Press-Republican

Local News

February 20, 2010

Champlain Bridge destroyed on 80th anniversary

Champlain Bridge a landmark for 80 years

(Continued)

State Sen. Mortimer Ferris of Ticonderoga was chairman of the Lake Champlain Bridge Commission when the bridge opened. Ferris's daughter, Elizabeth, cut the ribbon.

Roosevelt and Weeks were driven onto the bridge for the dedication ceremony. The governors shook hands, and they and other dignitaries made speeches.

A metal plaque commemorating the event was affixed to the middle of the bridge. It was removed before the demolition and is in DOT possession, awaiting a permanent museum display somewhere.

The stock market crash of 1929 came just six weeks after the bridge opened. Many believe it would not have been built during the Great Depression.

Construction of the 14-span, 2,190-foot-long bridge began in 1928 and was finished 15 months later. Crown Point was one of five possible sites and won based on the bedrock lake bed. Engineers said bedrock would better support a large bridge.

The sole death during construction was George Vanderhoof, 25, of Port Henry, who was hit on the head by falling construction materials. A rumor that another worker fell into the concrete as it was being poured for the pillars and was entombed there was never confirmed.

A FERRY SCORNED

The bi-state commission subsequently included the Rouses Point Bridge to Vermont, a drawbridge replaced by a modern span in 1987.

The Champlain Bridge Commission charged vehicles a toll to cross. When the new bridge was built at Rouses Point, tolls were taken off both bridges. The spans were turned over to New York and Vermont on Dec. 11, 1987, with New York responsible for maintenance.

The toll when the Champlain Bridge opened was $1 a car, but that was down to 50 cents by the time crossing was made free.

When the Champlain Bridge first opened, it put at least one local steam ferry, owned by Capt. Thomas Weatherwax, out of business.

Weatherwax had vowed he would run his ferry after the bridge opened even if it was just for "two bits" but his boat shut down only a couple of months later.

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