To Revisit our Riddle

Addendum 9 AprilIn the Bridgewright Blog as I push a chisel through history’s often deeply patina’ed grain to find what lies beneath, and in striving both for accuracy and to work to patch some of the holes in the record, I ran in this entry with finding long looked for images of wooden bridges in the Amoskeag Millyard, and published upon my self-imposed deadline prior to being able to confirm which / was / where of the pictured bridge/s in the following found images. I never want to find myself guilty of the kind of revisionism sometimes born of a desire to find what one is looking for, so the hard look at what was what continued – And further exploration has now determined that the Four Span Lattice and Arch bridge seen in the first image below is a “Mill” bridge which did not serve city streets, it is not the Bridge which shared the name Amoskeag, though as it turns out the pictured bridge is sometimes known as The Amoskeag Mills.

The Quest and our Riddle continues, and we will work to corroborate just what spans are recorded in these other found images, and a full revision will await that determination.

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Longstanding readers may recall our short series of entries exploring the history of an 18th Century first in a span to bridge the Merrimack at Derryfield New Hampshire, this the crossing now known as the Bridge Street Bridge. In these entries we explored how choices made by that spans builder through that first bridge and its succession of replacement spans continue to this day to shape the city we now know as Manchester, and in how this crossing would drive an interplay of commerce as the power of the river was harnessed to build the Nineteenth Century Worlds single largest industrial complex, and how this in turn has framed for us the city we have inherited.

Recently in working to turn up an unrelated image, I chanced upon one of the missing links in the quest to solve the Riddle. Though we have yet to discover a rendering of McGregor’s 1792 span known as Amoskeag, this recent find prompted some deeper scratching and reaching out, and we have found multiple images of the Amoskeag’s namesake 1825 replacement – The bridge which was built by Wm. Riddle’s bridge building concern (In 19th Century histories he is often misidentified as the builder of the 1792 first) The Granite Bridge Co. of the Piscataquog borough of Bedford. Here he and his firm are cited as being prolific area bridge builders with many local examples to their credit.

The Amoskeag is seen in the foreground - The Granite Street Bridge also a product of Riddle's Granite Bridge Company can be seen downstream -   Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HABS HAER Reproduction number  HABS NH,6-MANCH,2--91

In this image The Amoskeag “Mills”Bridge is seen in the foreground – The Granite Street Bridge, a product of Riddle’s Granite Bridge Company can be seen downstream – This photo is courtesy of The Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division HABS HAER Reproduction number HABS NH,6-MANCH,2–91

William’s many and varied building and business concerns seems to have begun in following his father Issac into the carpentry trade, (Issac is attributed with having “built the first canal boat to have floated on the Merrimack”) and with Bridgewrighting as the record suggests he was contracted to build a bridge over the Piscataquog in his hometown of Bedford shortly after returning from his schooling at Atkinson Academy.

From an 1850 History of Bedford compiled and published on the occasion of the towns centennial celebration.

The following excerpt, compiled by a local historian just decades after the loss of our subject bridge is rife with errors, (the most glaring of these being that the bridge he built was not the one at the Falls, nor was the Falls Bridge the crossing the Amoskeag Corporation purchased and in time would rebuild after Riddle’s span was lost to a freshet in 1851) but does give an overview of the timeline for this the second Amoskeag Bridge.

The Amoskeag as seen froma a nearby rooftop on the east bank - It is interesting to note that with this bridge being built just five years after Town patented his Truss that the NH variant of Lattice Plank radiating towards plumb at the terminal ends had already developed - This photo is seen here as a courtesy of and thanks to the Todd Clark Archives

The Amoskeag (?) as seen from a a nearby rooftop on the east bank – The Amoskeag Falls Bridge can be seen in the distance – It is interesting to note that with this bridge being built just five years after Town patented his Truss that the NH variant of Lattice Plank radiating towards plumb at the terminal ends had already developed – This photo is seen here as a courtesy of and thanks to The Todd Clark Archives

View of Manchester

Those interested in the history of the crossing, the first Amoskeag Bridge or the chain of replacement spans time and circumstance has demanded, and of how the second Amoskeag and its replacement The McGregor were the property of the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company and not the city, (This relationship would end with the companies Depression Era bankruptcy and the loss of the McGregor Bridge to the Great Flood of 1936) can click on the underlined text to open the first two entries in the series.

Van Slyek & G 1878

Newsreel footage covering the Amoskeag Mfg Co’s bankruptcy and initial efforts at recovery in a consortium formed to rescue the Mill property from the receivership auction – To borrow the phrase of the newsreel’s narrator – Time marches on

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About Will Truax

I'm a timberframer and preservation carpenter, and regularly work on Covered Bridge restoration projects. Bridgewrighting can be a tough row to hoe, for a myriad of reasons. From scheduling issues to differing opinions and philosophies on what is appropriate in methods and materials, to multiple jurisdictions still not sufficiently vetting bidders resumes - Which is to say, just because a company is on that state approved list and capable of building that seven figure overpass, this does not mean they are capable of restoring a wooden bridge... So, I have much to say about all this and more - And despite my tough row observation, I promise not to whine. View all posts by Will Truax

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