Saturday, July 28, 2012

Ashton Viaduct, Cumberland-Lincoln, RI

The Ashton Viaduct crossing the Blackstone River
Usually a bridge like this has a lot of history behind it, but I can't even get a definite idea of its name. Some places call it the Ashton Bridge, some the Ashton Viaduct. I imagine it was associated with the nearby (like, if I turn to my right 90 degrees, it's right there) Ashton Village, which was once a thriving mill, so it must be at least a hundred years old, but... no information on how old it is.

I was biking on the Blackstone Valley Bikeway which stretches from Worcester, Massachusetts through to Cumberland, Rhode Island. I was just wanting to see how far I could get, maybe to where I grew up near Uxbridge, Mass., before we moved to New Hampshire. The Blackstone Valley was home.

Yeah, I knew the viaduct would be along the way, but still. I didn't come just for the bridge. Honestly.

The Ashton Mill
Told ya the mill was close.

Viaduct & bike bridge
The Ashton Viaduct is a five span open spandrel arch bridge crossing the Blackstone River, a river once called the most polluted river in the country with respect to toxic sediments, being used as it was as the industrial toilet for mills and factories from Worcester to Woonsocket. It is today still filled with pollutants. In that it shares a fate with the Housatonic River here in Connecticut -- enjoy at your own risk.

Neither river is likely to ever fully recover.

Not the Albion Bridge
Further along the bikeway, I found a pony truss bridge crossing the river. It looked in great condition, better than I'd ever seen one from the age of iron bridges. It didn't look to be one of the Berlin Iron Bridge Company's bridges -- most of theirs are lenticular.

Boston Bridge Works Builders
These bridges were built by the Boston Bridge Works... at least originally.

Turns out that Rhode Island  replaced the bridge, then bolted on parts of the old bridge so it would keep some of its old character. According to the contractor, Gordon R. Archibald Inc Civil Engineering,
To maintain the historic value of this river crossing, Gordon R. Archibald, Inc. developed the innovative concept of 'aesthetic rehabilitation.' Under this concept, the trusses were refurbished and placed astride a new, two-dimensional steel grid superstructure. The steel grid carries all of the new superstructure and vehicular loadings, leaving the trusses to carry only the weight of and loadings on the sidewalks. In this way, the reconstructed bridge can carry contemporary traffic loadings, while its 19th-century visual quality is preserved for future generations.
So I'm not sure how I feel about that. I guess it's good that they didn't just replace it with a slab of steel and concrete. They replaced it with a slab of steel and concrete and then put it in a dress.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Contoocook Railroad Bridge, Contoocook, NH

Contoocook Covered Bridge
The Contoocook Covered Bridge, crossing the Contoocook River in the Contoocook village part of Hopkinton, New Hampshire, bills itself as the "oldest surviving covered railroad bridge in the world". That's a lot of qualifications, but it's still an impressive piece of covered bridge history.

Constructed in 1889 on the piers of an earlier bridge, it was built at a time when New England was turning to iron bridges, such as those built by the famous Berlin Iron Bridge Company. Its relative newness could be responsible for its longevity, maybe.

This bridge was probably designed by the Boston & Maine Railroad engineer Jonathan Parker Snow and built by carpenter David Hazelton. The B&M railroad used wooden bridges long after most other railroads had moved to iron.

Tradition. It's New England!

Double Town lattice
The Contoocook covered railroad bridge sports a rather unique double Town lattice construction, with a second lattice bolted to the outside of the first. This probably helped take the weight of trains as they came through to the nearby depot. I have not seen that in any other covered bridge, but Wikipedia claims it wasn't uncommon in northern New England and a few other examples survive to this day.

This bridge was used as a working railroad bridge to 1962, weathering a number of disasters, including the 1938 hurricane that nearly wiped out Providence, Rhode Island. Between 1962 and 1990 it was used as a warehouse. In 2006, the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges paid for some necessary upgrades, and in 2010 the NH Department of Transportation modernized the lighting and fire suppression system -- you can see the red fire alarm button midway down the bridge wall in the picture above.

