New Website Honors Old Bridge

A group of Westporters — working hard to designate a 1.2-mile stretch of Route 136 as a scenic highway — is highlighting the history of the 19th-century Saugatuck River swing bridge.

To do so, they’ve added a 21st-century element: a website.

Launched a few days ago, the site — — includes a treasure trove of images and information about the structure. There are links to its long history and innovative architecture, along with media stories, rare source documents, and related bridge sites.

A classic shot of the Bridge Street (Cribari) bridge, from the Preserve Westport website.

A classic shot of the Bridge Street (Cribari) bridge, from the Preserve Westport website. Click on or hover over this photo, and those below, to enlarge.

As the state Department of Transportation and town officials discuss renovations — and possible replacement — of the Bridge Street (aka Cribari) bridge, provides important background on the span, its role in the Saugatuck community on one side of the river, and the residential neighborhood on the other.

The website comes at at a key time. Within the next 2 weeks, the DOT Scenic Highway Advisory Committee is expected to announce a recommendation regarding what would be Westport’s 1st scenic highway.

Hand-cranking the Bridge Street bridge.

Hand-cranking the Bridge Street bridge.

At a public forum here last month, Colleen Kissane — chair of DOT’s advisory committee — said that such a designation would provide further safeguards for both the bridge and Route 136.

“It’s another level of approval,” she noted. “Environmental Protection would have to weigh in on it….Tourism would weigh in on it, where normally they would not.”

Westporters — private citizens and town officials alike — will weigh in too, in the months ahead. To see what everyone is talking about, visit the bridge and Route 136.

And, of course, visit

The Bridge Street bridge opens, allowing maritime vessels to sail up the Saugatuck River.

The Bridge Street bridge opens, allowing maritime vessels to sail up the Saugatuck River.


18 responses to “New Website Honors Old Bridge

  1. Matthew Mandell

    Let me be the first to say very cool!!!! Thanks for putting this up and doing all the leg work, all around.

    Let’s be clear the DOT has an agenda and it is bigger than the bridge. They will be doing work on 95 and need an escape valve, the bridge is it. but right now it is not high enough to let the big rigs over it. They want this, they need this. WE DON’T!!!! The bridge is historic, the bridge is cool, but the bridge also protects our community. The safety and quality of our community is at stake. The bridge does not cause traffic issues, it prevents them.

  2. Some great historical photos–and very impressive work by the group in creating the website (and very impressive backgrounds of all those involved).

    Looking through the history on the site raised a question for me: why can’t the solution reached in the late 1980s be employed again? In other words, if there needs to be repair work done to the Cribari Bridge and the state feels it needs sufficient alternate truck routes while the local section of 95 is being worked on, why not simply build that temporary bridge once again?

    I realize it would create more traffic on Bridge Street (which I use frequently), but isn’t it likely that there is going to be more local traffic, period, whenever the 95 repair work is done?

    The bottom line: would pursuing the late 1980s approach help ensure saving the Cribari Bridge?

    • In February 1987, the Cribari Bridge was designated a National Historic Structure. In order to maintain the integrity of the site, it is important to ensure its setting and locale as well. A temporary bridge made permanent would destroy the site. This is also why simply disassembling and moving it someplace else would also destroy the Bridge’s integrity.

      Thanks for boosting this informative PreserveWestport site. A great way to try to ensure that the experiences of those who have lived here before us aren’t obliterated.

      • Werner, thanks for the follow-up. I wasn’t looking to suggest that a temporary replacement bridge be made permanent.

  3. don l bergmann

    Just as Matt Mandell said, “very cool”. Once again I am proud of Westporters.
    Don Bergmann

  4. Preserving the Cribari Bridge is important work. If we do not want the DOT to remake Saugatuck, the bridge must be preserved. Repaired perhaps, but not altered to the extent that Saugatuck becomes an alternative to 95 as the DOT plods through renovations which might last as long as a decade, if the DOT’s earlier efforts are used as evidence. There are other threats to Saugatuck, but we will need to deal with them as they come. Tolls on 95 are among the them.

