Rating:
7 votes

Fitch's Bridge

Photos 

Elevation.

Photo taken by Olin Lathrop, CC BY-ND 3.0

License: Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs (CC BY-ND)

Enlarge

View this photo at panoramio.com

BH Photo #247157

Map 

Facts 

Overview
Double-intersection Warren through truss bridge over Nashua River on Fitch Bridge Road
Location
Middlesex County, Massachusetts
Status
Demolished and replaced with an ugly pedestrian MOB (Mail Order Bridge).
History
Built 1898; Closed to traffic 1965; Demolished 2013
Builder
- Berlin Iron Bridge Co. of East Berlin, Connecticut
Design
Riveted Double-intersection Warren through truss
Dimensions
Length of largest span: 119.0 ft.
Total length: 126.0 ft.
Deck width: 11.2 ft.
Approximate latitude, longitude
+42.62543, -71.60871   (decimal degrees)
42°37'32" N, 71°36'31" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
19/286074/4722519 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Pepperell
Inventory number
BH 55269 (Bridgehunter.com ID)
Inspection (as of 01/1992)
Appraisal: Structurally deficient
Sufficiency rating: 15.0 (out of 100)

Update Log 

  • July 5, 2013: Updated by Nathan Holth: Updated status.
  • May 1, 2013: Updated by Nathan Holth: This bridge has been demolished.
  • January 21, 2013: Added by Nathan Holth

Comments 

Fitch's Bridge
Posted April 29, 2015, by georgfe oakley (georgeoakley49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

thanks art.from what I saw I knew that bridge met an unfortunate end being scrapped.since I live in pa.I will probably see a lot of truss bridges meet the same fate since money is short according to the federal government.

Fitch's Bridge
Posted April 28, 2015, by ArtS (asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)

George,

If you are restoring, yes. If you are scrapping, no. However, if you are scrapping, it's cheaper just to drag it to shore rather than lift it.

Regards,

Art S.

Fitch's Bridge
Posted April 28, 2015, by george oakley (georgeoakley49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

I have a question on this bridge which was evidently removed.they showed a crane ripping it apart.wouldn't it make sense to lift it off the supports and disassemble it piece by piece?

Fitch's Bridge
Posted April 27, 2015, by Matt Lohry

With that nasty MOB there now, this is the perfect place for a new Wal-Mart...

Fitch's Bridge
Posted April 27, 2015, by ArtS (asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)

Nels,

Here are some images of the lift; it came off cleanly with no damage. I still can't find the pictures of it resting, completely intact, on shore. Sadly, the cost of restoration would have been competitive with replacement. They are coming down faster than we can save them.

https://www.facebook.com/FitchsBridge

http://grotonherald.com/main.asp?SectionID=2&SubSectionID=27...

Regards,

Art S.

Fitch's Bridge
Posted April 27, 2015, by Nels Raynor (nels [at] bachsteel [dot] com)

fine work on one of the oldest through trusses in the country

Fitch's Bridge
Posted April 27, 2015, by Nels Raynor (nels [at] bachsteel [dot] com)

i found these fine examples of the restoration of this old bridge

Fitch's Bridge
Posted November 25, 2013, by Tony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

Thank you for the pics Olin...Good to have documentation of it for future reference.

Fitch's Bridge
Posted November 25, 2013, by Olin Lathrop

D027-1951

Fitch's Bridge
Posted November 25, 2013, by Olin Lathrop

D027-1950

Fitch's Bridge
Posted November 25, 2013, by Olin Lathrop

D027-1949

Fitch's Bridge
Posted November 25, 2013, by Olin Lathrop

Argh. The server makes you enter something in the space. Picture D027-1947.

Fitch's Bridge
Posted November 25, 2013, by Olin Lathrop

Apparently the site resizes images to 1600 wide max. The one just uploaded was actually 4266 pixels wide, so contained much more detail than what the server allows. Oh well, here are the other images anyway.

Fitch's Bridge
Posted November 25, 2013, by Olin Lathrop (fitchbr [at] embedinc [dot] com)

I tried to upload more picture, as requested, but the web site barfed on 6 large pictures. This time I'll try each one in a single message.

