This unique structure is a special type of dam found on the Erie Canal known as a Mohawk Dam or Bridge Dam, and it was essentially a movable dam used for waterways that needed control during periods of unpredictable water level changes. While some dams feature bridge structures that are used as access structures for maintenance of a dam, this type of dam literally uses the bridge as the primary support system for the gates which can be lowered from the bridge. In a sense, the dam is a fixed version of an Emergency Swing Dam, such as that found in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
Information from Cultural Resources Information System:
Dam E-9 is 370' between abutments with two 180' spans each supporting six pairs of uprights and gate bays. There is a wide concrete sheathed spillway on the north bank between the dam pier and the railroad.
The Erie Canal is one of the most famous and historically significant canals in the United States. Aside from the widely recognized historical significance of the canal as a transportation facility itself, a lesser known fact is that the canal is historically significant for the bridges that have spanned the canal over the years. It was here on the Erie Canal where Squire Whipple found a place to successfully get his "Whipple Arch" bowstring truss bridges constructed in significant quantities in the mid-1800s. The success of his Whipple Arch bridges helped contribute to the nationwide transition from wooden bridges to metal bridges. The period of time from 1905-1918 where the Erie Canal was upgraded and widened to become part of the larger New York State Barge Canal was a time of change for the bridges of the canal. Between the process of widening and upgrading the canal, and the nationwide trend to build more substantial bridges in the early 20th Century, the previous generation of bridges (many undoubtedly those Whipple Arch bridges) were replaced by a series of new bridges. These bridges have proved to be very durable and thanks to a clear commitment to preservation on the part of New York State Department of Transportation and other agencies, the Erie Canal and the New York State Barge Canal system, particularly the western section from Lockport to Spencerport boasts one of the highest densities of historic bridges of any waterway in the country. The vast majority of bridges on this section are maintained in beautiful condition.
Although the new bridges from the early 20th Century took a variety of forms, two forms were by far the most common. In rural or spacious areas, a fixed double-intersection Warren through truss was used, with a dirt approach providing the modest elevation needed for a fixed bridge over the canal. Double-intersection Warren truss bridges are generally considered an uncommon truss type on a nationwide basis. In urban and less spacious areas, a vertical lift bridge was used. The vertical lift bridges are an unusual design. Instead of towers that rise above the bridge in a traditional vertical lift bridge and pull the truss span up using cables, these bridges have vertical endposts which extend below the deck and into the ground. When operated, these extended endposts (called the lifting frame) rise out of the ground. In an engineering sense, these unusual vertical lift bridges might be thought of as bedstead truss bridges. Another unique feature of these lift bridges are the stairways found at each end of the bridge on the sidewalks. These stairways allow pedestrians to continue to cross the bridge when the structure is in the raised position. These vertical lift bridges continue to operate for boats today, so observing these unique bridges remains possible.
Elsewhere, the New York State Barge Canal System boasts other types of historically significant bridges.
View National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for the New York State Barge Canal (Alternate ZIP Version In Sections) - Note this impressive document contains modern color photos of the bridges, some from unique angles, historical photos showing bridge construction, and original plan sheets for some bridges too.
View a HistoricBridges.org photo gallery of the historical photos, modern photos, and original plans contained in the National Register Nomination. This photo gallery can also be found in the Fairport Bridge's page.
View Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) Index - Has a list of structures including bridges that were individually documented for HAER.
This bridge is tagged with the following special condition(s): Unorganized Photos
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