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The Swinging Bridge: Walking Across the Androscoggin

This slideshow contains 14 items
1
Cabot Manufacturing Co., Brunswick, ca. 1895

Cabot Manufacturing Co., Brunswick, ca. 1895

Item 22738 info
Maine Historical Society

The Cabot Manufacturing Company, which had operated a cotton mill by the falls of the Androscoggin River in Brunswick since 1857, expanded operations at the end of the nineteenth century.

In 1877, the company had 35,000 spindles operating and 550 operatives employed.

Cabot Manufacturing owned about 30 acres of land on both sides of the river and had more than 75 tenement buildings to house workers.

Many of the workers who lived in the tenements and in the northwest section of Brunswick came from French Canada.


2
Cabot Manufacturing Co., Brunswick, ca. 1900

Cabot Manufacturing Co., Brunswick, ca. 1900

Item 22734 info
Pejepscot Historical Society

By the 1880s, the tenements were overcrowded and serious concerns began to be raised about health and sanitary conditions in the area.

To help alleviate the situation, Charles E. Hacker, Amos O. Reed, George A. Stover and Frank Weatherill -- the Topsham Land Company -- decided to build houses on the Topsham side of the Androscoggin.

They decided a footbridge would make the new housing more attractive to mill workers.


3
Footbridge, Brunswick-Topsham, ca. 1895

Footbridge, Brunswick-Topsham, ca. 1895

Item 22732 info
Maine Historical Society

On November 5, 1891, the developers met with representatives of the John A. Roebling Sons Co., which made wire rope and employed bridge engineers who could design suspension bridges.

Roebling is best known for the Brooklyn Bridge, completed in 1883.

The Topsham Land Co. wanted a reliable firm to design the bridge and supply materials because a footbridge in Skowhegan had recently collapsed due to weak cables.


4
Androscoggin River, Brunswick, ca. 1895

Androscoggin River, Brunswick, ca. 1895

Item 22737 info
Maine Historical Society

In March 1892, the Topsham Land Co. received an easement from the Cabot Manufacturing Co. to land the bridge on the Brunswick side on land owned by the mill.

On May 19, 1892, the Brunswick Telegraph reported, "The iron work will be here this week and the work will be pushed along as fast as possible as Mr. Farrington [the supervisor] has got to go to Australia and supervise the erection of a bridge there."

Three houses were under construction in Topsham Heights, the name of the new neighborhood.


5
Swing Bridge, Brunswick-Topsham, ca. 1920

Swing Bridge, Brunswick-Topsham, ca. 1920

Item 22731 info
Pejepscot Historical Society

On September 15, 1892, the Brunswick Telegraph reported that the bridge, with temporary planking, was complete and commented that it was "as substantial a piece of work as one would wish to see. There is no vibration, even when a number are crossing it at one time."

The bridge was painted by October 20, 1892.

The suspension structure cost $2,000 to build.


6
St. John's School, Brunswick, ca. 1900

St. John's School, Brunswick, ca. 1900

Item 11759 info
Pejepscot Historical Society

While built with mill workers in mind, it was quickly apparent that the pedestrian bridge served many purposes.

Among them were children walking back and forth to St. John's Catholic School in Brunswick and parents and children to St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.

Students attending Brunswick High School also used the bridge.


7
Winding room employees, Cabot Mill, Brunswick, 1925

Winding room employees, Cabot Mill, Brunswick, 1925

Item 22727 info
Pejepscot Historical Society

In 1906, the town of Topsham appealed to county commissioners in Sagadahoc and Cumberland counties to have the structure designated a public highway -- so the town would assume maintenance responsibility.

Brunswick opposed the move, with the commissioners arguing that they did not know anyone who needed to use the bridge and did not want to be responsible for maintenance.

Topsham officials pointed out that about 375 Roman Catholics lived in Topsham and attended parochial schools, saving the towns some $6,000 to $7,000 a year.

Commissioners granted the petition.


8
Brunswick-Topsham pedestrian bridge, ca. 1920

Brunswick-Topsham pedestrian bridge, ca. 1920

Item 22726 info
Pejepscot Historical Society

In 1915, the wooden towers at each end of the bridge were replaced with steel towers, which still remain.

The bridge remained a major transportation asset for mill workers, families visiting back and forth from Topsham and Brunswick, children going to school, adults going to church, shoppers, and many others.


9
Joseph Pelletier, Cabot Manufacturing Co., Brunswick, ca. 1930

Joseph Pelletier, Cabot Manufacturing Co., Brunswick, ca. 1930

Item 22733 info
Pejepscot Historical Society

By 1930, Franco-Americans were firmly established on both sides of the river, with many owning grocery stores and other small businesses, as well as continuing to work in the mill.

A railroad line with tracks near the bridge entrance served a pulp mill on the Topsham side of the river.

Teams of horses hauled pulp from the mill along Summer Street to the Bowdoin Mill (also in Topsham), which made paper.


10
Pedestrian bridge, Brunswick-Topsham, 1936

Pedestrian bridge, Brunswick-Topsham, 1936

Item 22739 info
Pejepscot Historical Society

Bridge users on both sides of the river watched in shock during the spring flooding in 1936 as high water and ice flipped the deck of the bridge, heavily damaging the structure.


11
Mill Street, Brunswick, 1936

Mill Street, Brunswick, 1936

Item 22730 info
Pejepscot Historical Society

Residents of the tenements near Cabot Manufacturing in Brunswick also sustained considerable water damage.

After floodwaters had receded, residents surveyed the damage and the debris left by the flood waters.


12
WPA work on Swinging Bridge, Brunswick, 1936

WPA work on Swinging Bridge, Brunswick, 1936

Item 12351 info
Pejepscot Historical Society

Repairs were made to the bridge deck, among other parts of the structure, and new railings were added.

The suspension cables and the towers were unharmed, despite the beating the bridge took from the high, powerful river waters.

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) assisted in the repairs.


13
Androscoggin River pedestrian bridge, 1936

Androscoggin River pedestrian bridge, 1936

Item 22729 info
Pejepscot Historical Society

In 2000, engineers determined the bridge needed serious repairs, to the deck the hardware connecting the main cable to lower supports, and other details.

In 2006, the bridge was repaired with new railings, new decking and much other work.

Roebling's original main suspension cables remain on the refurbished bridge.


14
Swing Bridge, Brunswick-Topsham, 1936

Swing Bridge, Brunswick-Topsham, 1936

Item 22728 info
Pejepscot Historical Society

Some 100-300 people a day still use the bridge, even though the mills that spurred its construction are gone.

As recreation use of the bridge increases, residents and officials of Brunswick and Topsham are planning landscaped approaches on both sides and a recreational trail that will incorporate the bridge in its route.


This slideshow contains 14 items