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Atherton Bridge

Atherton Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth and Rick McOmber

Bridge Documented: July 12, 2008

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Bolton Road (Old Alignment) Over Nashua River
Lancaster: Worcester County, Massachusetts: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1870 By Builder/Contractor: J. H. Cofrode and Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Main Span Length
72 Feet (21.9 Meters)
Structure Length
72 Feet (21.9 Meters)
Roadway Width
18.5 Feet (5.64 Meters)
1 Main Span(s)
NBI Number
Not Applicable

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

This bridge's future is at risk!

Bridge Status: This bridge was closed to pedestrians following a flood in spring 2020 and its future is uncertain!

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

HAER Drawings, PDF - HAER Data Pages, PDF

View The National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form For This Historic Bridge

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

This bridge is one of two known Post truss bridges in the country: both are in Worcester County: the other is the Ponakin Bridge. The Atherton Bridge is also significant as a bridge displaying Phoenix columns for diagonal members on the bridge. The Post truss is an unusual application of this rare form of built-up beam.

This bridge was the first iron bridge in Lancaster. Indeed, with an 1870 construction date, it is among the oldest metal bridges in the country.

The bridge retains excellent historic integrity, with no alterations noted aside from a single replaced column, remarkable considering its ancient age. However, structurally there are some signs that the bridge is in need of restoration. For example, a couple of the diagonal members have slipped out of its top chord connection, and are offset. HAER mentions that the northeast endpost went missing too.

HAER thoroughly documents the unusual design, history, and details of this bridge. Be sure to look to their documentation for a complete history of the bridge.

Given a relatively higher attention given to historic bridge preservation in Massachusetts (and several other northeastern USA states) than is seen in the country as a whole, one would seem to expect to see this extremely rare Post truss restored. However, this bridge has just been abandoned, which is obviously better than the demolition that this bridge might have received had it been located in another state, yet a bridge this rare deserves so much more than abandonment. This bridge should be either restored in place or relocated and restored for pedestrian use. Any restoration of the bridge should be undertaken with the greatest care to retain all original material possible, and any replaced material must be exactly replicated, right down to the rivets on the bridge.

This bridge is tagged with the following special condition(s): Phoenix Columns


Photo Galleries and Videos: Atherton Bridge

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