Boardman Bridge -- New Milford history at risk
The Boardman Bridge is treasured by many in the Greater New Milford community.
Among them is Rob Burkhart, who wants to give the historic span a rebirth.
Burkhart, the president of the New Milford Trust for Historic Preservation, hopes to form a 501(c)(3) entity to raise the required funds.
"The cost will be over $2 million, so town money and state grants will be needed," he said.
The bridge has spanned the Housatonic River since 1888 and is one of the original metal-work bridges in New Milford.
Yet its ornamental details of lattice-work and its floral design above the portals have been allowed to rust and the bridge deck has become unsafe for even foot traffic.
In 1985, the bridge had been reconstructed for pedestrian sightseeing at a cost of $362,750, paid through bonding, according to Board of Selectmen minutes.
A replacement bridge for vehicular traffic a few yards to its south had been completed in 1984, with state Department of Transportation approval.
"The historical truss-type structure built in 1888, which now crosses the river, will remain in place as a pedestrian walkway and a new 30-foot, wide steel girder bridge will be installed approximately 50 feet south of the present bridge," an October 1983 DOT press release read.
"Restoration work needed today (for pedestrian traffic only) would be in the area of $1 million, as a preliminary estimate," said Mike Zarba, New Milford's director of public works.
Started in 1887 and completed in 1888 by the Berlin Iron Bridge Co., the metal-work bridge replaced an earlier, wooden toll bridge which had been washed away in flooding in 1854.
It was one of the first Berlin bridges to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, according to Burkhart.
The arched shape of its truss is from a design originating in Europe early in the 19th century.
One of about 1,000 bridges of this type built by Berlin before 1900, the Boardman Bridge is one of only three bridges of this style remaining in Connecticut.
Mayor Pat Murphy noted the parochial significance of Boardman Bridge. She said she has a copy of an old photograph in her home of a young boy leading a cow across the bridge.
"This is a good project for the historic trust to take on," the mayor said. "They'll be able to bring attention to it."
"I have pictures of my great-grandparents," Francis said, "and heard how their furniture was taken off the train, loaded on a horse-pulled wagon and carried across that bridge when they moved here from Brewster (N.Y.)."
"Just like Lover's Leap Bridge, it is a beautiful part of New Milford's history," Francis added. "But in these financial times, the funds to restore it may be difficult to come by."
In 2007, a $2.1 million restoration of Lover's Leap Bridge was completed.
It was paid with 80 percent federal funding and 20 percent taxpayer support. That span was built in 1895 by the Berlin Iron Bridge Co.
For more photos, visit www.newmilfordspectrum.com.
Photography by Norm Cummings