Press-Republican

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February 20, 2010

Champlain Bridge destroyed on 80th anniversary

Champlain Bridge a landmark for 80 years

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He had endured scorn from construction workers on the bridge, who threw rivets at him as the ferry passed underneath.

The bridge was listed on the National Historic Register at the time of its demise, and DOT officials had to execute a programmatic agreement with the federal government to justify taking it down.

It was in the process of being named a National Historic Landmark when it was closed, Engelhart said.

"If you look at it just from the point of view of a historic structure, there are fewer than 20 structures in the whole Adirondack region that meet the criteria of a National Historic Landmark. That's the highest federal designation. That includes Ticonderoga and Crown Point forts, (great) camps Santanoni and Sagamore. Those are the highest level of historic sites. This should have been one of them."

A BRILLIANT MODEL

The bridge's architect, Charles M. Spofford, used innovative design techniques to build the span. One of them was to separate the steel truss from its traditional function as a railroad bridge.

The Champlain Bridge was almost parabolic in shape, continuous rather than segmented, and constructed with a navigational height that allowed large steamboats to pass underneath.

For his work, Spofford was awarded a gold medal in 1930 by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Following the opening of the Champlain Bridge, many continuous truss bridges were built, Engelhart said.

"Other engineers quickly saw this was a brilliant way of doing a crossing. It quickly got duplicated. It provided a model for other bridges across the country. It was efficient in its use of materials, ease of construction and getting to the needed height in the middle of bridge."

Many people living in the area feel sad about the loss of the bridge, Engelhart said.

"It's a big loss. Anytime a community lives with something for 80 years, you know how affectionate people become.

"It's almost like an old friend is gone."

E-mail Lohr McKinstry at: lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com

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