Portal to Contoocook Covered Bridge
I used to live twenty miles from this bridge when I was a kid, but I didn't know it even existed until a couple weeks ago. Used to ride to Hopkinton on my bike a lot after they built this really nice bike path that follows Interstate 89 north. But it would have been being used as a warehouse back then, anyway. The pictures on the Library of Congress website (which is down at the moment, so no links) show it filled with junk. Now it stands as the centerpiece and symbol of Contoocook village.

The bridge isn't hard to get to; if you're anywhere in the Concord, NH area, get to I-89, go north to route 127 and follow the road into Contoocook. There is parking available both at the adjoining depot and a restaurant on the other end of the bridge.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Now starring in The Dark Knight Rises: The Queensboro Bridge

Chrysler Building & Queensboro/59th Street Bridge
I hadn't been to the top of the Empire State Building since I was a kid, and my daughter had never been, so Wednesday we made the trip. Even though the the air was hazy with humidity, it was a great view and I got some wonderful pictures of the lower Manhattan bridges before the thunderstorms hit.

Closest to us was the Ed Koch Queensboro/59th Street Bridge, looking from this height like a kid's popsicle stick bridge.

This morning I went to see the new Batman movie, the Dark Knight Rises, in which many of the bridges of Manhattan play a pivotal role -- and the Queensboro Bridge, most of all. I'm not going to spoil the movie, but if you've been a fan of Manhattan's bridges, you'll probably enjoy the focus on them in the movie.

Except -- one tiny, tiny thing. They moved the bridge. They moved the bridge. In actual real Manhattan, the bridge is midtown, connecting the island with Queens. In the movie's climactic scene, the bridge has apparently replaced the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, Staten Island has disappeared entirely, and the Marine Parkway Bridge now connects to Manhattan. Or something. And is now reddish instead of gray.

When I got home I checked a NYC map just to be sure I wasn't crazy, but I was right. They moved the bridge.

Didn't they think anyone would notice?

Found a story with some good additional links about the filming on the Queensboro Bridge last autumn.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Railroad bridges, Hooksett, NH

Baltimore truss railroad bridge
I wasn't going to write this picture up. There's nothing particularly historical about this bridge. I didn't even know this bridge existed.

I'm on vacation, and I'd made a promise to visit my parents graves in Concord, New Hampshire, at some point during my week off. My dad would never, ever pay a toll if he could avoid it, and particularly on I-93 between Manchester and Concord. He'd always take the back road, Route 3A, through Hooksett and Bow and into Concord, where we lived.

That's how we kids were brought up. So I was toodling along on 3A, which follows the Merrimack River, just casually looking over now and again because it's a beautiful river and it was my river growing up. Through the trees, I saw an old iron railroad bridge and figured I'd better stop by.

I didn't recognize the truss design; I looked it up when I got home and saw it was a "Baltimore truss". The railroad bridges here in Connecticut all seem to be Pratt truss, so that was new.

This closed-off railroad bridge crosses the Merrimack nearly parallel to the Baltimore truss bridge. This one appears to be a three span Pratt truss bridge with extra bracing. Or it could be a Warren truss. I don't know. The cool thing is that these bridges, right next to each other, were made using entirely different designs.

Lots of people seem to have photographed these bridges (add me to that list) and/or jumped from them, but I'm not able to find any information about them online.

Just... back roads New Hampshire, I guess.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mid-Hudson Bridge, Poughkeepsie-Highland, NY

Franklin D. Roosevelt Mid-Hudson Bridge from Walkway Over the Hudson
I'm listening to Joseph Bertolozzi explain to me the various sounds the Mid-Hudson Bridge makes when you hit various parts of it with various kinds of hammers and mallets. This is the "album only" track from his 2009 album "Bridge Music", percussion music composed and played solely with sounds produced by the Mid-Hudson Bridge.

Bridge Music

You can hear this music on the bridge itself at the various listening stations, or on the radio.

Mid-Hudson Bridge and Walkway Over the Hudson
Because there were no fixed bridges across the Hudson south of Albany at the time, the Mid-Hudson Bridge   between Poughkeepsie and Highland was proposed in 1923 and opened in 1930 to fill a desperate need for road access. Then-governor Franklin D. Roosevelt, who grew up in nearby Hyde Park, was on hand for the opening of the bridge which would, in 1994, be renamed after him.

