal, Lessard said. After some negotiation, the contractor agreed to collect them all and now they are being handed out, one by one.
The rivets will be given on a first-come, first-served basis — one per person, and each person must be 18 years or older.
"Please be advised that there may be traces of lead in the paint on this keepsake from the original Champlain Bridge. This is why it has been safely encapsulated in a layer of varnish," the JCCBI says on its website.
Rivets can be seen holding metal pieces together all along the old structure, which has been deconstructed and recycled. (Submitted by the JCCBI)
People who decide to take home a rivet are responsible for avoiding any damage or degradation to this varnish layer and for not handling the keepsake if the varnish becomes damaged, degraded or deteriorated.
"The keepsake must not be handled or used by children at any time," the JCCBI says, noting those who take rivets home must assume all the risks and the corporation won't be held liable.
When and where to get your rivet
The first giveaway will be on Saturday in Brossard, Que., on Montreal's South Shore, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Centre socioculturel Alphonse Lepage (7905 San Francisco Avenue).
Then on Sunday, there will be a giveaway on Nuns' Island from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at La Station (201 Berlioz Street).
There will be quick, in-car pickup and a dedicated pickup lane for active mobility users available.
The original bridge cost $35 million to build. It first opened to traffic on June 28, 1962, and was named in honour of Samuel de Champlain, who founded Quebec City in 1608.
The bridge was on its last legs as the new one was under construction. Roughly $60 million was spent on maintaining it in 2018 and 2019.
The new, aptly named Samuel De Champlain Bridge, cost about $4 billion to build and has an expected lifespan of 125 years.