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Rocks Village Bridge

   


Rocks Village Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth and Rick McOmber

Bridge Documented: July 12, 2008
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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Bridge Street Over Merrimack River
Location
Rocks Village: Essex County, Massachusetts
Structure Type
Metal Rivet-Connected Double-Intersection Warren Through Truss, Movable: Swing (Rim Bearing Center Pier) and Approach Spans: Metal Rivet-Connected Truss, Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1883 By Builder/Contractor: Boston Bridge Works of Boston, Massachusetts

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
1914
Main Span Length
192 Feet (58.5 Meters)
Structure Length
812 Feet (247.5 Meters)
Roadway Width
24 Feet (7.3 Meters)
Spans
1 Main Span(s) and 5 Approach Span(s)
NBI Number
H12020311DOTNBI

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Bridge Documentation

View Archived National Bridge Inventory Report - Has Additional Details and Evaluation

View Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) Documentation For This Bridge

HAER Data Pages, PDF

View Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) Inventory Forms For This Historic Bridge

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

Structure Description

Date Built: 1883, 1895, 1914

Designer:
:Span 1: E.S. Shaw; Spans 2 & 3: D.H. Andrew; Spans 4, 5 & 6: R.R. Evans, G.F. Swain; Builder:
:Spans 1, 2 & 3: Boston Bridge Works; Spans 4, 5, & 6: John Cashman & Sons, McClintic Marshall Co. (steel);

Main Unit: # of Spans: 1
Length of Each: 1 @ 158';

Approaches: # of Spans: 5
Length of Each: 1 @ 175'; 1 @ 71'; 1 @ 107'; 1 @ 192'; 1 @ 94';

Structure Type

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.

Timber decks of spans 2 and 3 apparently replaced several times, the last time between 1959 and 1965, with new timber planks and stringers.

Original timber stringers and deck of span 1 replaced in 1914 with steel stringers and a reinforced concrete deck. A new bituminous concrete wearing surface was placed in 1952.

Plans show a brick wearing surface on spans 4, 5, and 6, however this was replaced by 1941, when a bituminous concrete wearing surface was placed. Piers and abutments have been generally rebuilt. The oldest is probably the center pier under the swing span as well as the pier between spans 2 and 3, both probably dating from 1883. The swing span fender has been heavily rebuilt several times.

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.

To date, only 44 movable bridges have been identified in MassHighway database; 13 of these are swing bridges, and 9 of the 13 are rim-bearing swings. The Rocks Bridge, the oldest of them all, is still operated by hand.

It is one of the earliest riveted (as opposed to pin-connected) metal trusses yet identified in the MassHighway inventory, and the earliest known surviving work discovered to date of the Boston Bridge Works, an important and extremely prolific Massachusetts bridge building firm active from the 1870's through the 1930's.

Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes

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