Bartonsville Covered Bridge celebration set for Saturday
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | January 22,2013
BARTONSVILLE — Let the hoopla begin.
Rockingham will hold a covered bridge party Saturday at 11 a.m. to celebrate the reopening of the rebuilt Bartonsville Covered Bridge, one of Tropical Storm Irene’s most famous victims.
The 1870 bridge was swept off its abutments by the raging floodwater of the Williams River, and since the bridge floated down the river, Bartonsville residents have been fighting to have the historic wooden lattice-truss bridge rebuilt.
The bridge, which is longer by 17 feet, higher by a few inches, and stronger than the original bridge, was a hive of activity Friday afternoon as more than 20 construction workers from Cold River Bridges and Iron Horse Standing Seam Roofing were putting on the bridge’s new green standing seam roof and putting the new pine siding on the 176-foot bridge — both sides. Workers were also measuring and cutting the oak running boards for the floor of the bridge.
“The bridge will be ready,” said Travis Hodgdon of Chester, one of the foremen on the project for Cold River, a local bridge construction firm based in Walpole, N.H. Wednesday’s snowstorm put a crimp in the roof plans, he said, since the roof has to be laid on a swept-clear roof deck.
Sue Hammond, whose now-famous home video caught the demise of the bridge that fateful Aug. 28, 2011, afternoon, said all of Vermont’s top politicians had been invited to the event. So far, only Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has sent his regrets.
“I’ve got my fingers crossed,” said the Bartonsville resident, adding U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., would definitely be attending, along with county and local officials.
After a short ceremony at the bridge, including the unveiling of the new bridge’s sign, Hammond said the festivities will adjourn to MacLaomainn’s Scottish Pub in Chester, for more talks about the bridge and its history. She said Deb Brown, a native of Rockingham and owner of the pub, had been very supportive of the rebuilding, hosting several fundraisers for the bridge.
Plus, Hammond said, the Chester restaurant is actually located closer to Bartonsville. She said Saturday is expected to be a cold and blustery day, and organizers want to move the celebration indoors quickly.
Rockingham Town Manager Timothy Cullenen said the bridge would be closed until Saturday morning, and it wasn’t determined who would get the honor of the first crossing.
The new bridge is longer and stronger than the original bridge, largely because of where the footings for the abutments had to be located, given that there are railroad tracks on the immediate west end of the bridge.
Hammond said fundraising has totaled more than $61,000, with some of the money going toward the party. The biggest donor was the Preservation Trust of Vermont, she said.
“Individual donors from around the country contributed, and they have all been invited to Saturday’s events,” she said.
Most of the money will be used to build an informational kiosk near the bridge, explaining its history and rebuilding.
Cullenen said if FEMA disallows the town’s plans to face the new bridge’s concrete abutments with split rock taken from the original abutments, money will also be used for that purpose.
One other question, he said, is whether the giant granite rocks can be split to be used to face the concrete. “We’ve had several different opinions from masons,” he said.
A final decision on the granite facing and the kiosk will wait until spring, Cullenen said, as well as the final paving on the approaches.
Lower Bartonsville village has been back to its 10-mile detour through Chester since early December, when the temporary bridge was taken down to make way for the new covered bridge to be rolled into place. The village was without a river crossing for about six months after Irene.
The new bridge was designed by Philip Pierce of Clough Harbour & Associates of Albany, N.Y. Pierce had extensive experience working on Vermont’s covered bridges for the Vermont Agency of Transportation. The 1870 bridge was built by Sanford Granger of Bellows Falls, who built several covered bridges in the area.
Hammond said the public was welcome at both the bridge event and reception.