There are many historic bridges out there whose historic value is one of utmost importance, but never receive the attention needed before it is too late. There are some historic bridges that deserve the attention needed because of success stories of saving them from becoming a pile of scrap metal.
The Newfield Bowstring Arch Bridge is one that is a success story worth noting. Built in 1873 by the King Bridge Company in Cleveland, Ohio, the 60 foot long pony bowstring arch bridge is one of only five of its kind left in New York State. Originally constructed on Beech Road, the bridge’s fate was on the limb when the decision was made to demolish the bridge in 2002. Yet, thanks to help by one individual, Karen Van Etten, the bridge was preserved in place, and a park was constructed next to the bridge, incorporating the structure. Since 2003, the bridge has been open to pedestrians. It is eligible for posting on the National Register of Historic Places.
Ms. Van Etten has created a website that deals with the success story of this bridge, including some pictures and an autobiography about her and her efforts to save this structure. You can access the website either here or under the Individual Success Stories page which has recently been created for the Chronicles:
It is rare to see an individual historic bridge become the focus of a successful preservation effort, for many websites feature bridges that are in danger of being destroyed in the name of progress, with pleas from the public to provide the know-how and some support to save the structure. While these websites have drawn interest from the public and many historic bridges have been saved thanks to sending the pleas out into the world wide web, what is lacking is individual historic bridge websites dealing with how people came together to save their historic bridge and restore it for reuse as a recreational page. While the Historic Bridge Park website comprises of a cluster of historic bridges that were relocated to a park to serve as a place of exhibition, the Newfield Bridge serves as an example of an individual bridge that was restored for reuse in a park. It is normal that many people take pride in restoring their historic bridge and then let it run its course along with other bridges carrying traffic, what is missing are the motives behind their efforts, let alone how the historic bridge was saved and preserved. As the interest in saving historic bridges increases by the year, and with it the new fields of work that deal with historic bridge restoration, such as welding and bridge building, it is important that individual historic bridges that were recently restored also receive some attention, as they can serve as a guidance for other preservationists to follow. They can also serve as a leverage to those who claim that a historic bridge has no use anymore and should be converted into scrap metal. There are many people, especially politicians, who fall into that category and should spend time looking at success stories of historic bridges like this one, to ensure them that it is possible to restore a precious structure, like the bridge in Newfield, without having to destroy it in the name of progress.
In closing, I would like to ask all preservation groups who have recently restored their historic bridges, regardless of whether it was the Bridgeport Bridge in Michigan, the Bentonsport Bridge in Iowa the Quaker Bridge in Pennsylvania or even the Silverdale Bridge in Minnesota, to follow suit in creating their websites with pictures of their beloved structure, and stories about the successes and shortcomings of preserving their historic bridge. This also applies to those who are in the middle of restoring their bridge or are about to begin their project. After all, we would love to hear about these stories and learn from them so that we can use these facts to restore our precious structure for generations to come. I am hoping that the people behind the reconstruction of the Sutliff Bridge in Johnson County, Iowa will do the same.
Speaking of Sutliff Bridge…….
Note: The author would like to thank Ms. Van Etten for the use of one of her photos for this page, let alone providing a website domain to create a website, which is webs.com. This domain is free and one can create some really cool websites.
And yes, there is a new page on there devoted to individual success stories of historic bridge preservation. If you have a success story you want to share with the audience, please send the info, photos and if possible (but highly recommended), your website to the following address and be rest assured, it will be posted here in the Chronicles: