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Historic bridge focus of rehabilitation effort

KEESEVILLE For years, Adirondack Architectural Heritage executive director Steven Englehart of Keeseville has worked on preserving historic bridges within the Adirondack Park and now hes focusing on one close to home. The Upper Bridge, also known as Mill Hill Bridge and River Street Bridge, has been shut for three years. The bridge is one of three historic structures that span the towns of Chesterfield and Ausable in the village of Keeseville. I think every community has to identify, celebrate and protect the things that make it special. In Keeseville, one of the things are the bridges, said Engelhart. The bridge, Engelhart said, is part of Keesevilles historic heritage. The wrought iron Pratt truss structure is one of only 75 bridges in the United States using the design. This is a very rare surviving example of an early American iron bridge, said Engelhart. The Upper Bridge replaced a wooden bridge which collapsed in 1875. The towns of AuSable and Chesterfield purchased the bridge from Milton Car and Bridge Works, Murray, Douglas and Company, Manufacturers of Wrought Iron Bridges, from Milton, Pa., in 1877. The 214-foot span cost the towns $3,500, and opened in 1878. The bridge is one of three recognized as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark along with the Stone Arch Bridge and Twisted Wire Cable Suspension Bridge. The historic designation was granted in 1987. Chesterfield Supervisor Gerald Morrow said the wrought iron bridge needed to be replaced, since the Stone Arch Bridge, constructed in 1843, was bearing the brunt of all local traffic. He wanted the Upper Bridge to reopen for passenger cars. The Essex County board of supervisors has approved a resolution for AARCH and the Essex County Planning Office to investigate grant funding for bridge rehabilitation. Id like to see the work started, but would like to see the grant. As much as I want to see it started this summer, I'd like to see some money first, said Morrow. Since the bridge is co-owned with Clinton County, expenses would be split between the counties. Morrow anticipated receiving up to 80 percent in grant funding, leaving each county to ante up 10 percent of the costs. Essex County Department of Public Works Superintendent Fred Buck said a $10,000 level one study was performed on the bridge in 2007. The study provided information on what kind of work would be needed to rehabilitate the bridge. We're going to try to bring the bridge back up to three tons for automobile traffic, said Buck. He said to rehabilitate it, steel replacement and new floor beams were needed. Buck said replacement was unnecessary since there was already another way to cross the bridge, using the Stone Arch Bridge. People have been asking for it to be reopened for the local traffic. If that's what they're asking for, we're going to do the best to see what we can do, said Buck. Buck said no timeframe has been attached to the project. We're going to see what Clinton County wants to do, said Buck. AARCH officials are also working on preserving the Otis Lane Bridge in Elizabethtown and the Lake Champlain Bridge in Crown Point. In the past, the organization has worked on the Jay Covered Bridge and the Stone Arch Bridge in Keeseville. As an organization, we seem to spend an inordinate amount of time advocating for historic bridges, said Englehart. It seems like theres always about a half dozen bridges in some state of danger, either from deterioration or some effort to replace them.

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