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Remembering New Sharon’s beautiful iron bridge

With the tearing down of the old bridge in New Sharon, some of us kids of the 70's got together in November for one last photo of the bridge with a tearful good bye.

With the tearing down of the old bridge in New Sharon, "some of the kids of the 70's got together in November for one last photo of the bridge with a tearful good bye," said Darlene Power. From left to right: Randy Nightingale, Roy Hooper, Frank Smith, John Cox, Clark Leach, Scott Cummings, Darlene Power, Cherie Sadler, Robert Nadeau, Ron Fidler. (Photo courtesy of Darlene Power)

NEW SHARON - As the iron bridge over the Sandy River is to be dismantled in the coming weeks due to the deteriorating effects of old age, many who grew up here are saddened to see it disappear but have plenty of good memories to remember.

"Every year I got to come back and see my dad as a child I knew it was time to be excited when I laid eyes on the bridge because I was close to home," Mike Harris said.

The prospect of no longer seeing the dark-red cathedral-like lines of the arch, all interconnected in the truss-style bridge brought together a reunion of sorts for a group that grew up here.

"With the tearing down of the old bridge in New Sharon, some of us kids of the '70s got together in November for one last photo of the bridge with a tearful goodbye," said Darlene Power. Getting together on Nov. 23, 2013 with Power were Randy Nightingale, Roy Hooper, Frank Smith, John Cox, Clark Leach, Scott Cummings, Cherie Sadler, Robert Nadeau and Ron Fidler.

Swinging under the old iron bridge in New Sharon. (Photo courtesy of

Swinging under the old iron bridge in the summer of 1968 New Sharon. (Photo courtesy of Chuck Seefeldt)

The bridge gracefully connected both sides of New Sharon and when it was eventually closed to vehicles, it still provided pedestrians a unique walk high above the Sandy.

Many mentioned crossing it to and from school to get to Grant's Market and the thrill of swinging by a rope under the bridge in summer. Others remembered loving "the noise cars made driving over it," said Rachel Reid Chung, among them.

"I remember hearing stories about kids climbing to the top of the bridge. Was that true? My favorite memory was walking from my house to Grant's to get candy with Ryan Peary," Matt Chandler remembered.

"Yes it was true, some Halloweens they would carry a tire up top and light it," Power responded.

"I was born in the mid-'50s and while the thought crossed my mind, I never climbed that thing because Dad would have peeled my hide for it," said Roy P. Hooper. "And, there was no thought of getting away with it because in a small town like New Sharon, as a kid, you just didn't get away with stuff. Word would have gotten to my parents or my grandmother."

I remember "walking across the bridge in the '50s and '60s with my Aunt June. It was such a thrill to look straight down at the water flowing below," said Barry Tracy.

When the Route 2 bridge that runs beside it was completed in 1959, the state's Department of Transportation MDOT would then close the iron bridge to all traffic in the late 1990s. A local 'Save the Bridge' Committee, led by the late Gertrude Hatley, tried hard to preserve the iron bridge, but to no avail. It just cost too much for preservation.

A significant progression of damage to the bridge, including a rusted-weakened truss structure and increasingly cracked and falling away abutments, were closely monitored by MDOT inspectors over last year and determined the deterioration was so extensive and ongoing the structure needed to come down very soon before it falls down.

On Nov. 14, 2013, New Sharon selectmen unanimously voted to turn the bridge over the state. If the bridge were to collapse while in the town's possession, the municipality would be liable for its removal at a cost estimated at $1.2 million or more.

Eleven days after that decision, the small group of mourners gathered at the bridge to remember together the structure that at one time was a modern engineering feat, eventually listed as a national registered historical place and always a town centerpiece.

CPM Constructors of Freeport was awarded the demolition contract and the work is expected to be completed by the end of next month.

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9 Responses »

  1. Well the tearing down of the bridge goes along with the general demise of the village of New Sharon. When Dunton's store was open and we used to buy cigarettes even not old enough and Jimmy Day had a store the place was jumping. Uncle Lawrence Day had the hardware store and Frank Brown the Sandy River Farm Supply with the town water pump. Every one took pride in their buildings and kept them painted and repaired. It makes me cry to go through town and look around at the place. When I left in 1971 to go college I knew then that I could never move back. The telephone booth (what's that) where the bomb scare was called to the school, Ged Grant keeping an eye on the kids, and you could buy anything from a frying pan to a piece of glass at Days hardware.Frank Brown, Lawrence Day and Ged practically ran the town. They all were on the fire dept and could get the engine going in a moments notice. The town had a spirit and built 3 schoolhouses and were on national radio when they built the last from out of the townspeoples wallets. But when we lost our high school you could hear the death knoll. 11 out of the 12 in my 1964 class went on to some form of higher education. I don't think Mt blue can say that. We had teachers like Galen Sayward, the Dewevers, Mrs Thombs, Roy Packard, Edith Bailey, and hardass Leblanc who took us to our only basketball tournament.
    Fourth of July was a great time and there are tales that can now be told.
    Oh, and going to the top of the old bridge was a freshman ritual!!
    Lloyd Day

  2. If I am misunderstanding your comments then I apologize but it sounds as though you are downing the town that I live in. I was not born here but I migrated to this wonderful town. This is still a great town. Times change. I agree people might not get out to talk or help each other but not everyone is like that. It is hard to find that anywhere in today's society. As far as your ratio of your graduating class. . . how do you compare? College is more expensive today. Good paying jobs are hard t come by and some kids just cannot afford to go to college.

  3. Through my childhood in the 80s I watched many New Sharon farms crumble under the weight of the economy. Sons and daughters went on to college and moved away, leaving an aging population to bear the brunt of the work. You are right Lloyd, New Sharon is not what it used to be. When you cry at the state of the town you loved as a child, remember that you were not here to contribute to its upkeep, physically or financially. I'm not condemning you for choosing your well-being over that of the town, so please do not condemn others for doing the same.

  4. While I am not bashing per-say the town, it's disappointing to see things go this way. I know people used to have lots of pride in their homes etc. And I was not around to help with town planning etc because there were no good jobs in the area for recent college grads in the 70's. And there are still not a lot.
    With respect to the person who replied to my first post, I have been checking graduation and higher education attendance for some time. If someone really wants to go to college there are ways. I worked during all my college years.

  5. I was raised in New Sharon, my parents bought Day's house down by the bridge, we grew up downtown with the Bridge, Frank Brown, Ged Grant, going to Dunton's to buy the Sunday paper and get a lolly pop, anytime of day light hours you would see kids out playing, the town was a tight community and watched out for each other's child, both churches were over flowing with people, we had Sunday School, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, 4-H, Youth Group, for many of the town kids the Bridge was the place to be, yards were all mowed and picked up, here we are 40 years later, and many things have changed, but I would not of changed my childhood for the world and will always hold those memories close, that's why we have memories, because things are always changing, I dealt with our house being torn down and will deal with the demise of Iron Side, but it will always be my home town and proud I came from here and had all the opportunities the small town offers.

  6. Well said Darlene!

  7. That picture of Chuck swinging on the rope was most certainly not taken in 1968. I'm pretty sure it was 1978.

  8. Darlene, Why was the house torn down?

  9. We really don't know why the present owner torn down the main house, the kitchen and bedroom above are still standing.

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