The Bridges of Booneville, New York

Boonville Bowstring (Whipple) Arch Bridge at Canal Museum. Photo taken by Marc Scotti

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Located in Oneida County in north central New York State, the Town(ship) of Boonville is one of the forgotten relicts of the bygone era. With a population of over 4,500 inhabitants, the township was founded by Gerrit Boon, who explored and bought land for his company in 1795. It is located on the Black River Canal, which connects the Black River and the Erie Canal. There are a lot of historic points of interest that makes the town special, including those in the village of Boonville, which accounts for half of the township’s population.

For bridge lovers, Boonville town(ship) is loaded with unique bridges of every size, type and history, whether it is the bowstring arch bridge, which serves as a showcase for the local museum, a Whipple truss bridge that used to serve a railroad, but now serves a snowmobile trail, or even an arch bridge. There are over 25 historic bridges within the area of Boonville, some of which are concentrated within the village of Boonville.  Because of the high number, the Chronicles will profile six of the ones that should be visited, thanks to information and photos provided by Marc Scotti of the New York State Department of Transportation. One of the bridges was entered in the Best Photo Contest for this year’s Ammann Awards.

Willett Bridge. Photo taken by Marc Scotti

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Willett Bridge: This bridge spans the Mohawk River in the village of Rome, 30 minutes away from Boonville. The design features a Luten arch, characterized by its elliptical arches, as seen in the photo. The bridge is one of the more ornamental ones serving the village, as it has a unique builder’s plaque and many 20s style ornamental lighting, which makes this 1929 structure unique.

Sugar River Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sugar River Bridge:  There are many reasons why this bridge is a must-see. It was built in the 1800s by Phoenix Bridge and Iron Company, consisting of a Whipple through truss bridge with Phoenix columns. It also had double-floor beams, which is one of a kind according to today’s standards. It was converted to snowmobile traffic in the 1980s. It placed third in last year’s Ammann Awards for best bridge photo.

Bailey Truss Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boonville Museum Bridges: The Boonville Canal Museum has many features that are in connection with the Black River Canal and the town’s history. Three genuine bridges, including the Whipple arch bridge (shown at the beginning of the article) serve this area, provding tourists with a sense of nostalgia, when walking through the area about 3 square miles. The Whipple Arch Bridge was one of many bowstring arch bridges that were built by Squire Whipple in the 1870s. This one was built in 1872. Interesting fact is the fact that it was Whipple himself who patented the bridge in 1848 and most of the bridges built during his lifetime were in New York state, many of which were along the Erie Canal.  The second bridge is the Bailey Truss bridge, a riveted Howe lattice bridge that was used solely for temporary crossings during the 1940s and 50s, but this span was preserved and is used as primary access to the Whipple bridge. The youngest of the bridges happens to be the youngest bridge of its type built in New York state- the Town Lattice covered bridge. Built in 2005, the 70 foot long and 24 foot wide bridge is the most ornamental of covered bridges in the state and one of the main features of the park. A photo of the bridge, provided by Scotti is one of the candidates for this year’s Ammann Awards for Best Photo.

Boonville Covered Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other bridges worth noting but will be mentioned in later articles include those built by the Havana Bridge, Vermont Bridge and Iron and Elmira Bridge Companies, where one of two of each of the bridges are left in the state (and perhaps the country). Two thirds of them consist of a standardized truss design, but the history of each one is unique for the Boonville area because of local stories that are associated with them, in addition to the bridge builders. Unfortunately, half of these bridges will be replaced over the next couple of years. However, the Chronicles will profile the bridges in the next year in hopes that someone will pay attention to the unique value of the bridge and claim it before the bulldozer does. In addition, a Lane pony truss bridge is also located in the township, although it is unclear where it is located. Built in 1903, the truss bridge type is one of the rarest to find in the US. The Chronicles will provide a tour through the rare bridge types next year and will present the history of the bridge type and the examples that still exist.

While the number of bridges in the township is huge and cannot all be profiled, the author hopes that a few examples will provide tourists with another reason to visit the Boonville area (town(ship) and village), in addition to knowing about its history and visiting the historic places that make the are very special.  There is special bridge for everyone in the area, which justifies its place as one of the candidates for Best Kept Secret for 2012. And even if one does not visit Boonville for the bridges, there is a lot of history and heritage that makes the area worth seeing.

The author would like to thank Marc Scotti for mentioning this area and for providing the photos and information on the bridges.

 

 

 

 

Three Pennsylvania Bridges Coming Down


Venango Veterans Memorial Bridge- now gone

During the Historic Bridge Conference in Pittsburgh last year, I was reminded by a fellow pontist, Nathan Holth who runs the Historic Bridges.org website, of how important it is to photograph and document every bridge that is threatened with demolition to better imform the public of the importance of historic bridges in connection with US history and the history of industrialization, architecture, and other social aspects as a whole, when we discovered that an 1873 bowstring pony arch bridge in Ohio was removed before we could photograph it. Although angry with the fact that the bridge was gone, he and I were lucky to visit and photograph the other bridges in the vicinity, for three of them are coming down and one has been taken out already.  While the Venango Veterans Memorial Bridge in Crawford County was removed in November of last year with no plans of replacing it and its railroad overpass a mile up the road, three other bridges are facing the wrath of the digger and crane sometime this year or latest next, with others set to follow beginning in 2013, unless PennDOT streamlines these projects in order to begin the bridge replacement process earlier (more will come as the construction season starts in a couple months). Here are the bridges one must see before they’re gone forever:

Miller Station Bridge (Crawford County):

UPDATE: Should the bridge still be standing at the time of this article, it will not be for long. The 1887 Wrought Iron Bridge Company structure, consisting of a pin-connected Whipple through truss bridge with Town Lattice portal bracings and ornamental designs on the heel bracing and top chord is about to be replaced with three tunnel-like steel culverts, which will impede the flow of French Creek, a large stream resembling a river. The last update is that work on removing the road took place in the middle of February. If weather delays the demolition process, then it is not too late to get a pic. However, don’t count on it.

