Cropped view of first image
Photo digitally altered by Paul Plassman in February 2022
BH Photo #516612
In September 1853, the first bridge was completed over the Kennebec River between the towns of Gardiner on the west bank and Randolph on the east. This was an 899’, five-span bridge, with the main span consisting of a hand-operated iron Howe pony truss span that pivoted to open for navigation. The other four spans were two-lane, double-barreled covered Howe through trusses totaling 732’, one on the west side of the swing span and three on the east. The Howe trusses proved insufficient in strength and arches were added in 1855. Further repairs were done in 1873 and 1883. Originally a privately owned toll bridge, it was purchased in 1887 by the two towns it connected, who then made it a free bridge.
On March 2, 1896, the two Howe through trusses immediately east of the swing span were destroyed in a massive flood, leaving the two end spans and the pivot span. The Berlin Iron Bridge Co. erected two steel, pin-connected Pennsylvania truss spans in their place for $27,833. Following this, in 1907 the outmoded pivot span was replaced with a larger 168’ steel swing span built by the West Virginia Bridge Co. for $8,862. This pivot span, instead of being a flimsy Howe truss supported when open by cable stays, consisted of massive riveted Warren through trusses with drooping top chords, creating the appearance of one half of a cantilever truss bridge.
In 1926 another major reconstruction project took place. The swing span was retained, but the covered span on the west (Gardiner) end of the bridge was replaced with two concrete beam spans, with the fascia beams and rails incorporating Art Deco detailing. The covered span on the east (Randolph) end of the bridge was also removed and replaced with a concrete approach and retaining walls. The substructure of the bridge was also completely replaced at this time. At some later date the swing span was replaced with a polygonal Warren through truss pivot span.
The present bridge, a large 1,000’ steel girder structure, was built several hundred feet upstream in 1980 and the old bridge was demolished.
As best as can be determined, the many iterations of this bridge were thus as follows:
1853-1896: 4 timber Howe through truss spans & 1 pivot span, all from 1853
1896-1907: 2 timber Howe through truss spans & 1 pivot span from 1853; 2 steel Pennsylvania through truss spans from 1896
1907-1926: 2 timber Howe through truss spans from 1853; 2 steel Pennsylvania through truss spans from 1896; 1 steel pivot span from 1907
1926-Unknown Pre-WWII date: 2 steel Pennsylvania through truss spans from 1896; 1 steel pivot span from 1907; concrete beam approaches from 1926
Unknown Pre WWII date-1980: 2 steel Pennsylvania through truss spans from 1896; concrete beam approaches from 1926; 1 steel pivot span from unknown pre-WWII date
1980-Present: Entire bridge from 1980