Ninety years ago last August, Buffalo helped host a ceremony that included U.S. Vice President Charles Dawes, the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VIII), British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King and New York Gov. Al Smith.
The occasion? The dedication of the Peace Bridge, which took place Aug. 7, 1927.
The bridge, located at the east end of Lake Erie at the source of the Niagara River, was so named to “celebrate the (mostly) peaceful relations between the United States and Canada since the War of 1812,” according to the book “Niagara: The Falls and the River – an Illustrated History.” Construction had commenced two years earlier, and the first car was driven across the bridge earlier in 1927. The Peace Bridge opened to traffic June 1, 1927. An estimated 50 million people from coast to coast listened to the dedication ceremony on the radio.
Nearly 100,000 people attended the dedication, the Niagara Falls Review newspaper wrote last year. The 1931 Statute of Westminster was still four years away, so the United Kingdom hadn't yet granted Canada legal autonomy – hence the presence of the British officials.
The three-lane bridge is 3,580 feet long and 36 feet wide from curb to curb, according to its official website.
Once it was open, the Peace Bridge quickly became “the primary pipeline for bootleg liquor trucked into Buffalo from Canada,” according to the website Buffalo Architecture and History.
Today, the Peace Bridge carries $40 billion in trade annually. Nearly 4.8 million vehicles crossed the bridge in 2011. It is the second-busiest border crossing between the United States and Canada. (The Buffalo Niagara area, taken as a whole, is the busiest port between the United States and Canada by personal vehicle traffic, according to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Detroit is second.)
For decades, those in the Buffalo area and Southern Ontario have talked of the possibility of a second Niagara River span at the Peace Bridge, but so far, that talk has not been translated into action.