Blackbutts Bridge was the first bridge from Pyrmont to Glebe Island, built in 1857 from Tasmanian blackbutt timber, with a manual swing span. It enabled easier access to Glebe Island, and meat could be taken from the Glebe Island abattoirs across Pyrmont Bridge to Sydney.
The bridge was privately owned. As the turn of the century approached it was in a poor state of repair. The Colonial Government bought it and planning began for the replacement.
In 1899, the bridge collapsed. Spectators gathered and traffic access to Balmain was halted. The Australian Town and Country Journal reported that the collapse was caused by unsecured ballast, put in place for the new swing bridge already under construction.
The new four lane swing was finally opened in 1903 – among the first electrically operated opening bridges in the world.
It was decided in the early 1990s to build a new Glebe Island bridge to replace the low-level swing bridge, and so provide for uninterrupted road traffic. The design that was accepted was for a cable-stayed structure, supported by two diamond-shaped concrete towers. Work began in 1992, and Glebe Island’s third bridge was completed late in 1995. On the opening day the Smith Family, a well-known charitable organisation, was given the opportunity to raise funds by selling tickets for a walk across the bridge. More than 65,000 people took up the offer, which included walking across the old swing bridge for the last time, as it was then opened permanently for water traffic.
Soon after the opening the new bridge was re-named ‘Anzac Bridge’. The old Glebe Island Bridge is closed occasionally for major events, and its future is now being considered as part of the Bays Precinct Urban Transformation Program.