Sunday, December 16, 2007

Photos: The Great River Bridge, Westfield, Massachusetts

Crossed by nearly 34,000 vehicles daily, the Great River Bridge is a vital link between the North and South sides of the city of Westfield, Mass. The truss-style bridge was built over the years 1938-39 by the well-respected construction firm Daniel O'Connell's Sons, which in 1939 was celebrating it's 60th anniversary, having been established in 1879. Fay, Spofford & Thorndike was the engineering outfit entrusted as architect of the project. In business since 1914, Fay, Spofford & Thorndike also designed the magnificent Hampden County Memorial Bridge, opened on August 3, 1922, which spans the Connecticut river between West Springfield and Springfield. The two companies worked together again on the reconstruction of the Memorial Bridge, undertaken in 1996.

Here are some photographs of the Great River Bridge, taken over the past few months.

Bethlehem Steel was the 'superstructure subcontractor' for the bridge. In 1937, the year before construction was begun on the Great River Bridge, Bethlehem Steel had completed one of the most famous and easily-recognized bridges in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge at San Francisco, California. It is fair to say that both bridges, despite their vast differences, serve equal needs. (Photo taken August 5, 2007)

The Westfield river was a magnet for kids growing up in close proximity. We fished in it, waded in it and (shudder) even skated on it. While taking photos from the riverbed and poking around along her banks, I have to admit, a bit of that kid came back to me, a twinge of exploratory adventure triggered, perhaps, by the smell of the water or vegetation, or the music of smooth stones shifting underfoot. (Photo taken October 6, 2007)

Flower baskets on either side of the bridge brighten travelers' commutes. Although the city was going to forgo the plantings during construction of the new companion bridge just downstream, private citizen Martha Sienkiewicz and another volunteer wouldn't stand for it, taking it upon themselves to fill the planters through their own efforts, with donations and assistance from the Westfield Chamber of Commerce and local firms, including the Tea Pot Gallery, Rudy's greenhouse and Home Depot. It's folks like Martha and her friend that make the world a cool place to be. (Photo taken October 6, 2007)

Just beyond the Great River Bridge is the temporary bridge being built as a platform to work off of during the construction of the new bridge down river, an integral part of the Great River Bridge Traffic Improvement Project, which will be a twin sister of the existing span. The new bridge will occupy the footprint of the original wooden bridge crossing the Westfield river, built in 1743. (Photo taken November 6, 2007)

Washed away during the flood of September, 1938, and never rebuilt, remnants of the dam that captured the power of the Westfield river for the use of the mills lining her banks show in uniform lines beneath the water's flow. (Photo taken November 6, 2007)

My son Nathaniel and grandson Ryan head back across the bridge after getting a closer look at the ongoing bridge construction. The work has become somewhat of a draw for spectators, industrial performance art at its finest. (Photo by Romola Alamed, taken November 13, 2007)

Over the river and through the fog... Christmas decorations and fancy lamps do little to add cheer to this lonely scene captured the morning of Thanksgiving just passed. (Photo taken November 22, 2007)

Raymond H. Cowing was in his sixth year as mayor of Westfield when the Great River Bridge was dedicated in 1939, having wrested the position away from Louis L. Keefe in 1933 in an election that broke voter turnout records for the city. Cowing's early years found him presiding over a city with the highest tax rate in the state, set at $43 per $1,000. Cowing's stretch as mayor came to an end in 1939 when he was replaced by Alice D. Burke, who beat him by 127 votes in her third attempt to unseat him. (Photo taken December 9, 2007)

Winter has come to Westfield, freezing rain falling as I write this. The steeple of Holy Trinity church is prominent in the background of this photo. Built in 1909 to accommodate the many Polish immigrants to Westfield, the church was redecorated in 1939, a new pipe organ keying its first hymn the same year the Great River Bridge carried its first traveler. 'Tis a warm sound on a cold day to a wandering soul. (Photo taken December 15, 2007)

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

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1 comment:

raymo13 said...

I grew up in Westfield and left in 76 at age 18 for California.I now live down B town way.I often wrestle with happy memories from my days there.I so often crossed the Green Bridge with my books,wanting to toss one over.How many times did I cross that bridge with Dad, going to Felix's for the Saturday haircut.Life seemed so much easier then. I sadly found out of the demise of the rotary.How shamefull!