Detail of the underside of the bridge
The bridge is 3,000 feet long and rises 135 feet above the Hudson. It carries state routes 55 and 44 over the river, and the toll is $1.50 heading east. I didn't have to pay because I took my bike this time.

The pedestrian walkway on the north side is part of a loop trail that connects with the linear park on the old Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge, now known as the Walkway Over the Hudson, and the topic of another post. Plans are to eventually connect this loop trail -- about three miles -- with the Dutchess County Rail Trail system.

The cable stays on the west end of the bridge
Parking is available at both ends of the Walkway Over the Hudson, with easy access to both the bridges. The pictures from ground level, below the bridges, were at the end of Mile Hill Road, which leads to a small isolated riverfront community.

If you're on a bicycle, you really have to respect roads called Long Hill Road, Mile Hill Road and so on, because... they aren't lying. Mile Hill Road would have been a fun descent if I were any sort of fan of screaming down strange curvy roads at 50 mph, but I have to admit I was clenching the brakes the whole way down. And I walked the bike the whole way back up, too. I'm not proud.

There were a couple more bridges I wanted to get this trip, but I'd been in the sun long enough for one day. The Rip Van Winkle Bridge is just going to have to wait.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Providence River Bridge/Iway Bridge, Providence, RI

Iway Bridge/Providence River Bridge
The  Providence River  Bridge in Providence, Rhode Island is a network arch bridge -- first one I've seen live -- at the mouth of the Providence River at the northern tip of Narragansett Bay. It's apparently the widest network arch bridge in the world -- seven lanes of traffic across, plus room for pedestrians. It was part of a renovation project a few years back that moved the I-95/I-195 intersection from its old position in the middle of the city to its current spot behind the Fox Point hurricane barrier, which you can see in front of the bridge, on the right.

Also, my car ;-)

Piers for the old I-195 bridge still sit in the canal
The  Providence River  Bridge (also known as the Iway Bridge) was built by the Cardi Corporation at the Quonset Business Park in North Kingstown -- the jumping off point for the Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge. Once completed, it was put onto barges and floated up the bay to Providence, where cranes put it in its final position. One of the properties of this sort of bridge is the way it puts no tension on the bridge abutments, so it needn't be built in place.

The History Channel featured the Providence River Bridge on an episode of "Mega Movers -- Really Big Bridges". They show the bridge moved the 15 miles from North Kingstown to Providence. They also figure out how they would move the Golden Gate Bridge... probably worth watching. A YouTube user filmed the barge and the bridge going past up the bay; I've embedded it above.

Point Street Bridge
Just on the other side of the Fox Point hurricane barrier, the cantilever truss Point Street Bridge connects the banks of the Providence River for pedestrians and local traffic.

Providence River Bridge from the Water Street Bridge
With the completion of the Iway, Providence turned a blighted area of ruined buildings and traffic into a beautiful riverside park, capped on one side by the Providence River Bridge and the Point Street Bridge, and on the other by a series of decorative bridges that cross the river canal. There's plenty of parking all over, should you visit. India Street goes off to India Point to the east of the bridge, and that leads to the multispan arch Washington Bridge. I didn't get a picture of it (I was headed out of the city when I saw it), but that just gives me reason to return to one of the most beautiful capital cities in New England.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge, Jamestown-Newport, RI

Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge from Naval Station Newport
I kinda suspected I'd find myself sneaking into the Navy base to get a picture of this bridge. This was the weekend of the America's Cup race in Narragansett Bay. I'd hoped that the America's Cup catamarans would be sailing up to and under this bridge, but the course went toward the Long Island Sound and not this way.

I still thought maybe I could get a picture of the boats with the bridge in the background, but after a few attempts at dealing with Sailing Week traffic, parking and tourists, I just gave up trying to fit the race into my pictures and went looking for the shot. Maps had shown that the best vantage point on Aquidneck Island would be from the naval base, and I didn't know their policy on letting tourists with no Navy business on base to take pictures.

So I parked a bit away and just walked on to the base (though not all the way to the guard station). Took the shots and left. But, damn. Those Navy folks sure like their boats.

