Monday, October 15, 2012

Where’s There: Rocks Village Bridge

Father Higgins has been relocated from Duston Heights to Rocks Village, described as a tiny cluster or picturesque eighteenth-century houses near a seventy-year-old iron bridge [The Secret of the Underground Room; 8].

Having lived in the Haverhill area for close to twenty years by the release of The Secret of the Underground Room, Bellairs tends to gloss over this very real and very historic bridge. Yet it's funny how another bridge back in Michigan gets a whole book dedicated to it after it made a memorable appearance in The House with a Clock in its Walls.  Anyway....

The Rocks Village Bridge crosses the Merrimack River between the Rocks Village National Register Historic District in Haverhill and West Newbury at a site that has been utilized as a major river crossing since the Seventeenth Century. In 1794 the Massachusetts Legislature approved construction of a bridge on this site, which was completed the following year. A toll bridge until 1878, the bridge washed out in 1818 and was rebuilt in 1828 and again in 1915. notes the bridge is extremely bizarre, with “a unique and striking appearance,” because nearly every span is a unique form of truss bridge, and the spans were built over three different dates.

The bridge is the only manually operated swing span remaining in the state on the oldest moveable bridge in Massachusetts. Meaning, when a boat needs to pass, two people literally rotate the bridge out of the way using a wrench and crank at the bridge’s mid-section. It also contains one of the earliest riveted metal trusses identified in the state, which is one of the earliest known surviving works of the Boston Bridge Works, a nationally significant bridge-building firm in the late-Nineteenth and early-Twentieth Centuries.

A project to rehabilitate the bridge was developed in 2011, including mortar patching and stone resetting, vehicular railing, lighting, and repairs to the swing span mechanism. The bridge is expected to be shut down for 14 months beginning in June 2012 to allow for reconstruction. Also in 2011, as a precursor to the construction, traffic on the bridge was limited to only one way with signage at either end to allow for change in direction.

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