In honor of it now being Town Meeting season, a short piece on how practical our New England forebears could be with decisions made at these annual, democracy in its purest form, how do we best improve our community, and what do we spend our money on meetings.
I occasionally look up from whatever piece I am cutting during the course of a days work, glancing over at others similarly engaged, and explore a realization that the moment I stand in, could almost without change, be shared by and understood as experientially same same, as one enjoyed by another in my same shoes a century, or better in the past – One of the few other social situations in which I have had some similar sense of being part of some as it was is as it is continuum, is in Town Meeting.
I’ve found myself in recent months repeatedly referencing – Life and Times in Hopkinton, N.H. By Charles Chase Lord 1890, sifting through its pages in a search for information on those with Hopkinton connections, Long and Childs, and Snow and the Contoocook Academy. This past week I came across the statement “to build a new covered bridge, without roof.” “Whatever that might have meant.”
Though this is now a little realized tactic in a search for affordability, I find it interesting that this was lost to CC Lord, with his having penned his town history within living memory of the meeting he was citing.
This goes to the one time common tactic of letting the “House” wait. The house being the term often used to describe the cladding, the enclosure, the so recognizable face of these bridges, only there to long-term protect the bridge proper from the elements. And that of limiting the funding of the initial expenditure to the hiring of a bridgwright to frame, raise and place the bridge superstructure – The Through Truss – the two trusses, the ties and upper lateral bracing system, the floor beams and lower laterals, and the flooring. Then simply opening the bridge to traffic.
The rafters, purlins, (bridge-speak for skip sheathing) and roofing, and boarding and trim would sometimes wait for a future warrant in some future Town Meeting, five or six years hence when the towns coffers had recovered.
This same tactic also sometimes preceded the bridge. Occasionally abutments were let out to bid one at a time, to spread out their expense – Written record of this is sometimes lost, but the story told in the workmanship found in standing stonework, and the quality of the quarrying of the stones in them, is often there to tell the tale.
From CC Lord’s Life and Times in Hopkinton – Which speaks to bridges lost to flooding, an experience our time shares with theirs, and Rowell’s Bridge – For a description and photographs of framing details of Rowell’s see – Crossing Childs Living Legacy – in the July ’11 Archives