This bridge is an extremely important and extremely bizarre bridge. Nearly every span is a unique form of truss bridge, and the spans were built over three different dates. As such, this bridge has a unique and striking appearance.
From west to east, the spans on this bridge are as follows. A riveted Pennsylvania through truss, built in 1895. A riveted, double-intersection Warren pony truss, built in 1883. A through truss swing span built in 1883. A riveted Pratt pony truss, built in 1914. A riveted Pennsylvania through truss, built in 1914. A riveted Pratt pony truss, built in 1914. As such, there are a total of five unique spans on this bridge. The only identical spans are the riveted Pratt pony spans.
The western 1895 Pennsylvania through truss is very unusual because its polygonal top chord only features four slopes including endposts. It is in effect, in between being a standard trapezoidal truss and a Camelback. The swing span is an extremely old surviving example of a highway swing bridge, which the oldest known example in the entire country dating to 1879.
The 1883 swing span and the double-intersection Warren pony truss spas are the oldest examples of a highway truss with riveted connections in the state. Indeed, they may be among the oldest examples of this kind in the entire country. 1883 was early in the pin-connected truss era, and riveted connections did not become common, especially in highway bridges, until after 1900. The 1883 swing span is also the oldest known example of the Boston Bridge Works, an important Massachusetts bridge company that was extremely prolific, especially in its home state.
Information and Findings From Massachusetts's Historic Bridge Inventory
Date Built: 1883, 1895, 1914
Span 1: riveted Pennsylvania through truss, built
1895. Span 2: riveted, 2 intersection Warren pony truss, built 1883.
Span 3: Rim-bearing, swing, through truss built in 1883. Span 4: riveted
Pratt pony truss, built in 1914. Span 5: riveted Pennsylvania through
truss, built in 1914. Span 6: riveted Pratt pony truss, built in 1914.
History of Bridge
Seat's Ferry was in operation on or near this crossing in the early 18th century; in 1794 the Massachusetts Legislature incorporated the Merrimack Bridge proprietors and approved construction of a bridge on this site. This was apparently built within the next year. The original bridge had been destroyed by 1828 when the legislature approved construction of a new bridge on the old foundations, to be 22 feet above high water at the Haverhill end. In 1862 the County commissioners were authorized to relocate and reconstruct the draw (implying that a drawspan of some kind has previously been in use here) and the present iron spans 2 & 3 were the result (the bridge had been made public in 1868). The County Commissioners were authorized to build a new iron westerly span and new abutments in 1894; the result is the structure of span 1. From 1868-1909, the towns of Haverhill & W. Newbury split the maintenance on the bride; in 1909 the County assumed full responsibility. The Legislature approved construction of the 3 eastern steel truss spans (spans 4, 5, and 6) to replace the two old wooden spans between the draw span and the West Newbury shore in 1913.
Significance of Bridge
The Rocks Village Bridge contains the oldest movable
span among all the bridges presently under MassHighway purview. It is
located adjacent to the Rocks Village National Register Historic
District, on a site which has been utilized as a major Merrimack River
crossing since at least as the early 18th century.
Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes
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