Miller Station Bridge- maybe gone already

Charleroi-Monessen Bridge (Washington County)

Spanning the Monongahela River southwest of Pittsburgh, bordering Washington and Westmoreland Counties, this three-span pin-connected Parker and Pennsylvania Petit through truss bridge built in 1905 by the Merchantile Bridge Company was suddenly closed in 2009 due to poor conditions on the bridge deck. Since that time, there was a lot of political wrangling due to the fact that the bridge was (and still is) listed on the National Register of Historic Places and therefore had to go through the mitigation process in order to find alternatives to replacing the bridge outright. This included Pennsylvania Senator’s Barry Stout’s comment of abolishing the National Preservation Act as it is time and cost consuming and impedes the progress of bridge replacement, which resulted in a clash between preservationists and the politicians. Although Stout is now retired, the end result of the Section 106 Mitigation Process was keeping the deck truss approaches, but dropping the three through truss spans into the Monongahela. This is the general plan for the contractor Joseph B. Fay Co. of Tarentum, while replacing them with a new span, which has not been revealed as of present, for a total of $26 million. The process will begin at the end of April of this year, making it a possibility for bridge enthusiasts to see the structure for one last time before it is dropped by implosion and cut up for scrap metal. Once this happens, questions will be raised on whether to keep the bridge listed on the National Register as this technically does not count as bridge rehabilitation as PennDOT sees it, but as an outright bridge replacement project according to preservationists. To the residents and business owners in Charleroi-Monessen areas, it does not matter as they will have their main structure back in service by 2012, eliminating the need to detour to the nearby bridges located over 30 miles (60 km) away in both directions and thus hurting business in the two communities, at the same time.

Charleroi-Monessen Bridge- still around until the end of April


Wightman Road Bridge (Crawford County)

Also known as Stopp Road Bridge, this single span pin-connected Pratt through truss bridge with Town lattice portal bracing and geometric shaped heal bracings represented a classic example of a bridge built by the King Bridge Company, which built the bridge in 1887. Unfortunately, as it can be seen with other structures, like the Mead Avenue Bridge in Meadville, the county commissioners made their point explicitly clear that despite the fact that the bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and therefore has to go through the Section 106 mitigation process prior to replacement, that the bridge will be demolished and replaced no matter what alternatives to bridge replacement may be brought to the table. Should the stance remain, the county may risk losing federal funding for this project and the bridge will be taken off the National Regsiter list.  While the structure is located in some heavily forested areas, one could move the bridge over and convert it into a small park, like it is being done with the Quaker Bridge in neighboring Mercer County. However, the county has not thought that far yet and it is unknown whether they will think that far ahead. Good news is that the bridge is still standing and can be visited, but for how long?

Wightman Road Bridge- to disappear soon unless the county changes its mind

Potential Candidates:

At the present time, there are plenty of candidates out there that may be demolished as soon as possible. However for these bridges, the two variants working in their favor at the moment are: 1. No bridge replacement date has been set yet and 2. No decision on the bridge’s fate has been set yet. Who knows how long that might be the case, but as the lessons have been learned over and over again, one should visit the bridges before they’re gone as one will never have an opportunity to see what they look like. These candidiates include:

MEAD AVENUE BRIDGE IN MEADVILLE (CRAWFORD COUNTY)- While the community wants to see this unusual through truss bridge gone at the earliest possible convenience, there are still discussions as to what to do with the truss structure, let alone when the replacement will actually take place. More will come soon.

DONORA WEBSTER BRIDGE IN DONORA (WASHINGTON AND WESTMORELAND COUNTIES)- Spanning the Monongahela River, this six span through truss (5 Parker and 1 Pennsylvania Petit- center span and the longest in the state) has been closed since July 2009 and there are still discussions about the bridge’s fate still happening, even though most sceptics will claim that this bridge is doomed and it’s just a matter of time before it is removed.

CARLTON BRIDGE (MERCER COUNTY)- The future of this two-span Pratt through truss bridge over French Creek is in question as this Columbia Bridge Company structure is nearing its end of its useful life despite being rehabilitated in 1990. The question is should the truss bridge stay or should it go? Many claim that it should and will stay and some believe the structure can be rehabilitated again but for recreational and non-vehicular use. But the question is will it happen? We will see….

To summarize, that the bridges are disappearing fast does lead to two conclusions: 1. A person wanting to visit a certain historic bridge should do so before it is gone, as the replacement process can occur as quickly as possible and sometimes without notice and 2. If there is even the slightest hint of a historic bridge slated for replacement, one should take action as early as possible to ensure that it is preserved for future use, even if it means informing the media about it before the replacement plans are put on the table at a city council meeting. The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will continue to present these bridges to the public (in addition to presenting the cities and regions that are rich in bridges and profiling historic bridges) to better inform the public on the importance of these bridges and their connection with history and culture, tourism and commerce, and preservation and reuse for purposes other than vehicular use so that people have a chance to either see them before they are gone, or take action and save them before they are gone.

Links:

http://www.observer-reporter.com/or/localnews/03-09-2011-Charleroi-Monessen-Bridge

http://www.historicbridges.org/bridges/browser/?bridgebrowser=pennsylvania/charleroi/

http://www.bridgehunter.com/pa/crawford/miller-station/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/69048450@N00/sets/72157625965379129/

http://www.bridgehunter.com/pa/crawford/wightman-road/