This bridge is one of only two known examples of a rainbow arch bridge remaining in Maine. This bridge is an outstanding example of its type, with a relatively long 100 foot span that includes overhead bracing. The bridge contains arch ribs with rectangular incised lines for accent, while also including decorative finials on the portal bracing. The south portal contains a simple 1926 date marker, while the north portal contains a bronze plaque naming the bridge the Stevens Bridge. Although this is the official name of the bridge, the bridge appears to be locally known as the Falls Bridge. The bridge retains excellent historic integrity. The concrete on the railings appears to be new, suggesting they were replaced. However the design of the railings suggests that if they were replaced, they may replicate the original design.
Maine once had one of the largest rainbow arch bridges in the entire northeastern United States, the Norridgewock Bridge, a four span rainbow arch bridge. Despite that bridge's national significance as a rare, long example of its type in an entire region, the bridge was demolished and replaced in 2011. Now, the Falls Bridge is one of only two examples (both single span) that remain, and now MaineDOT has even targeted this bridge for replacement. It is assumed that Section 106 historic review will apply to this project, however a news article in May 6, 2011, indicated that MaineDOT already preferred replacement. No online documents or websites produced my MaineDOT exist to confirm that Section 106 has been conducted. If it has not yet been conducted, these statements indicate an unfair bias toward replacement that should not exist when entering the Section 106 process.
Information and Findings From Maine's Historic Bridge Inventory
Discussion of Bridge
The 1926 Blue Hill Falls bridge is one of three surviving reinforced concrete tied thru arch bridges built in Maine between 1926 and 1928. The other two are located at Norridgewock (Covered Bridge, 589' long, 20'-wide roadway, built in 1928) and [sic]. A fourth example built at Farmington in 1928-1929 was destroyed in the 1987 flood. Blue Hill Falls is one of the oldest of the design developed by state bridge engineer Llewellyn Edwards (1873-1952), who left the commission in 1928 to accept a post with the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads in Washington. The encased steel and the reinforced concrete thru arch bridge types had been developed in the United States during the early 1910s, but neither had apparently ever been used in Maine. Edwards' design concept of using reinforced concrete for the tension and compression members of a thru arch span was not unique, but what is most unusual is the use of the encased built-up steel shoe or skewback in an otherwise all reinforced concrete bridge. A few examples of reinforced concrete thru arch bridges from the 1920s and 1940s are known in Pennsylvania and Delaware, and there may be many more examples in the western half of the country, but they are rare in the east. None of the other known mid-Atlantic and New England examples have the steel shoe detail. The Maine examples may be unique, and they certainly well represent the engineering thinking and ability of the Maine State Highway Commission's first - and one of its most influential - state bridge engineers. The Blue Hill bridge also reflects Llewellyn Edwards' approach to aesthetics, where mass combined with straight and curved lines were used to create structures that were "pleasing to the eye" rather than through the use of applied decoration. The bridge is individually significant, and it is located on a scenic highway. All three thru arch bridges represent the era the "golden age" of bridge building as well as any other bridge in the state. Its original aesthetics are a significant feature. Llewellyn Edwards came to the commission with over 20 years of bridge designing experience, and he had a great sense of where bridge technology had been and where it was going. His combination of elements of period reinforced concrete and steel bridge technologies for the three "concrete" thru arch bridges in the state was uncommon and may be unique. It is the arches themselves with both steel and reinforced concrete members that are technologically the most significant feature of the bridge. The bridge is judged to have high preservation priority because it is a rare example of its type/design.
Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes
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