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The Bridges of Collinsville

From Covered to Iron, Then Nearly Extinct

For some, it’s difficult to imagine looking up the Farmington River and not seeing Collinsville’s aging beauty, Town Bridge. So, one can only imagine the view of those Canton residents lucky enough to have lived among the covered bridges of the 1800s.

In the 1800s, there were no less than nine covered bridges across the Farmington River; three of them in Collinsville: Town Bridge, which still exists in its iron iteration; Highway Bridge, over the falls by the Collins Company; and the Three Bridges, aka Railroad Bridge, whose stone abutments are seen behind .

Besides their architectural interest, the covers on these bridges served the purpose of reducing the negative impact the elements had on wooden trusses. Nevertheless, by the mid-1900s, only one of the original nine remained; all others having been replaced by iron and steel models. But, back to the 1800’s…….

Highway Bridge

Built as a pedestrian friendly throughway, Highway Bridge crossed the Farmington River over a 215-foot span. The Bridge, built in 1849, had covered walkways on either side of the roadway. It was designed in a pattern known as a town lattice plan; where the planks crisscrossed in a lattice formation. By 1888, the Bridge was worn out; its walking paths decayed to the extent that they were closed.  So, in 1893 it was replaced by a new iron version. The new design had its own charm, with flowers built into the metal pattern.

Then, the flood of August, 1955 washed out Highway Bridge.

 In the course of just over two weeks, Connecticut’s Highway Department spent $30,000 to build a temporary structure over the Farmington River, where Highway Bridge once spanned. The Bailey Bridge was 260 feet long and only accommodated one-way traffic. In 1956, the concrete bridge we know today was erected. 

Town Bridge

While no photographs of a covered, wooden Town Bridge exist, historians believed it was a 165 foot, near-twin to Highway Bridge; without the pedestrian walkways. It eventually evolved into the iron structure we know today, in 1895.

While it survived the 1955 flood, Town Bridge required significant reinforcements to its support structure. Over the near term, however, it became one of the only pedestrian avenues to get across the Farmington; with the exception of the potentially more perilous Three Bridges trestle.

Railroad Bridge/Three Bridges 

The covered Railroad Bridge was built around 1870.  It was not meant for pedestrian traffic. Neither was the Three Bridges trestle, built around 1904, to replace it. Nevertheless, the Bridges  became a lifeline for Canton residents and businesses needing to get across the Farmington. It has been said that the  New Haven & Northampton Railroad, which owned the Bridges, was concerned that another flood could force river-side homes into the water; creating a sort of dam against the Bridges which would divert the river’s flood waters straight into town.

And then there was the issue of liability. While the trains no longer ran, the Bridges' make-shift pedestrian walkway, crossing over wooden planks that apparently allowed views down to the river, created a liability that could not be ignored. So, NHNR tore down the Three Bridges, leaving only the stone abutments we see today.

Here’s the Deal

Special thanks to Mary Ellen Cosker who provided the research & helped About Town keep the photos of the different bridges in the 1800s’s straight!

Canton Historical Museum; 11 Front Street, Collinsville. 860-693-2793: www.cantonmuseum.org.

 

HFB April 04, 2011 at 11:46 PM
I love the pictures and history lesson. Thanks!
Sylvia Cancela April 05, 2011 at 08:50 PM
It's my pleasure and thank you for the comment HFB!
Linda Mahoney July 25, 2011 at 12:52 PM
I was just re-reading your article, having lived in Collinsville all of my life I find the history very interesting. I may be wrong but I thought I read somewhere that there was a covered bridge at the bottom of Symmonds Ave. This would have been in the 1700's. To cross the river in Avon they would have find the shallow spot and walk or ferry their goods across. So the bridge in Collinsville was a god send.
Sylvia Cancela July 27, 2011 at 06:44 PM
Hi Linda - Spoke to Town Historian Mary Ellen Cosker & she advised that there was indeed a bride at Flaherty Rock at the end of what is now Simonds Ave that was used by those coming from New Harford & points west to get across the river. Not sure about the bridge being covered though. Thanks for the query!
Lisa Mosman August 04, 2013 at 08:29 PM
I was wondering if you could provide more details about the bridge at Flaherty Rock. Did it cross to the island or just straight across the river? Are there any maps showing the location of that bridge?

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