Sunday, March 23, 2014

Grand Avenue Bridge (AKA Dragon Bridge), New Haven, Connecticut

Grand Avenue Bridge
My best friend texted me this morning, asking what bridge I was going to hunt today. I wasn't planning on hunting any bridges today, because the day was gray, I have so many bridges in my backlog, blahblahblahblahblah. Well, there's this swing bridge down in New Haven I hadn't ever gotten, and it's just 45 minutes away, so I figured I'd just pop down and grab it. Better than wasting the day away doing laundry.

Note to self: still need to do laundry.

The Grand Avenue Bridge connects the Fair Haven and Fair Haven Heights neighborhoods across the Quinnipiac River. It swings upon signal during the day except for the morning and evening rush, and at night by calling at least an hour ahead and getting someone to come out to the bridge house there in the center and open the bridge manually. No boats were in the vicinity of the bridge while I was there. It would have been fun to figure out how to transmit the signal and make the bridge open.... I wonder if people do that.

Detail of the bridge house
I've read rumors that this bridge is due to close permanently. I'm thinking that's a little bit of hyperbole. There are some articles in the local paper on closing the bridge temporarily for repairs, but a bridge with this many moving parts is going to need maintenance. This bridge isn't going anywhere. Except 90 degrees clockwise, sometimes.

The Fair Haven neighborhood was once known as "Dragon", and the original bridge that crossed the Quinnipiac at this point, was the "Dragon Bridge". That bridge was replaced in the late 19th century with this more modern one by the famous Berlin Iron Bridge Company that built iron bridges throughout the northeast. This is an astonishingly intact example of a bridge from that era, and I'm certain it's had extensive reconstruction. A little bit of living history. One source says the old bridge was replaced by a newer bridge of the same design back in the 1980s. This account is confirmed by the documents on file with the National Register of Historic Places, which says:
On the east bank of the river there are fewer open spaces due to demolition. The major losses have been confined to the commercial buildings on the south side of East Grand Avenue near the bridge. The bridge itself was dismantled, but is now in the process of being rebuilt on the original location and according to the same design as the turn-of-the-century bridge. 
Pre-reconstruction Grand Avenue Bridge
The New Haven Colony Historical Society Photo by William K. Sacco

As you can see from the picture above, the new bridge is an exact recreation of the old one. The city of New Haven wanted to make it wider and more modern, but popular outcry forced them to keep it the way it was. Whether people were complaining because they liked the old bridge, or because a newer bridge would have meant the destruction of more property, I don't know. But I'll take any Berlin Iron Bridge I can get. These bridges don't only signify New England to the world, they mark Connecticut in particular. Like the Town lattice bridges before it, Berlin Iron Bridges are living examples of Connecticut's historic leadership in civil engineering.

Grand Avenue Bridge from the other bank

Portal to the Grand Avenue Bridge

Friday, March 21, 2014

Mount Hope Bridge, Bristol-Portsmouth, Rhode Island

Mount Hope Bridge, Bristol, RI
About a year and a half back, I capped off a post about a trip to the Braga Bridge in Fall River with a tease about a sighting of a suspension bridge far in the distance -- the Mount Hope Bridge. And that was the last I posted for months.

I wasn't thrilled by any of the pictures I took that day, really, and considered it kind of a wasted trip. A viaduct hunt had not gone well. The Braga Bridge was lit all wrong. Another bridge I wanted to photograph, I could only see when I was driving over it. And they NEVER let you get out of your car on those things. Got home, saw these pictures, and they just didn't do the bridge any justice at all. Because this is a gorgeous bridge.

It's also the only bridge that will get you onto Aquidneck Island (and down to Newport) without a toll. You might wonder if it's worth the inconvenience of coming into the area from the north to use this bridge just to avoid a few bucks in tolls, but my father would go ten miles out of his way to avoid a four bit toll, so... keep that in mind.

Driving over the Mount Hope Bridge
I wasn't holding my phone to take these pictures as I drove. I have a dash mount for the phone. Regret not bringing it for the Bourne Bridge last weekend, but anyway.

The Mount Hope Bridge was completed in 1929, just days before the stock market crash and the Great Depression. It's over a mile long and 135 feet high in the middle. There's several parks in the area, and if you're into sailing -- you're just not going to find a prettier group of bridges to sail under than the three that cross the Narragansett Bay.

