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: 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: 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.
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.
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.