Remembering New Sharon’s beautiful iron bridge
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.
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.