This was a warm, September day -- after the America's Cup races, I think. I missed those because of the crowds. I did get a really good look at the underside of the bridge from one of these parks, one that seemed claimed by locals.

Underside of Mount Hope Bridge
I've seen this kind of cladding beneath bridges many times -- in the Sagamore Bridge post, you can see sheeting covering the bottom of the bridge in both directions. I'm not sure why they put it there. In this case, it might be to protect the people working on the bridge. Dunno.

The Mount Hope bridge was the longest suspension bridge in New England until the nearby Clairborne-Pell Bridge took the crown some years later.

The longest covered bridge in New England (and, until 2008, in the entire country) is going to be the topic of the next post, maybe. In a year and a half :)


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sagamore Bridge, Bourne Bridge and Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge, Cape Cod, MA

Sagamore Bridge, Bourne, MA
It's been a year since my last post... this is a gap too long. I've still been taking bridge pics, just -- not posting, for some reason. I dunno. New bridges mean driving further and further... still worth doing, but now they require a bit of planning to get to.

Spring has finally come to New England after a horribly long winter. I've been wanting to hunt the bridges that cross the Cape Cod Canal for a long time, but it's always been either too cold, or too filled with tourists. These bridges are a huge bottleneck for people traveling to and from the cape. The roads from Bourne to Provincetown are narrow and slow. There might be just a couple of weekends left before the antique shops re-open and the cars start to pile up. This was my chance to get these bridges before it was too late for another year.

Buzzards Bay Railroad Bridge, and OMG MY CAR!!!
The Cape Cod Canal is a seven mile canal formed by connecting and widening two rivers that allow shipping to and from further down the East coast to get to Boston-area ports without having to round the cape. The Wikipedia mentions that George Washington once surveyed a potential path for the canal... building on work the Pilgrims had begun a hundred years earlier. This canal, though, is only about a hundred years old.

The Sagamore Bridge on the north end of the canal, and the Bourne Bridge near the southern end, are both steel arch bridges with suspended roadways. They carry a substantial number of cars each day, but during summer, the lines of cars waiting to cross can reach miles long. This is why many residents opt to use the Cape Cod Canal Tunnel to skip the crowds.

Bourne Bridge
It was pretty cloudy when I got to the cape, so I apologize for the dullness of the Bourne and railroad bridge pictures. When I got to the Sagamore Bridge on the way home from Provincetown, the day was much nicer. I probably should have gone back to Buzzards Bay and re-taken those bridge shots, but -- it had been a long day.

Long, paved trails stretch along both sides of the Cape Cod Canal, and both sides were crowded with people out for a walk, a bike ride, or roller blading. I really should have brought my bike. Behind the Bourne Bridge in the picture just above are a few wind turbines. The constant winds through the hills surrounding the canal turn the turbines and help power the Massachusetts Military Reservation. Cape Cod will also soon host the Cape Wind project, an offshore wind farm that has just last week cleared its last legal hurdle. Detractors claim the sight of turbines turning lazily on the horizon will kill the tourist trade (and unwary seabirds), but.... I have loved wind farms since I first saw the ones in Pacheco Pass and Altamont Pass back in California.

Here's a better picture of the Buzzards Bay Railroad Bridge, AKA the Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge, without my car in it.
Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge
This bridge, the southernmost bridge over the Cape Cod Canal, is a lift bridge that services the tourist trade -- a local area tourist train (the Cape Cod Central Railroad) and an express train from the Boston area (the CapeFLYER). Since I went out of season, neither train was running and the bridge stayed up the entire time I was in the area. There's enough traffic in the canal to keep boat watchers happy; while I was photographing the Sagamore Bridge, a tug pushing a barge, followed by another tug, zoomed by.
I'm disappointed in myself for taking so long to visit these wonderful bridges. Best thing about them is -- there's an entire cape of wonderful things just pass them.

Cape Cod Highlands Lighthouse, Truro

Edward Penniman House, Eastham

Pilgrim Monument, Provincetown

Town Cove, Eastham
It's not easy to miss these bridges if you're going to Cape Cod; in fact, they're impossible to avoid. All pictures were taken with a Canon G 1X point and shoot camera. I brought my Canon DSL, but I just ended up using the small camera because the pictures were coming out just as nicely.
Happy bridge hunting!