Category Archives: Lost Heritage

Steadfast Against the Storm

I had it in mind to finally post a followup to The Central Bridge entry Friday, I’d been waiting on image accreditation permissions and access to an artifact, a literal lone surviving piece of that long lost bridge…

Then the distraction of this thirty hour April Fool’s Day storm and a bit of news which also crossed my horizon created a need to update the blog’s readership regarding an entry of a few months back, a lamentation entitled A Trace of Tears. The news and need to update is in how the low bidders chosen pre-qualified “timber specialist” has now formally engaged a subcontractor, one that redetermines how the framing of the new Blenheim is now to be executed, being that it is not the same automated manufactory they had enlisted to execute their last new-build.

A_Wall

A Stonewall in the woods standing steadfast against snowfall and time, much like little-known truths, somehow also obscured and almost lost, as if such were likewise buried behind layers of ice and a forest like tangle of trees

The timber framing community is a small one, so I have some sense of the firm enlisted. I do take solace in the fact that the three Trusses and the Tie, Floor Beam and Lateral Bracing systems which will unify them will be laid out and cut by genuine human beings.

I am at the same time bewildered that a pre-qualification process intended to limit bidders to those with deep wooden bridge resumés would then allow any of those deemed qualified, to sub off the whole of the fabrication effort (The very aspect of a joined timber truss bridge build that requires deep experience in know-how and understanding as to the requisite of full bearing tight fit) to a firm which had not navigated that same process. It is an absurdity that flies in the face of reason and fairness and makes a mockery of that process.

Bottom Chord Scarf

The multiple abutment Trait de Jupiter / Bolt ‘O Lightning tension splices specified in the man’s patent and common to Long Truss bridges through to the end of their common era – One of the flawless fifty plus Bottom Chord Scarfs of Powers’ lost Masterwork

That said this Timber Frame subcontracting firm does have a short bridge truss resumé, one limited to single numbers, recent developments which have only come to pass in the last several years since the very storm which took The Blenheim from us. Nor is this outfit a scribe-centric shop. historic practice demonstrates in the form of surviving example, and I adamantly hold to the notion that joined timber bridge framing, is for the need of both practicality and accuracy best laid out with “Scribe Rule” methods, this for all the reasons I articulated in Trace of Tears. I do unhappily understand that that notion is little shared and reasonably not understood by lay-people, nor for reason explored in an archival entry I penned a few years back titled Commonly Uncommon, is this even commonly understood by Timber astute Carpenters should they not be fully versed in both traditional bridge truss practice, and full blown layout to assembly scribe methodologies.

Blenheim's Bottom Chords

In the foreground a now lost glimpse of the beyond amazing Bottom Chords of the Double Barreled Blenheim – In the distance my truck and tool trailer in a stop to pay homage on a pilgrimage driven side-trip on a return home ride from a hired gun timber gig

That solace I find in this development is not only in the removal of the incapable robot, it is also found in the human connection which will undoubtedly unfold. Among those to cut this replication of the grandest of grand joined timber wooden bridges so recently lost to us, will be individuals, who will in the doing likely experience a spark of imagination, and perhaps that spark might help them find the focus to make this allied trade of Bridgewrighting, their live’s calling.


Light for the Bridge & Roofs for the Girls

A return to history this go…

And an exploration of a funky bridge now almost one hundred and thirty-five years gone.

nypl-digitalcollections-510d47e0-70ea-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99-001-w

This image from the Robert N. Dennis Collection of Stereoscopic Views is seen here as a courtesy of The New York City Public Library and the Digital Public Library of America

The roofed sidewalks on this ornate example “Village Bridge” would have at least twice daily protected some of Lowell’s Mill Girls from the elements on their way to and from their long demanding shifts.

The following video photo gallery, primarily showcasing images taken by child labor activist Louis Hine is seen here as a courtesy of Selena Marie Perez.

Do bear with me for the few coming days in that the current gig has me tripping through Lowell Mass with regularity, though with this last month being the depths of Winter, stops in the shop are either side of Sun’s up and don’t allow for my taking the few additional photographs I’d like to include in the entry.

Do click back in the coming days, as I’ll add those, and what is known of this one of a kind crossing, and conjecturalize a bit about the funk in its unique details.

Meanwhile, wonder after those details and this through-truss uncovered allowing us to see if we might arrive at like conclusions.


Heritage Does Matter

Heritage Matters is a favored catch-phrase of mine, perhaps familiar to many of you as being the chosen name of newsletters and magazines published by those in the preservation / conservation community seemingly the whole world over.

I’m choosing to cite this phrase in this months entry in that I am penning it as a response to a number of recent news “stories” – stealth missions really, thinly veiled opinion pieces questioning the use of public monies to fund Covered Bridge preservation. The piece that touched a nerve, visited a single bypassed bridge, and suggests spending dime one to maintain such is wholly unreasonable, then goes on to intimate that funding maintenance on any example is money poorly spent.

I would ask those suggesting zero maintenance what alternative is it they see or might suggest. The funding of immediate demolition? The gating of Portals and simply letting time and neglect take the bridge to the river, someday accepting the inevitable expense of in stream cleanup and removal?

These are the only alternatives – Both are as silly as zero maintenance, and I would contend the cost of either would exceed the cost of decade upon decade of maintenance.

Postponing simple maintenance, is the unspoken of multiplier that drives up the cost of bridge rehabilitation’s. Timber does not simply go bad – Unchecked leaks in roofing or siding, and the buildup of dirt and leaf-litter, these all too easily preventable and correctable issues, are the causal factor in most all problems requiring any more than simple maintenance.

Putting aside that heritage tourism inarguably though indirectly offsets the cost of simple maintenance, (though perhaps not the costs of neglect) lets talk about heritage…

Unwittingly, even to those who care not one iota about history or historic preservation, Built Heritage still matters. In that this is where our sense of selves and place come from. The barns and historic homes we pass each day are our sense of place.

The Brownstones of Boston, Brooklyn and Harlem, the Victorian rowhouses of the Haight-Asbury, the Triple-Deckers of Mattapan, Manchester and Pawtucket, the Log Crib Barns of Appalachia, the Forebay Barns of Pennsylvania and beyond, all provide our sense of region and place.

This sense of place is also carried by the Howe Truss bridges of Oregon and the place-bound iconic Kennedy Portals of central Indiana – These things are all part of the landscapes which tell us who both we, and our Grandparents are. These things are who we are.

Forsythe Covered Bridge, Orange Township Indiana - Photo credit  James W. Rosenthal - Use courtesy of The Library of Congress, Prints and Photograph Division HAER: IN-106-2.

Forsythe Covered Bridge, Orange Township Indiana, Built by Emmett L. Kennedy & Sons
Photo credit James W. Rosenthal – Use courtesy of The Library of Congress, Prints and Photograph Division HAER: IN-106-2.

Transportation Heritage like all Built Heritage is part of this little thought of, almost subconscious sense of who we are. With any and every example of our built heritage forever removed from our landscape, part of who we are is also lost.

Our sense of place is now being endlessly eroded and homogenized, as it is re-placed with strip-malls, chain restaurants and tract-mansions.

Heritage lost, is the loss of who and what we are, both as a culture and a people.

Why would we want to intentionally fail to maintain any of it?