More than 4 years ago, I published a story by Wendy Crowther.
The preservation-minded Westporter described the history of 19 Craftsman-style stone bridges, built over Willow, Muddy and Deadman brooks, at the dawn of the automobile age.
A century later, 9 remained. They’d survived hurricanes, road reconstruction projects, and collisions with decades of distracted drivers.
Today we pass over these bridges daily. Yet few of us notice their rustic presence. Their stone walls (“parapets,” in bridge lingo) were designed to convey the sense of a park-like setting — an aesthetic popular at the time.
Most blend seamlessly into the roadside landscape, often appearing to be mere continuations of Westport’s many fieldstone walls. They are simple, folkloric, and historically important.
And she added: “They are at risk.”
She and fellow Westport Preservation Alliance colleague Morley Boyd were particularly concerned about the Kings Highway North Bridge over Willow Brook.
Its enormous stone foundation perhaps dated back to the original “King’s Highway,” built in 1763 to carry mail between New York and Boston.
Wendy and Morley asked the town’s Historic District Commission to list all 9 remaining bridges on the National Register. She said:
We feel that these very special bridges possess the integrity of location, design, setting, materials and workmanship to qualify for this distinguished honor.
On a more visceral level, the preservation of these bridges will allow us to appreciate the human craftsmanship that went into building them. By picturing the crew of local men who lifted each stone by hand and mortared them in place, we’ll not just notice these bridges — we will feel them.
Nearly half a decade later, they’re still pushing the HDC to act.
That Kings Highway North stone bridge has already been lost.
The one on Greens Farms Road over Muddy Brook may be next. The Flood & Erosion Control Board voted recently to prioritize its replacement.
Its historic past was not part of the discussion.
That’s a shame, Wendy and Morley say.
“Of the few remaining circa 1910 stone bridges still remaining in Westport, this is the most beautiful due to its length, its gentle bend, and its setting,” Morley notes.
“Perhaps if the board members had known this, they might have asked different questions, and perhaps some may have changed the way they voted.”
Wendy adds, “Having advocated for their preservation for years, I know that there are ways to deal with or divert flood waters through adjacent culverts without having to replace the bridge in its entirety.
“There are guidelines and engineering publications on how this can be done without ruining the dimensions and historic integrity of the existing bridge.
“These problems can be mitigated without destroying this beautiful bridge. Let’s please insist on seeking alternate solutions to replacement.”