Historic Boardman Bridge to be rehabilitated
NEW MILFORD — Thousands of iron bridges were built across America by the Berlin Iron Bridge Co. in the late 1800s.
Of those, few still stand in Connecticut, including two spanning the Housatonic River in New Milford. But while people can still explore the Lovers Leap bridge, Boardman Bridge closed to pedestrians years ago.
The Town Council is developing a plan to rehabilitate and reopen the lenticular-truss bridge, named for the lens-like shape created by its curved design. A seven-member committee created over the summer at Mayor David Gronbach’s suggestion was introduced at last week’s council meeting.
“This is a great thing,” said Robert Burkhart, president of the New Milford Trust for Historic Preservation and a member of the new committee.
Plans for the bridge include removing the vegetation around it, installing timber decking, repairing and replacing the structural components and repainting it.
In the early 2000s, the council had to decide which of the two Berlin bridges to repair and decided Lovers Leap posed more of a safety hazard at the time. With that work completed years ago, the town can focus on Boardman Bridge.
“To not do anything to it would be a crime in a way because it has so much history, but also because of the rust,” said Councilwoman Katy Francis, who sits on the committee. She said the town would be responsible for any rust or pieces of the bridge that fall into the river.
Previous fundraising campaigns have generated about $12,000 that can be used for repairs.
To encourage community support, the committee will host a gathering at the bridge from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Oct. 22.
History of Boardman Bridge
1840: A wooden toll bridge is built at the site.
1854: The bridge washes away in a flood.
1888: The bridge is built by the Berlin Iron Bridge Co., of East Berlin.
1976:Boardman Bridge is added to the National Register of Historic Places.
1984:The bridge closes to cars with the completion of a nearby bridge.
Early 2000s: Town Council votes to rehabilitate the Lovers Leap bridge instead.
The Boardman Bridge, built in 1888, is not the first span to be built in that section of the Housatonic. A wooden toll bridge was built there in 1840, but was washed away in a flood in 1854.
The lenticular-through-trusses designs originated in Europe in the early 1800s. It is discernible by the arched shape of the truss. The Berlin Bridge Co. received two U.S. patents for the architecture in 1878 and 1885. The company built more than 1,000 of these bridges before 1900, according to the New Milford Trust For Historic Preservation’s website.
The Boardman Bridge is the longest one left in the state at 188 feet and, in 1976, became the first Berlin bridge to be added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The bridge closed to vehicles in 1984 when a new bridge was built nearby that could better handle the weight. Boardman Bridge has since closed to pedestrians as well.
By rehabilitating it and reopening the span, pedestrians will be able to connect to the Sega Meadows Trail, which has a dangerous crossing there now.
“You take your life in your hands when you cross there,” Burkhart said, adding the bridge will play a role in the town’s river trail and river revitalization projects.
Burkhart, who called the bridge rehab project a “no brainer,” envisions using the bridge for weddings and events, much like the Flower Bridge is used in Simsbury.
Anyone interested in attending the Oct. 22 event can contact 860-354-7137 or email email@example.com.
“We want to highlight the bridge, look for volunteers and raise awareness,” Burkhart said.