  5. Carol Buffinton

    I am very excited and proud of my fellow Westporters’ hard work regarding preserving the iconic and historic Cribari bridge. Please make sure to visit their new website and support their efforts! Preserving the character of Westport becomes increasingly more important and necessary as a balance to the new and future development now overtaking our town.

  6. — a wonderful, comprehensive website — everything you wanted to know about the historic Cribari Bridge that spans the Saugatuck, and more! Thank you for spreading the word about this new source of both historic and more recent information.

    It bears repeating that the Cribari Bridge is an integral part of Saugatuck and deserves to be preserved.

    To fail to do so would be most detrimental to a newly updated Saugatuck Center, both through loss of an iconic structure as well as the inevitable inflow of through traffic from I-95. Neither Saugatuck nor neighboring and affected parts of Westport would ever be the same.

  7. Every winter for the last 20 years I look forward to the colored lights getting turned on. It’s always comes as a great surprise and makes Westport the charming New England town I love coming home to. Hope the tradition never ends it would change the town.

  8. Im really struggling with the bridge issue, I can not see the DOT leaving it alone , as i suggested they do at the town hall meeting. So if they are to start the ball moving forward for another bridge” restoration ” or even replacement . (worse case scenario) then my question would be what about the bridge height for local boat traffic? I asked the DOT at the meeting this very question and they had no idea about its current height and the restriction it has plagued our river since inception.

    Last year we had 19 openings, this year will be close to double that.
    Can there not be a conversation about the traffic that the openings are going to cause and possible options for the answer to the height issue under the bridge? Im not stating that I dislike this bridge as I do love the cool factor and the view from my home but are we missing an opportunity?

  9. Matt….”the bridge does not cause traffic issues, it prevents them.” I find that personally questionable, I think it definitely causes a lot of traffic problems. By why should we amateurs discuss that issue; are you a traffic engineer? I’m not. Lets bring in someone who knows or let our police department bring in someone who knows. Either way, that bridge will be disastrous when work begins up on 95.

    • Matthew Mandell

      Sandy, the cause of the traffic is the intersection at Riverside, not the bridge. If it was the cause, then why is there no back from the bridge in the other direction? There isn’t. Sure people drive a bit slower on it due to its width, but everyone gets across efficiently and the extra seconds don’t create the traffic. That’s about it in a nut shell.

  10. Julie Fatherley

    As fans of Route 66 when we visit family in New Mexico we want to keep that same historic legend in our own town. I-95 should not start to use 136 as another escape route for the congestion we deal with everyday. Driving on Cross Highway and other alternative routes has become a major impediment already during rush hours. We do not need more of the same. Thanks to Matthew Mandel and all the other diligent workers who have worked hard to
    preserve this amazing part of Westport history…Julie Fatherley

  11. martha hauhuth

    Many thanks to Morley, Helen, John and Wendy for this excellent website and particularly for the well written and comprehensive history of the Bridge Street Bridge. It’s an honor to be included along with respected
    Westporters like Jackie Heneage and Alan Nevas in the list of public servants who have loved the bridge and advocated for its preservation over the years. It would be a tragic day for Westport if the bridge were demolished. When we lose our history and landmarks – our collective story – we lose our soul.
    Marty Hauhuth

  12. Great website and thanks to Morley, Wendy, Helen and John for their hard work and dedication to preserving this historic and unique bridge.

  13. I love the photos showing the bridge opening. I haven’t been lucky enough to catch that “live.”
    Excellent work in both getting the website up and the preservation efforts thus far.

  14. mary schmerker

    The website is informative and very well done. Saving this bridge is important to the area. If the bridge was replaced the traffic would become a nightmare for the residents. Saving this iconic structure and preserving the history is important to the area. It is a traffic quieting tool keeping 18 wheelers and other heavy vehicles from bypassing 95 when the traffic is heavy. I can’t imagine Westport with out this unique bridge.

  15. Martha Constable

    The bridge is a beauty, and the fact that it has survived to this point is a testimony to its place in the hearts of Westporters.
    The scenic highway designation would ensure a level of local input and approval over any changes to the bridge that simply wouldn’t exist otherwise. The best interests of Westport, as we see time and again, are not necessarily served by top-down decisions in Hartford!