Preservation Photos #156

The Thomas J. McIntyre Federal Building and United States Post Office in Portsmouth, NH constructed 1967.

This building struck me as being particularly sympathetic to its surrounding environment – a modern 1960s government building that perhaps most people will be able to enjoy and read in the landscape.

And speaking of the federal government … remember to VOTE today. It’s your right, privilege and responsibility as an American citizen.

Abandoned New Hampshire: Westboro Rail Yard

A quick jaunt out of White River Junction, Vermont brings you to West Lebabnon, New Hampshire on the east side of the Connecticut River. This is the site of the abandoned Westboro Rail Yard, which is designated a brownfield and awaiting redevelopment and migitation. Though adjacent to a large asphalt paved area of land, the buildings themsevles are fenced off and hidden by overgrown trees and brush.

Westboro Rail Yard.

The NH Division of Historical Resources wrote a brief history and evaluated the condition of the site. Read it here.  A 2009 public policy study conduted by students at Dartmouth College includes a brief history of the site:

“The site served as a rail yard from 1847 until the 1970s. It was then vacant until the state of New Hampshire purchased the 19.1-acre property from Boston and Maine Railroad Company and “restored rail service in 2000 under an operating agreement with Claremont Concord Rail Company.”2 The northern acre, the parcel being considered for cleanup and revitalization, was first developed during the mid 1930s and early 1940s to be used as a bulk oil storage facility for Tidewater Oil Company, who leased the land from Boston and Maine Railroad Company. Concrete above ground storage tanks (ASTs), which were removed from the site in the 1970s, contained an unknown amount of an unknown oil type. Tidewater Oil Company shut down in the 1960s. Over the next 25 years, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) removed all remaining concrete ASTs and off-site buildings before using it as a temporary roadwork equipment storage area.”

View towards the roundhouse.

The roundhouse.

Overgrown.

The roundhouse showing the fence and many alterations.

Beyond the roundhouse is a building shell; look closely and you can see the exposed roof framing.

Industrial areas – the gritty, blue collar society places of work – are becoming more in vogue for redevelopment. Maybe this site has a bright future. Check out some site proposals here.

Vilas Bridge

View of the Vilas Bridge from Bellows Falls, VT.

The Vilas Bridge connects Bellows Falls, VT to Walpole, NH. It is an open spandrel concrete arch bridge constructed in 1930. The Vilas Bridge has been closed since 2009 due to deterioration of the reinforced concrete deck. The bridge is jointly owned by the New Hampshire Department of Transporation and the Vermont Agency of Transportation, however, NHDOT owns 93% of the bridge and VTrans owns only 7%, making NHDOT the lead agency. The Vilas Bridge is not scheduled for rehabilitation until 2015.

Looking to Walpole, NH.

View to the center of the bridge.

Closer view of the open spandrel arch.

So intimidating.

My love for concrete bridges is well documented, but I had never seen the Vilas Bridge before. How sad to only visit it when it’s long closed and deteriorating. Check out the features of this bridge:

The curved concrete rail.

Bridge plaques, probably with the date, have since been removed.

Cast urn balustrade.

The Vilas Bridge and the adjacent stone arch railroad bridge appear to meet each other in New Hampshire.

I cannot find much written about the Vilas Bridge, but it is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. News articles here and there question the timeline for rehabilitation and wonder about the fate of the bridge. Hopefully it will be rehabilitated before the deterioration becomes so great that the cost of rehabilitation is not feasible and prudent. Do you live in New Hampshire? Contact your NHDOT to ask questions about the bridge and urge the rehabilitation.

Vilas Bridge under construction. Image courtesy of UVM Landscape Change. Click for source and details.

Losing another spectacular bridge in Bellows Falls and Walpole would be a crying shame. The first bridge lost was a three-pinned steel through arch. It was closed in 1971 and dismantled in 1982. Now in its place sits a 4 span steel girder (i.e. boring highway bridge) in its place. The HAER documentation states that its significance was:

When built, the bridge was the longest single span highway bridge in the U.S. and is was among the largest three-hinged arch bridges in the world. The structure has also played an important role in socio-economic development of the Bellows Falls and North Walpole.

Bellows Falls Arch Bridge. Image credit: HAER. