Tag Archives: Cribari Bridge

The Future Of Saugatuck Might Be In Your Hands

Don’t say they didn’t ask.

As part of the “redevelopment of Saugatuck” — which you may or may not realize is being discussed — a 9-month process guided by the Saugatuck Transit Oriented Design Master Plan Steering Committee will “engage community members and a team of planners, engineers, economic planners and historic preservation experts to establish design standards and a master plan to enhance this important gateway for the Town of Westport.”

They’ve hired consultants.

And that firm — Barton & Partners — has created a survey.

The committee wants to make sure that every Westporter’s voice is heard. You can weigh in (and rank) your priorities, in areas like shopping, dining, neighborhood charm, waterfront access, historic significance, green space, transportation and walkability.

So here’s your chance. Click here to take the survey.

And click here for more information on the master plan process.

Westport artist Robert Lambdin’s “Saugatuck in the 19th Century” (1969) prominently featured the swing bridge. What’s next for the neighborhood?

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 — www.PreserveWestport.com — 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, PreserveWestport.com 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 PreserveWestport.com.

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.

 

Bridge Street Bridge: A Bit Of Background

The recent flurry of posts about the Bridge Street (William Cribari) Bridge prompted Kathie Motes Bennewitz to check in.

The town arts curator writes:

The recent Westport Historical Society exhibit, “Saugatuck@ Work,” addressed the Saugatuck bridge. This original drawing of the bridge (July, 1884) is from the WHS archives:

Bridge Street bridge - original drawing

The WHS exhibit included this information:

The Saugatuck River Bridge carries Route 136 over the Saugatuck River in Westport today. The bridge, built in 1884 and designed by the Union Bridge Company of Buffalo, is the oldest surviving movable bridge in Connecticut and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The movable bridge allows waterborne traffic to easily pass, which was crucial to the area’s maritime economy at the time it was built.

The bridge consists of a 144-foot-long fixed approach span on the eastern side, and a hand-cranked movable span. Both spans are pin-connected Pratt through truss designs made of wrought iron.

In the mid-1980s there was a successful 2-year battle to save and restore this Westport landmark. The battle began when Federal and state officials determined that the 100-year-old structure had rotting floor beams, and steel decking, trusses and girders had fallen into disrepair. Their plan was to build a new bridge, 3 lanes wide and with a higher vertical clearance, with no posted weight restrictions.

The Bridge Street Bridge. (Photo/Library of Congress)

The Bridge Street Bridge. (Photo/Library of Congress)

This bridge was never without political controversy. The bridge’s present location was the historic crossing point, as established in 1746 when the Disbrow ferry was established to carry traffic over the Saugatuck River.

However, local merchants and financiers, such as the Jesup family and Horace Staples, built a substantial infrastructure of maritime, financial and commercial facilities upriver at Westport center, and blocked this bridge’s realization for decades. They wanted to force the flow of traffic from Fairfield, Greens Farms and Compo uptown, crossing the river there to reach the depot and wharves to the west.

Yet in the early 1880s, when the needs of overland transport demanded a new bridge in Saugatuck Village, there was little question but that the bridge would have to be built to accommodate the passage of vessels destined not only for Saugatuck itself, but also for the larger port upstream at Westport center.

A detail of the Bridge Street Bridge, from Robert Lambdin's Saugatuck mural.

A detail of the Bridge Street Bridge, from Robert Lambdin’s Saugatuck mural.

Horace Staples admitted late in life that it was the mistake of his life in having the bridge built where it was now [downtown] instead of at Ferry Lane, where the road builders that proposed and where the ferry had been established.

Ironically, the onion trade declined drastically soon after the bridge was opened, rendering moot the reason for erecting the swing bridge rather than a cheaper and less troublesome fixed crossing.

(Kathie adds: The Library of Congress has Historic American Buildings Survey, Engineering Record, Landscapes Survey photographs online. Click here to view.)