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Let Us Take You Back to 1909!


The Depot Street Bridge that today connects Canal Street and Bellows Falls Island was built 114 years ago, in 1909. As we prepare for its demolition and replacement by the Vermont Agency of Transportation, let's take a look back at that period in Bellows Falls history.


It was the end of the Edwardian era, and the elegance of that age was widely reflected in the architecture of Bellows Falls and Rockingham. William Howard Taft was President and Vermont’s John A. Mead addressed the Joint Assembly in 1909 calling for an increase in spending on transportation, specifically public highways as “nearly equal in their importance to our railroads.”

Connecting the Village of Bellows Falls and North Walpole NH across the Connecticut River, the “new” Arch Bridge opened in 1905. At the time, it was "the longest arch bridge in the United States.”


The photo to the left, taken in 1909, shows what is thought to be the second dam under construction south of the new Arch Bridge and just north of the dam's present location under the railroad trestle.


In 1909 Canal Street was a dirt lane, with horse and wagon still the common method of travel and transport. At the intersection of Canal and Depot streets, a steel truss bridge built in November 1892 was removed just 17 years later in April 1909 to make way for a concrete elliptical structure, what we know today as the Depot Street Bridge- "Bridge 53."


"The bid to build the current concrete arch bridge was awarded to Crosby & Parker of Brattleboro for $11,790. The Depot Street bridge was built in less than three months, finished in 1909." VT Journal and Middlebury Record, February 1909

The houses on Canal Street in 1909 (see the Gallery for more historic photographs) are all still there. The house shown in the photo at the end of Depot Street Bridge was built in 1880. The new Depot Street Bridge concrete arch construction was enabled by a gin pole crane to lift heavy loads (it can be seen in the photo above on the left sitting at a 45-degree angle) and by steam power (a steam engine can be seen below the gin pole crane on a wooden platform).


Predating the 1909 concrete arch bridge and the 1892 steel truss bridge as canal crossings were a wooden platform bridge (1800-1870) and the Wood Howe truss design, wooden covered bridge (1870-1892), shown in the photograph below.


As reported by the VT Phoenix of Brattleboro on March 18, 1892: "H.F. Bond took down the old wooden bridge over the canal to use for lumber." In November 11, 1892, VT Phoenix reported, "The bridge men came early this week to put the bridge over the canal. Little progress has been made yet. The iron for the bridge came last June and much inconvenience has been experienced all summer."


Upcoming posts will dig deeper into the infrastructure history of Bellows Falls. More historic photographs can be found in the Gallery, whose link is located at the top right of this page.


Questions?

You can email us at any time with questions about the Depot Street Bridge replacement project, either directly at developmentassist@rockbf.org or via the blog, and we'll respond. You can also send us information on the history of the area, which we'll be happy to share with the community through this blog,


Thanks for reading and keep an eye out for the next post!


Betsy Thurston

Executive Director of the Bellows Falls Downtown Development Alliance

and Rockingham Development Assistant

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