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Aiken Street Bridge

Ouellette Bridge

Aiken Street Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth and Rick McOmber

Bridge Documented: July 12, 2008

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Aiken Street Over Merrimack River
Location
Lowell: Middlesex County, Massachusetts: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1883 By Builder/Contractor: Berlin Iron Bridge Company of East Berlin, Connecticut

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
1998
Main Span Length
155 Feet (47.24 Meters)
Structure Length
780 Feet (237.74 Meters)
Roadway Width
29 Feet (8.84 Meters)
Spans
5 Main Span(s)
NBI Number
L15020

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Bridge Documentation

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

HAER Data Pages, PDF

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

View A Berlin Iron Bridge Company Catalog

This bridge is among the most beautiful bridges in the country, with its repeating, gracefully flowing lenticular shapes combining with the intricate trusses and built-up beams which contain attractive v-lacing and lattice in many places. It is the longest lenticular truss bridge in the country, and also is in first place for most number of lenticular spans, which is five. This is a nationally significant bridge, but is also significant on a statewide basis as the second oldest lenticular truss bridge in the Massachusetts.

HAER has a significant narrative for this bridge with a lot of information, be sure to check it out.

The bridge has been rehabilitated and today remains in excellent condition with an attractive red paint present on the bridge. The rehabilitations appears to have been sensitive to the historic materials and design of the bridge. Original riveted, built-up floorbeams remain on the bridge. Vehicular railings protect the bridge from impact damage, but are low profile and non-obstructive visually. Original decorative lattice pedestrian railings remain. While some metal has been bolted onto some parts of the bridge, no major members have been replaced or obstructed by large modern additions to the bridge. The work was well done, and as of 2009 the bridge had a high sufficiency rating. In additional testimony to the wide deck width for a bridge from the 1880s, the bridge is not even listed as functionally obsolete in the National Bridge Inventory, which is unusual for a historic bridge. This is a bridge that deserves the highest preservation priority, and it appears that it has indeed received this.

This bridge appears to have been one of the more significant achievements of the Berlin Iron Bridge Company. Thanks to the digitized archives of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, an original proposal and specifications for a truss bridge is available to provide a look into the Berlin Iron Bridge Company and the typical conduct and business operation of it and other bridge companies of the late 19th Century. The two images seen in this narrative are taken from the proposal. This proposal's beautiful letterhead logo (shown at the top of this narrative), and the Aiken Street Bridge is one of the bridges pictured in the logo. This suggests the pride the company felt upon completing what was undoubtedly among their larger projects. The complete proposal is available in PDF format here. The images were digitized by Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. Although the proposal is for a bridge in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania it is likely representative of the sort of proposal that would have have been supplied by the company for the Aiken Street Bridge and other bridges the company built. During this period in history, the purchaser (city, county, etc) often did not produce a very detailed contract proposal as is done today, and instead the contractor (the bridge company) often took the lead role in not just construction, but engineering as well. This is why the Aiken Street Bridge turned out to be a lenticular truss bridge, simply because Berlin Iron Bridge Company was the company who was hired to build the bridge. If a different company, such as the Wrought Iron Bridge Company had been hired instead, the bridge would undoubtedly been a completely different truss type. Also, the proposal, specifications, and plan sheets provided for these bridges to the purchaser were often nowhere near as detailed as plans and specifications seen for bridges in the 20th Century, where owner agencies began to took the lead role in design.

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