Newport Bridge from Jamestown
The Pell Bridge is New England's longest suspension bridge. It has a Warren truss deck that rises up to 215 feet above Narragansett Bay. The two towers are an astonishing 400 feet high. You can see the towers of this bridge from the central rise of the Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge, which is kinda cool.

The toll is a walloping $4.00 in each direction. Not all bad news, though. One of the best views of this bridge is from the tollbooth, where the road curves around a cove. There is a rocky beach that sits too low to get the good picture. You'd have to take it from the car. I did not expect the view and didn't have my phone taking pictures from the dash. I got the picture above on my way off the island, and it's just... okay.

Pell bridge towers
CC-BY-SA-3.0/Matt H. Wade at Wikipedia
I also fell short on getting pictures of the cathedral-style towers as I crossed the bridge, so I am borrowing the shot from Wikipedia (with attribution!) just so I can point them out here. They utterly dwarf the traffic; I'd think they'd be happier if cars and trucks never sullied their pristine bridge.

It's hard to get a good picture of the bridge from some publicly accessible place. The east side of Conanicut(*) Island is probably the easiest place; there's lots of tourist and boating places. I just parked in a beachfront condo parking spot for the middle picture (actually a panorama of about a half dozen pictures). I parked in some marine supply shop's parking lot and walked into the Navy base for the top picture.

Newport is mostly interested in getting people to its shops and tourist attractions and not letting them hang around taking pictures of bridges. If you are interested in quaint shops and tourist attractions, Newport has you covered. 

(*) Connecticut and Conanicut sound so similar that they must be related... I thought... wrongly. Conanicut is named after Conanicus, a Narragansett Indian who gave permission for the English to use the island for grazing sheep. I'm betting he regretted that decision. Connecticut, on the other hand, is named for the Connecticut River, called "quinetucket" by the Algonquins.

The Algonquins

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Hop River Trail Bridge, Andover, CT

Hop River Trail Bridge
You'll have to forgive me for the number of relatively local bridges I'll be posting about for awhile; it's summer, and I've been building up strength from daily bicycle commuting so that I can get to some of the bridges along the Connecticut greenways. Such as today's bridge, the Hop River Trail Bridge in Andover.

The Hop River Trail is a "rails to trails" project that runs along the right of way of the old Providence, Hartford and Fishkill Railroad. These rails-to-trails paths are fantastic for a walk, jog, or bike ride. The Hop River Trail begins in Manchester and runs all the way to Willimantic. The first time I tried to follow the trail all the way, I got stopped right here in this spot, in Andover, because this bridge was not there and all I could do was carry my bike down the hill and look for the trail to begin on the other side. I never did reconnect with it. Even today, there is no clear path up the other side. The people from the east end of the trail must have been equally stymied by what I understand was called the "Andover Gap".

Portal to the bridge (and my bike!)
This Howe truss bridge was built, years ago, in a factory by Echo Bridge in Elmira, NY. There it sat while Andover moved its slow way toward getting the old railroad bridge abutments reinforced and the bridge upgraded to meet changing safety standards. It was finally trucked here and lifted into place back in April of this year. I added it to my mental list of bike-accessible bridges and forgot entirely about it. Which is what happens to mental lists.

Reminded by Dale Travis' covered bridge lists, I plotted out the 31 mile round trip and had a wonderful time this morning. This really is a great trail, and a covered bridge along the way is just dessert. (I didn't go all the way to Willimantic today because it's supposed to get into the 90s... and a 50 mile round trip was pushing it, I felt.)

Detail of the Howe truss
Trail parking is available at several points near the bridge; if you're arriving by car, there is parking just past the east end of the bridge. The trail head is in Manchester, but there is a huge parking lot where the Vernon/Rockville spur meets up with the Hop River Trail. I've never actually been to the far end of the trail and have no idea what the conditions are like there.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Meadow Road Bridge/Pequabuck Bridge, Farmington, CT

Meadow Road Bridge
A few weeks ago, I did a mondo post on every bridge on the national historic register in Hartford County. I got most of them. Except the Pequabuck Bridge in Farmington. I thought the Pequabuck Bridge was the one that the Pequabuck River ran beneath. That was wrong.

