New Bartonsville Covered Bridge nears completion
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | December 09,2012
Len Emery Photo
Workers for Cold River Bridges of Walpole, N.H., guide some of the remaining steel scaffolding to an area adjacent to the railroad tracks for dismantling. Starting Monday, the Lower Bartonsville Road will be closed for 45 days as the $2.6 million Bartonsville Covered Bridge project is completed.
BARTONSVILLE — The new Bartonsville covered bridge is getting ready to move.
The 168-foot-long replica of the circa-1870 bridge that was swept away by Tropical Storm Irene is nearing completion. Starting Monday, the Lower Bartonsville Road will be closed to allow workers from Cold River Bridges LLC to dismantle the temporary bridge and move the new bridge into its permanent crossing.
The road will be closed for about 45 days to allow for the bridge to be put in place and final work done on the $2.6 million project.
The new bridge has been built over the Williams River, parallel to the existing temporary bridge.
Workers haven’t put on the bridge’s new metal roof because it could be damaged during the move, said construction worker Shane Martin of Westminster.
And while the crew will be working to dismantle the temporary bridge, which is immediately adjacent to the new bridge, the crew will continue work on the new bridge, including putting on new spruce siding.
“It’s a replica of the old bridge, except it’s longer and stronger,” said Steve James of Antrim, N.H., project foreman for Cold River Bridges.
James said another big difference aside from the length — it is 15 feet longer than the original bridge — is its composition.
The new bridge is not made of materials from Vermont or New Hampshire. It is made from Douglas fir and southern pine which have undergone a glue and laminating process under pressure to make the material even stronger, James said.
As a result, the new bridge, with its trademark town lattice trusses but without its siding, is a tawny color, rather than the white of white pine.
But the bridge was built closely following the plans of Sanford Granger, the Bellows Falls covered bridge builder who built the original bridge in 1870. He also built the Worrall covered bridge, which is about a mile downstream from the Bartonsville location. The 1870 bridge replaced another covered bridge that was destroyed during an October 1869 storm, which also destroyed six homes in Lower Bartonsville.
That storm forced the Williams River to change course, and a new bridge location was needed.
On Friday afternoon, during a cold rain with the temperature hovering close to 32 degrees, the Cold River crew was busy up on the roof, nailing down the roof strapping.
A crew of between six and nine people have been working on the bridge since September, Martin said.
Martin said the new bridge will actually be rolled over to its permanent location, on giant rollers.
Martin said most of the crew working on the bridge grew up in the Bellows Falls area, and that working on the new bridge was personally satisfying for them.
Susan Hammond of Bartonsville, whose now-famous video caught the historic bridge’s demise, has been keeping a close watch on the construction, Martin said.
“It’s really Sue’s Bridge,” he said.
Hammond, who lives about a quarter mile from the new bridge, said fundraising was continuing, despite the fact that the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the town of Rockingham’s insurance policy on the bridge will cover at least 90 percent of the cost of the bridge.
Hammond said the detour that Bartonsville residents used until the temporary bridge was in place earlier this year will resume: Green Mountain Turnpike to Chester and Pleasant Valley Road to Springfield. She said the bridge on Peck Road, which is also known as the Missing Link Bridge, is still closed, adding to the detour.
“They plan on rolling the new bridge into place around Christmas-New Year’s,” she said. “They anticipate it will open up the week of Jan. 21,” she said.
Hammond, a lifelong resident of the small village, said that so far about $35,000 to $40,000 has been raised toward the new bridge, and she said the money will be used to cover the new concrete foundation with stone from the original bridge foundation.
The big stone blocks will have to be split to provide stone that can be used by masons to cover the concrete, she said. That job will cost about $70,000, and it isn’t clear whether FEMA will help pay for that job.
Martin, the construction worker, said the foundation stone had been buried on site to keep it safe. And he said he thought it was a great idea to put the stone over the concrete, to add to the historic nature of the site.
Hammond said the local fundraising committee still has lots of items for sale, such as hats, sweatshirts, shirts, bags and glasses with the “Help Rebuild History” Bartonsville logo. She said people can contact her, or visit the group’s Facebook page, or website, www.bartonsvillecoveredbridge.com.
“I love it. It’s fabulous looking, the trusses ... it’s gorgeous,” said Hammond. “It’s pretty exciting; they’ve been a really really good crew...”