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Wiseman Bridge

Wiseman Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: June 17, 2012

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Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Chestnut Street Over Main Canal
Lewiston: Androscoggin County, Maine: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1928 By Builder/Contractor: Unknown
Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
64.0 Feet (19.5 Meters)
Structure Length
74.2 Feet (22.6 Meters)
Roadway Width
24 Feet (7.32 Meters)
1 Main Span(s)
Inventory Number

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

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

This bridge is one of only two known remaining rainbow arch bridges in the entire state of Maine. Rainbow arch bridges are also extremely uncommon nationwide. As such, the bridge is highly significant as a rare example of its type. As a rainbow arch, it is also an example of one of the most visually stunning and attractive forms of concrete arch bridge. Unlike the more common concrete deck arch bridge, rainbow arch bridges also show their beautiful arches to those who cross the bridge, not just those who pass under it. This bridge features overhead bracing, which, in addition to providing the bridge with stability, also visually enhances the crossing experience. The portal bracing contains the construction date cast into the bridge. Additionally, bronze letters set into the portal bracing spell out the bridge name. The bridge also has a bronze plaque on the arch ribs.

Above: Historical photo showing bridge construction. Note temporary walkway which appears to have been used by residents and construction workers alike. Photo Courtesy Brian Clark, from Bernard Clark's collection.

Above: Historical photo showing bridge construction. Photo Courtesy Brian Clark, from Bernard Clark's collection.

Information and Findings From Maine's Historic Bridge Inventory

Discussion of Bridge

Chestnut Street 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 Blue Hill (114' long, 20'-3"-wide roadway, built in 1926). A fourth example built at Farmington in 1928-1929 was destroyed in the 1987 flood. Chestnut Street is the oldest and the shortest 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 cast and 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 Chestnut Street Bridge also reflects Llewellyn Edwards's 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 in a mill historic district in Lewiston. All three thru arch bridges represent the era of 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 the technologically 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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Maps and Links: Wiseman Bridge

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2021 National Bridge Inventory: View listed bridges within 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) of this bridge.

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