Still not the Pequabuck Bridge. Is it?
Or, well, maybe not. Because even the Pequabuck Bridge isn't called that any more; it's the Meadow Road Bridge, because the river was diverted at some point to the new place, and now the only really significant thing about the bridge is the path over, part of the East Coast Greenway, a network of paths and trails stretching down the entire east coast.

From the 1984 application for the national historic register
The Pequabuck Bridge is an arched, brownstone span that was built between 1832 and 1833. It's a rubble stone bridge; the outside of the arch is made of shaped and fitted sandstone, but most of the rest of the stones are roughly shaped or not shaped at all. The bridge was built with a wooden structure forming the arch, the outsides of the arch were fitted on that, including the keystones to hold them in place, and then they filled up the frame with stones and lime-based mortar until they filled it to the top. They removed the wooden frame in the arch, and had themselves a bridge.

The wooden bridges I photograph are usually fairly new because wood bridges just don't last -- even if done in the style of the bridge they replaced, they are not the same bridge. This is the real thing. Stonemasons built this bridge a hundred and thirty years ago, and it still stands today. The only change -- the mortar is now concrete instead of lime. This bridge could easily last another hundred and eighty years, especially now that no river runs through it.

Back in the 19th century, this bridge took people from the crowded town of Farmington into what was called the Great Plain, a large plateau of fields, meadows and swamps. This bridge was, then, a vital part of the local economy and needed to be strong and last. This bridge replaced at least one wooden bridge, and you can easily imagine the frustration the townsfolk felt at having to keep repairing and replacing the wooden bridge, causing them to build a bridge that would last.

Part of the Great Plain area was incorporated as the town of Plainville, so that's how that got its name.

I'm just going to copy text wholesale from the historical register application, because the history of the area and its bridges is fascinating.