These are all high resolution pictures, so some zooming in and examining detail should be possible.

Fitch's Bridge
Posted November 18, 2013, by Art S. (asucewer [at] knite [dot] com)

Olin,

I'm relatively new to what is involved in restoring iron bridges and, unfortunately, was not in a position to act on this bridge but, there are pictures of the bridge's destruction elsewhere on the web. The bridge was removed intact from the abutments and placed on shore unharmed. It was then crunched up into scrap.

The $2M rehab cost you refer to was restoring the bridge in place, over the water. I would guess that 1/4 - 1/3 or that was remeadiating the lead paint. What you don't realize is that once on shore, the bridge could have been restored for a fraction of the quoted cost then reset over the water.

Fitch's Bridge
Posted November 18, 2013, by Anonymous

Olin,

I think we all understand there are situations where replacing a bridge is acceptable.

If this were an early '30s riveted Pratt truss (like many dozens of other extant bridges) and it was insufficient to carry growing traffic demands - then maybe replacement would be the best choice.

But that was not the case. It was a very rare bridge, and the replacement bridge isn't better suited for the "traffic" demands than the old truss.

So _THANK_YOU_ for the photos. If you have any more - please upload them!! Also, thank you for the CC licensing of the images.

But your description of the decision process falls far short of convincing me that a modern bridge is a better choice than preserving an unusual and historic structure.

By the way, the issue I have with mail-order bridges is not that they are a pre-fab structure. My issue is when it is used in place of a historic bridge. History, once gone, is forever lost.

Fitch's Bridge
Posted November 18, 2013, by Matt Lohry

"I have uploaded a picture from 27 October 2012. It doesn't take a structural engineer to see this bridge was in really bad shape."

Hmm, I am a civil engineer, and this photo does nothing to convince me that the bridge was in really bad shape...in fact, it solidifies the fact that the decision to replace was STUPID and WASTEFUL!

Fitch's Bridge
Posted November 18, 2013, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

I don't see any raging section loss on the photos I have found of this bridge. That is what would be needed to convince me it was not feasible to rehab. Also, the steel or iron the historic bridge was built of may not have been as STRONG as modern steel, but it certainly was a "LONGER LASTING" steel as the types of iron and steel used when this bridge were built were made of greater amounts of virgin steel (no scrap) and also if any parts were wrought iron, that is extremely rust-resistant compared to modern steel.

Fitch's Bridge
Posted November 17, 2013, by Tony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

And BTW... A rotted wooden deck doesn't count!

Fitch's Bridge
Posted November 17, 2013, by Tony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

It has absolutely NOTHING to do with the materials that the bridge was originally built with... And EVERYTHING to do with the lack of maintenance afforded it while it existed. That being said, we have successfully restored historic spans here in Indiana that were in similar condition.

SO... It simply comes down to how much a community values it's historic heritage because when it's gone, it's gone forever.

Fitch's Bridge
Posted November 17, 2013, by Olin Lathrop (fitchbr [at] embedinc [dot] com)

Here is the photo I tried to upload with my previous message. Apparently uploaded pictures get removed if you do a preview, then go back to edit.

Fitch's Bridge
Posted November 17, 2013, by Olin Lathrop (fitchbr [at] embedinc [dot] com)

I see that some have already decided the decision to replace Fitch's Bridge was "stupid" without having bothered to get the facts. Those that knee-jerk to judgement have already made up their minds, so this note is to everyone else that is interested in what really went on and why what was done was done.

The "old" bridge that this page is referring to is at least the second bridge in this location. The first was wooden, and was eventually replaced by the iron structure this page is about in 1898. It is interesting to note that this bridge that some are lamenting was replaced with a "mail order bridge" (although why that's supposed to be bad is unclear, if it is more cost effective to assemble elsewhere before installation than this sounds like good engineering to me) was itself a mail order bridge. It was built by the Berlin Iron Bridge Company of Berlin CT, and was largely assembled before being shipped to its destination.

This iron bridge only served for about 65 years before it had to be closed as being unsafe. I remember crossing it (illegally) in 1986 or so by walking a bicycle accross. Even then I had to be careful where to step, and some of the planks were missing and had holes.

