In 1797, Griffins’s Island was bought by Benjamin Lane and it became Lane’s Island.His ancestors lived and thrived there for more than 100 years. The Lanes were prominent in shipping, fish curing, fishing trading, as ship out fitters, the net industry and they ran a weir in Indian Creek. The first causeway built across Indian Creek was to access their land. This was a high wooden bridge that wove its way across the opening to Indian Creek. There was not a draw bridge on this first access to Lanes Island as there was no need for ships to get up the creek prior to the opening of the East Boston Quarry in 1847. The causeway was high enough for small boats to get under. That causeway has evolved into the current bridge.
In the early operation of the East Boston Quarry, when big structural stone was being cut, ships would be piloted up the Indian River from the sea, east of Lanes Island. The East Boston Quarry, at the head of Indian Creek, was opened in 1847 and ran until 1939. Indian Creek, which ran under the Lanes Island Bridge was one route that the granite took to reach the harbor. It was at this time, between 1847 and 1859, that it was necessary to construct a more substantial causeway and draw bridge. Granite cribbing replaced the wooden bridge for both the causeway and draw bridge. There was a draw bridge built at this time, but its construction was minimal.
Some improvements were made in 1885. the Vinalhaven Messenger, a local paper, reported in June 1885 “The view from the Lanes’s Island Draw Bridge of the harbor and surrounding scenery is impressive. The Bridge connects Vinalhaven and Lanes island with a single span.” “The bridge is a great structure now, it is held in reverence by the people here”.” The bridge is so high above the water that any sized vessel can pass through it if its draws are up”.
There was an increased production of paving stones after Leopold took over the East Boston Quarry in 1909, so a new, more substantial draw bridge was built to allow large barges to come down the Indian Creek at high tide, and increase the efficiency of the draw bridge. This new draw bridge was used until the early 1950’ when it was eliminated.
The loaded barges unloaded their crates of granite pavers at the Leopold Company shipping dock, there organizing for shipment all over the east coast and as far as Cuba. 1919, a Railroad was built down along Around the Mountain Road to carry granite to the harbor but the Indian Creek was still heavily used. The Railroad was taken up in the late 1930’s when the East Boston Quarry closed. Pricilla Rosen remembers picking up the old Railroad spikes and selling them as a child.
Tourism came to Vinalhaven early as the appreciation for beauty is as old as man. In the 1870s the Lane Homestead, which had once been Captain Timothy Lanes, was converted to a hotel named Ocean House. It ran as a hotel from 1874 to 1891. This early retreat was predominantly for actors who came to perform in Boman’s Hall or the Granite Hotel at a time when there were about 3000 people living on Vinalhaven. By 1920 the hotel was called Rockaway Inn and it provided not only respite for eager tourists, but employment for endless numbers of young people seeking summer jobs through the 1950’s.
At the same time that Ocean House and the subsequent Rockaway Inn were thriving, a guest house to welcome summer visitors was opened at the other end of the Lanes Island Bridge. Known as Bridgeside, it opened in the 1890’s by Emeline Roberts, who ran it for decades. The early tourist industry welcomed rusticators from all over the country who could gaze upon the beauty of Indian Creek, watch the ships and barges pass, listen to the draw bridge open and close and know they were a part of a bustling working community. Generations of people returned to Bridgeside for summer respite. The bridge was much photographed and memorialized in books and the popular post card. The Inn grew, added porches to the side over looking the creek, built an addition and even acquired another building that was moved from Water Street and set down across the street .This annex thus increased number of guests that could stay. This welcoming historic Inn functioned well into the 1980’s and is now a private home.
The Lanes Island Bridge is not only functional but its whole existence celebrates the very granite industry that made Vinalhaven the thriving community and world renowned center of quality granite. The bridge is of course made out of the worlds best building material, granite. From the start of the granite industry in the 1840’s, rough grout and stone were used to build a single lane road that wound its way across the creek, following the natural curve of the land, and supported by granite cribbing. Large structures were built to support the mechanism to raise and lower the wooden draw bridge. This structure was used, repaired and up graded essentially in the same configuration for at least 100 years. Crib work structures, such as those used on the Lanes Island Bridge, are now rare and serve as enduring and irreplaceable parts of the history of our industrial heritage.
From the early pictures of 1880 to the first big rebuild and modification of the bridge in the early 1950’s, little was changed to the bridge. The bridge functioned as designed and passed the test of time. In the early 1950s’, the State determined that an upgrade was needed. Bridges were upgraded or rebuilt as part of highway projects all over the country. On Vinalhaven, the draw bridge function was no longer needed, as large ships were no longer carried granite. The draw bridge was eliminated, though they left one of the towers as a historical reminder and tribute to the history. A new iron bridge replaced the wooden draw bridge section. Then in 1954, the state again made additional modifications. This time they raised the entire level of the causeway leading to the bridge from both ends, raised the iron bridge section and added cement to the bridge. The causeway was raised used granite grout. State engineers wisely continued to use the granite piers that had been holding the bridge for 100 years. They poured cement caps on the granite piers to raise the height and then build a cement bridge on that section. This was the preferred method used by the state in the early 1950’s. This modification in 1954 was the last work done to the Lanes Island Bridge. The old tower for the draw bridge was removed at this time.
Each time there has been an upgrade to the bridge, the older road and open crib work of granite supporting the road, have just been covered over and filled in.
The State of Maine Planning Office conducted a Scenic Inventory of Vinalhaven in 1992. The report stated “The bridge is a unique collection of granite slabs, concrete pilings, painted steel guardrail, and wire cables.” They concluded “Any improvements to the bridge, approach road, or guardrail should be sensitive to it’s picturesque character and unique design”
This Bridge is the gateway to the Lanes Island Preserve, now owned by the Nature Conservancy. This preserve was Vinalhaven’s first Conservation effort to save an area that had cultural as well as aesthetic value to the community. When faced with development in the early 1960’s, Vinalhaven community member, Fred Jones led an effort to raise the money to buy much of Lanes Island and protect it for its citizens forever. This preserve is much loved and heavily used by Vinalhaven residents and visitors alike. The gentle sweep of the bridge welcomes the walker or driver in an aesthetically pleasing approach to this much loved area. One can often see pedestrians lingering on the bridge, admiring the fast flow of the creek or gazing out over the busy harbor. This bridge is an enduring and welcoming entry to Lanes Island as it has been for more than 200 years. Historical and Eco Tourism are an important part of the economy, and this bridge plays a big part in this.