In  the  second  half of  the  18th  century  the  quest  for  land  to  cultivate impelled the  sons of Farmington residents  to range  farther and  farther  from the  central  settlement.  Led  by members  of  the  well-to-do Cowles  family, Farmington  people  established  farms  in  the  Great  Plain,  the  area  that  was incorporated  as  the  town of  Plainville  in  1869.  After  the  Revolutionary War,  agricultural-based  commerce  underwent  tremendous  expansion,  as Farmington  farmers  sold  their  surplus  output  to  local  merchants  who assembled  shipments  of  grain and  cattle  to  sell  in  the  nation's  growing cities  or  to  export  to  the  West  Indies.  These  two  trends  of  geographic expansion  and  commercial  growth put  pressure  on  the  transportation  routes over  which  farmers  carried their  goods  to  the  merchants  in  the  center. 
Farmers west of  town,  from the  Great  Plain and  its  northern meadows,  had to cross  the  Pequabuck River,  which  lay  between  their  farms  and  the  town  cen­ter,  so  this  crossing came  in  for  close  attention.  In  1801,  the  town meeting appropriated $200  to  improve  the  wooden bridge  then  in  place.  Then in  1819  the  town  rebuilt  it  entirely,  using timber.
Farmington merchants played an  important  role  in  the  promotion and  financing of  the  Farmington Canal.  The  canal  increased  the  town's prosperity,  making it  a  market  center  for  the  region  including not  only western Farmington  but also  Burlington and Canton.  The  surge  in  road  traffic  that  resulted again brought  the  conditon of bridges to  the  top of  the  town's agenda.  In  1830 a committee  of  the  selectmen plus  two western  farmers,  Richard  Cowles  and Joshua  Youngs,  was  appointed to  study  the  town's  bridges.  Two were  found inadequate:  Pequabuck Bridge  (i.e.,  Meadow Road  Bridge)  and  Perry's Bridge in  the  northern part of  town.  The  relatively greater  importance  of  the Pequabuck crossing  is  apparent  in  the  committee's  recommendation to  rebuild it  in  stone,  while wood was  specified  for  the  new Perry's  Bridge. 
The  recommendations  took  full  account  of  physical coordination  with  the canal,  which Meadow Road crossed about  450  feet  east of  the  Pequabuck River. The  committee made  the  requirements  that  the  new  stone  bridge be  the  same height  as  the  one  over  the  canal,  and  that  an  embankment be  built  between the  two bridges  so  that  travel  would proceed at  a  constant grade.  Without the  embankment,  wagons would have  had  to  climb and descend  two  rises within several  hundred  feet.  The  resolution that  approved the  plan was  contingent on  the  canal  company's  agreeing  to  "raise  and extend  the  Canal  bridge embankment between  the  canal  bridge  and  river  bridge,  in  such manner as  that the  one  may be  adapted  to  the  other;  arid  provided that  the  canal  company will  permit  the  town  to  take  gravel  from the  Company's  ground  for  the purpose of extending the  embankment westwardly  from the  river  bridge." 
The  relative prosperity of  Farmington,  and  the  provision of materials by  the canal  company,  enabled construction of  the  stone  bridge.  Connecticut  towns rarely  undertook  such  ambitious bridge-building  projects  in  the  early  19th century;  the  great  majority  of  town  bridges  in  the  state  were  of  wood.  
There  was  not  even a  mason  in  Farmington who  could perform  the  work,  so Horace  Cowles  took on  the  task of  finding  a  qualified contractor.  His  four finalists  came  from the  towns  of  Windham,  Woodbridge,  Watertown and Haddam. (The  contract  for  the  bridge's  construction has  not  survived,  so  it  is  not possible  to  determine  which  of  the  four  actually  performed  the  work.) Farmington was  not  extravagant with  its  public  expenditures,  despite  opting for  the  more  expensive  stone  construction.  Economical  construction  was assured  by  limiting  the  cutting  and  fitting  of  stones  to  only  the  areas where  it  was  absolutely necessary,  the  outside  edges  of  the  arch.  Even with the  savings  from this  technique,  the  bridge  cost  $1,081,  nearly  twice  as much  as  the  $546  it  took  to  rebuild Perry's  Bridge  in  timber.  The  limited use  of  cut  stone  makes  Meadow  Road  Bridge  highly  distinctive.  In comparison,  Hartford's  Main  Street  Bridge,  another  arched brownstone  span from the  early  1830s,  has  cut-and-fitted masonry  for  the  entire  underside  of the  arch,  the  spandrels  and  the  parapets.
The  idiosyncratic  mix of  finished and unfinished stone  identifies  Meadow Road  Bridge as  the product of a  specific  time  and  place.  Farmington  had more wealth than most  inland Connecticut  communities,  permitting the  use  of the  more  expensive  stone  construction.  But  its  people  still  retained  the basic conservative  impulse  of outlying Connecticut  towns,  and  they would not countenance  the  fullest  application of  expensive masons'  labor.  Thus  Meadow Road  Bridge  illuminates  the  concerns of  a  community as  its  economy  evolved from one  of  subsistence and  local  commerce  to  one of market  growth based  on regional  and extra-regional  trade.  The  bridge  also makes clear  the  impact of  the  Farmington Canal.  Not  only did  the  canal  contribute  significantly  to the  growth of  the market economy,  but  it  altered the  physical makeup of  the town  and  forced  the  townspeople  to  adapt  their  road  system  to  the  new conditions.
Meadow  Road  Bridge  belongs  to  an  extremely  small  group  of  early  19th-century,  masonry  town bridges.  Ante-bellum stone  bridges were  built  by the  Housatonic  Railroad and by  factory owners,  but publicly  funded  stone bridges  were  not  common.  Meadow Road Bridge  and  Hartford's  Main  Street Bridge  are  the  only examples of  their  size  known  to  survive  in  the  state.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Podunk Grist Mill Bridge, South Windsor, CT

The Podunk Grist Mill Bridge
I just discovered Dale Travis' master list of Connecticut covered bridges and thought to myself, these can't be real covered bridges. There's only three -- the West Cornwall one, the Bulls Bridge, and the Comstock Covered Bridge. How can there be dozens?

Well, by including ones that have never carried traffic. But that's okay, because even a decorative covered bridge is at least decorative :)

I checked through the list for some bridges close to my apartment. It's a holiday and I'm not going to get my daily miles in commuting to work so I'd need to go somewhere else (trying to hit 4000 miles on the odometer by Friday, you see). A new bridge is just the thing.

The Mill on the River Bridge takes patrons of the Mill on the River Restaurant from the parking lot to the eatery. It crosses the Podunk River at a dam.