The original itent was to to restore the existing bridge, but that turned out to be prohibitively expensive. The iron was simply too rusted and too deteriorated. Also, some parts still had lead paint on them, which would have made any work more expensive. Estimates were nearly $2M.

Basically, the original bridge was in bad shape, effectively beyond any reasonable repair. This type of iron simply wasn't a good material to build something out of that will be exposed to the elements. That may not have been anyone's fault back in 1898, but today we have better material to chose from.

I have uploaded a picture from 27 October 2012. It doesn't take a structural engineer to see this bridge was in really bad shape.

The town Greenway Committee spent many many hours looking over alternative, weighing historical significance and all the other interests, getting cost estimates, and eventually recommending replacing the old structure with a new one at the same location. This was overwhelmingly approved at town meeting in January 2013.

The new bridge installation and work on repairing and stabalizing the old stone abuttments on each side was completed under budget and ahead of schedule by ET&L Corp. As a resident of Groton, I am proud how the town came together over this issue, and grateful to the many many volunteer hours that went into making a careful, deliberate, and reasoned decision. I feel my tax dollars were wisely spent, and that we have left a useful piece of durable infrastructure for the residents of Groton and visitors to enjoy a long time into the future.

Sometimes old things break. Sometimes they weren't even ever that good in the first place. We can't cling to everything old just because it's old. Replacing something old, worn out, and unusable with something better that benefits from newer technology can be a good thing. Such is the case with the replacement of Fitch's Bridge in 2013. Hopefully in 2113 or whenever this bridge can no longer serve its purpose, the people of Groton will again carefully deliberate on the best course of action, then come together to implement it for their benefit and their future generation's benefit.

Fitch's Bridge
Posted July 5, 2013, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

Massachusetts: Enjoy your MOB. Suggested Pairing:

Fitch's Bridge
Posted July 5, 2013, by micah (micah [dot] abbott [at] gmail [dot] com)

As of June 28, a new bridge has been installed and is open for use.

https://www.facebook.com/FitchsBridge

Fitch's Bridge
Posted June 15, 2013, by Andrew Eckel

What a total waste. I was just about to get on my bike to ride over to Fitch's Bridge this morning - I came online to get the bridge's specifications so I could note all that was noteworthy about it. Needless to say, I'm shocked. It should've been restored. Even as the bridge stood derelict it was a destination - A unique spot on the Nashua. Groton loses another landmark...

Fitch's Bridge
Posted May 1, 2013, by Jason Smith (JDSmith77 [at] gmx [dot] net)

I've been in contact with the people there and I guess the vote for the replacement was overwhelming, given the fact that the bridge had been abandoned for over 40 years with no rehabilitation work. It's unclear what will be built in its place, but it appears there may be a replica in the works, but don't hold your breath.

Check out this article: http://thebridgehunter.areavoices.com/2013/04/18/fitchs-brid...

Fitch's Bridge
Posted May 1, 2013, by Robert Elder

Nathan I appreciate your humor but this is May 1st not April 1st. Oh wait, you're not kidding. This may be the most puzzling and stunning demolition I have heard about yet.

Fitch's Bridge
Posted May 1, 2013, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

One of the oldest rivet-connected truss bridges in the country has been demolished to make way for a Mail Order Bridge (MOB) for pedestrian use. This is one of the most wasteful, shortsighted, and downright stupid things I have ever seen. This community should be ashamed of itself. This bridge could have so easily and inexpensively been restored for pedestrian use. If anyone told this community otherwise, than they lacked proper experience working with historic truss bridges. This bridge could have been an iconic attraction for this trail system. Instead, they have destroyed an extremely significant historic bridge. And for what? An ugly, nondescript modern MOB bridge that from a functional standpoint does the same thing the historic bridge could have easily been made to do? This is an Epic Fail.

http://www.lowellsun.com/local/ci_23137071/plans-under-way-g...

Fitch's Bridge
Posted January 22, 2013, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

2013 is fixing to be an nasty year for historic bridges. Here we have one of the oldest rivet-connected truss bridges in North America, abandoned, ready for restoration. Instead however, it is to be demolished and replaced with a pedestrian MOB.