Skip to main content

Choate Bridge - Ipswich, Massachusetts

 


The Choate Bridge was built in 1764 and is the oldest documented two span masonry arch bridge located in the United States. Named after Colonel John Choate, the builder who supervised the bridge's construction, the bridge is located on South Main Street (MA Routes 1A and 133) in downtown Ipswich, Massachusetts and spans over the Ipswich River. Originally, the bridge measured 80 feet, 6 inches in length and 20 feet, 6 inches in width. In 1838, the bridge was widened to 35 feet, 6 inches on the east side in order to accommodate another lane of traffic, while retaining its original length. Remaining unchanged in the bridge's 1838 expansion was the west side and the parapet of the bridge, along with a stone that has an inscription to Colonel John Choate.

Since 1641, there has been a bridge at this location over the Ipswich River in what is now downtown Ipswich, with the previous bridges being constructed with timber. In 1638 the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony ordered that the Bay Road to be laid out between present day Boston, Massachusetts and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and the road was to be constructed by each town along the way. When the road was built in Ipswich, a bridge had to be built over the river to accommodate the Bay Road. The longevity of the timber bridges were not great and they needed repair or replacement over time.

In 1764, the volume of traffic over the existing bridge had become so great that a wider replacement was needed as the bridge was deemed to be too narrow. A committee was appointed and they determined that the existing wooden bridge needed to be replaced with the recommendation that a stone masonry bridge be built. Essex County agree to bear half the expense of the construction of the new bridge and it was built at a total cost of £996 (this was before the American Revolution, after all). The bridge features of two elliptical arches with a nine inch rise between the spring line and crown. The bridge also features granite ashlar blocks in its construction.

Colonel Choate was supposedly unsure of how sturdy the new bridge would be, so he had a horse positioned to take him north to Canada in the event that an angry mob came after him if the bridge had collapsed upon the removal of the falsework. Little did Choate know that the bridge would not only stand that day, and even safely carry a significant amount of cars and trucks well into the 21st Century. He didn't need that horse after all.

Plans for widening the Choate Bridge were started in 1834, but questions arose regarding the location of the expansion, along with the expense of the project. The town of Ipswich petitioned the Massachusetts legislature in March 1837 to be not held liable for any part of the cost of the bridge which was over the tidewater, but that petition failed and the town was ordered to allow construction to proceed. The town was assessed $1037.50 for its share of the work, which ended the contention and the bridge was widened to 35 feet 6 inches on the bridge's east side. Major restoration work to the bridge was done in 1989 and additional base support work was necessitated after the a storm in 2006.

Today, the Choate Bridge meshes seamlessly within the landscape of downtown Ipswich. The bridge is a Massachusetts historic landmark and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. There is a small open area on the east side of the bridge where I took the photos of the bridge.







How to Get There:



Sources and Links:
Historic Ipswich - The Choate Bridge
HistoricBridges.org - Choate Bridge
American Society of Civil Engineers - Choate Bridge
Oldest.org - 8 Oldest Bridges in the United States
Bridgehunter.com - Choate Bridge

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Dummy Lights of New York

  A relic of the early days of motoring, dummy lights were traffic lights  that  were  placed  in the middle of a street intersection. In those early days, traffic shuffled through busy intersections with the help of a police officer who stood on top of a pedestal. As technology improved and electric traffic signals became commonplace, they were also  originally  positioned on a platform at the center of the intersection. Those traffic signals became known as  " dummy lights "  and were common until  traffic lights were moved  onto wires and poles that crossed above the intersection.  In New York State, only a handful of these dummy lights exist. The dummy lights  are found  in the Hudson Valley towns of Beacon and Croton-on-Hudson, plus there is an ongoing tug of war in Canajoharie in the Mohawk Valley, where their dummy light has been knocked down and replaced a few times. The dummy light in Canajoharie is currently out of commission, but popular demand has caused the dummy

Colorado Road (Fresno County)

Colorado Road is a rural highway located in San Joaquin Valley of western Fresno County.  Colorado Road services the city of San Joaquin in addition the unincorporated communities of Helm and Tranquility.  Colorado Road was constructed between 1910 and 1912 as a frontage road of the Hanford & Summit Lake Railway.  The roadway begins at California State Route 145 near Helm and terminates to the west at James Road in Tranquility.   Part 1; the history of Colorado Road Colorado Road was constructed as frontage road connecting the sidings of the Hanford & Summit Lake Railway.  The Hanford & Summit Lake Railway spanned from South Pacific Railroad West Side Line at Ingle junction southeast to the Coalinga Branch at Armona.  The Hanford & Summit Lake Railway broke ground during August 1910 and was complete by April 1912. The Hanford & Summit Lake Railway established numerous new sidings.  From Ingle the sidings of the line were Tranquility, Graham, San Joaquin, Caldwell, H

Madera County Road 400 and the 1882-1886 Yosemite Stage Road

Madera County Road 400 is an approximately twenty-four-mile roadway following the course of the Fresno River in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Road 400 begins at California State Route 145 near Madera and terminates to the north at Road 415 near Coarsegold.  Traditionally Road 400 was known as "River Road" prior to Madera County dropping naming conventions on county highways.  Road 400 was part of the original Yosemite Stage Route by the Washburn Brothers which began in 1882.  The Yosemite Stage Route would be realigned to the west in 1886 along what is now Road 600 to a rail terminus in Raymond.  Parts of Road 400 were realigned in 1974 to make way for the Hensley Lake Reservoir.  Part 1; the history of Madera County Road 400 Road 400 is historically tied to the Wawona Road and Hotel.  The Wawona Hotel is located near the Mariposa Grove in the modern southern extent of Yosemite National Park.   The origins of the Wawona Road are tied to the Wawona Hotel but it does predate th