According to the South Windsor History brochure, this covered bridge was historically a foot bridge (probably uncovered) between the grist mill and a saw mill that stood where the parking lot stands now:

In the northern part of town, another crop was raised in large quantities. This was rye; and another street came to be named after it. Rye Street ran through the high land east of the Scantic River. The production of rye led to the building of many distilleries. The Podunk Grist Mill was first built in 1750 and later rebuilt in 1775 after a flood carried off the first mill. The original dam built for the mill was constructed by colonists and Indians, It was first run by Samuel Rockwell. There was a saw mill on the other side of the river and a footbridge connecting the two. Corn, buckwheat and rye were ground at the mill.

It's appropriate on this Independence Day that I'm writing about a bridge originally built just one year before the first Independence Day!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

New England bridge books!

Portal to Eunice Williams Bridge

An expanded version of the ghost story associated with the Eunice Williams Bridge can be found in the book "Haunted New England". I saw it while I was down at Barnes & Nobles today. I don't know if there were any other haunted bridges in the book, but if you're really into New England's creepier side... well, this is the book for you.

What other New England bridge books were there? I didn't find any. Luckily, Amazon has some -- including some of the most authoritative books on local bridges I've seen.

"Connecticut's Covered Bridges" is probably going to be a pretty short book, given we only have three active road covered bridges left (the book lists four; they must count that one in Avon). Dale Travis lists dozens of covered bridges in Connecticut, but most of them are pedestrian only.

Bruce Clouette is the expert on Connecticut's historic bridges; the web site version of his book "Connecticut's Historic Highway Bridges" was invaluable to me starting out. He has a new(er) book about Connecticut's Movable Bridges which I can only think would be a subset of the other book.

Now, New England's Covered Bridges by Benjamin and June Evans... that might be worth checking out. I know when I take my vacation in Vermont, I'm going to need to know where these bridges are.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge, North Kingstown-Jamestown, RI

Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge

Rhode Island is the country's smallest state but among its most densely populated. With Narragansett Bay splitting the state in two, it has miles and miles of protected coastline -- and a straight shot for any hurricanes heading up the coast, aiming straight for Providence, at the northern tip of the bay. The "island" in Rhode Island is Aquidneck Island, the large island in the bay where Newport stands. It was also known historically as Rhode Island; the mainland portions of the state were known as the Providence Plantations, and that is the full name of the state -- Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

I was headed to Newport this weekend to take in the America's Cup. So very, very crowded. So crowded that I couldn't take the crowds and left to take pictures of bridges and walk around Providence for a couple of hours.

The Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge connects the town of North Kingston with the island of Conanicut in Narragansett Bay. It is a concrete box girder bridge with a dramatic rise to allow ships to sail through on their way to Providence. Unlike its partner on the other side of the island, the Pell Bridge, there is no toll on the Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge. And though there is a narrow sidewalk on both sides, you cannot walk or bicycle on the bridge.

Giovanni da Verrazzano monument in Providence
It's no coincidence that two bridges in the area (this one and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in Staten Island) are named after famed explorer Giovanni da Verrazzanno. Unlike Christopher Columbus, who was content to explore the Caribbean and never sat foot on (what would become) North America, Verrazzano sailed up the coast from the Carolinas to Newfoundland, stopping in New York Harbor and Narragansett Bay. It was he who, upon seeing Aquidneck Island, compared it to the Greek island of Rhodes and gave the state its eventual name.

There is a monument to the explorer in front of the World War Memorial in Providence.

Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge (from Jamestown)
This picture was taken on in Jamestown on Conanicut Island, with the sun to my back instead of right in the camera.

This entire island, and the Kingstown coast, are the exclusive domain of the wealthy. There is no beach access that I could find at all. The first picture was taken from the parking lot of a private club; this one from the side of the road. I got the shots, but I could have gotten better ones.

You can barely see in the above photo, to the left of the central rise, a lighthouse peaking out from behind a column. This is the Plum Beach lighthouse, but I think you'd actually have to be sailing on the bay itself to get a decent picture.

Parking, well, there really isn't any. Plenty of places from which to view the Pell Bridge on the other side, but the west coast of the island is all private property from any possible viewing angle.