History, Romance, and Adventure! Exploring Whiteface's Bridges

There is a romance to certain bridges that no one can really deny. Covered bridges, or simply bridges over beautiful streams and rivers — it doesn't really matter, there is something romantic about them. What is it? Is it the rich history? Is it the charm? The wood or steel used to build these beautiful pieces of art? I am not really sure, probably all of the above.

The author of the novel "The Bridges of Madison County," Robert James Waller, wrote a 1992 bestseller about love between a farm woman and a photographer who was in Iowa creating a photo essay on covered bridges in the area. This was one of the first novels I read where I didn't want it to end. I have since looked at these types of bridges in a romantic way. Photographers flock to these structures to capture the beauty, many newly engaged couples use the bridges to show their newfound love in unique ways, families walk or bike across them, fishermen cast their lines near them; there is just a special feeling when you find one. Some are even on the National Registry of Historic Places. Let this be your guide to some of the romantic bridges of the Whiteface Region.  

What does it mean to be on the National Registry of Historic Places? This list is the United States Federal Government's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation for their historical significance. The Notman, Ranny, and the Wilmington bridges are all on this list. The Jay Covered Bridge is eligible to be on this list, but it has not been listed yet. 

Jay Covered Bridge 

This wooden covered bridge is on the East Branch of the Ausable River in Jay. The Jay Covered Bridge is one of only 29 covered bridges in New York state, and there are only two in the Adirondack Mountains. The bridge was destroyed by a flood in 1856 and rebuilt in 1857, using truss, which is a relatively rare, patented support system for bridges by Howe Truss. It is the only remaining Howe Truss bridge in the Adirondacks. Since being rebuilt in 1857 it has been considered a Jay landmark. Tragedy struck again in 1953 when a heavy truck fell through the floor of the bridge and once again it needed replacement. Two years later traffic was moved to a new steel bridge downstream. The famous Jay Covered Bridge is now (since 2006) used as a pedestrian walkway and bike path, and of course for beautiful photography. 

Truss bridges were common in the 1870s through the 1930s while wood was in abundance. A truss bridge is a bridge whose load-bearing superstructure is composed of a structure of connected elements usually forming a triangle. This is one of the oldest types of modern bridges, and features simple and economical designs by early engineers. Metal bridges slowly started to replace these types of wooden structures, and the numbers in the United States started dropping rapidly as wooden frames were replaced with new, metal bridges over the years. There are many forms of truss bridges still used in the United States, just not using wood. 

Ranny Bridge

The Ranny Bridge is another truss bridge, over the Ausable River in Keene Valley. The style of the this truss is called "Pratt Pony Truss Bridge," which means a bridge allows traffic through the truss, but the top of the bridge is not joined together with cross braces.This beauty is also on the National Registry of Historic Places. The bridge was built in 1902 by Banton Iron Bridge company. It was originally located in the Hamlet of New Russia (Elizabethtown) and eventually moved to Keene in 1925. The Ranny currently provides access to a few camps. 

Walton Bridge 

The Walton Bridge of Keene, NY was one of only about 40 lenticular bridges in the United States. A lenticular bridge includes a lens-shaped truss, with trusses between an upper arch that curves up and then down to end points, and a lower arch that curves down and then up to meet at the same end points. Where the arches extend above and below the roadbed, it is a lenticular pony truss bridge. The Walton Bridge was originally constructed in 1890 for Western Plank Road in Black Brook, NY, and was moved to Keene in 1924.  Sadly, this bridge was destroyed by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. The bridge was was washed downstream in pieces, with some sections lingering in the riverbed near its former site, and others eventually located far downstream. 

The Notman Bridge

The Notman Bridge over the Ausable River in Keene Valley is a historic concrete bridge. Named for the Notman family, it provided access to their camp. This pretty bridge was built by stone masons from Staten Island. The 1913 arch bridge is faced with stone and is a privately owned bridge. This beautiful bridge is only accessible through the Keene Valley Country Club. The bridge has been a part of the National Registry of Historic Places since 1999. 

Beer's Bridge

Beer's Bridge is located in Keene Valley. You can see this bridge when driving north toward Lake Placid; it's on the right side of the road in Keene Valley. This pin-connected Pratt and Pony truss bridge was built in 1900 and was located in Essex County, somewhere not listed, and moved to its present location in 1925. The simple structure provides access to camps on the east side of the river. 

Wilmington Bridge 

The Wilmington Bridge in Wilmington, NY is a beautiful arch bridge faced with stone. It boasts a gorgeous view of Whiteface Mountain, and a wide sidewalk that leads to town. The bridge and the Whiteface Memorial Highway were built at the same time using granite to fit in well with the natural surroundings. The bridge is 37 feet wide and has sidewalks on both sides and is used for two-way traffic. Even though this looks like a brand new bridge, it was constructed in 1934 and is also on the National Register of Historic Places. This beauty was rehabilitated in the 1990s and is in great condition. 

A day exploring the Whiteface Tegion and surrounding areas will lead you to these romantic, historic structures. Don't forget your camera - these are well worth photographing. 

 


Author:
Catherine Ericson

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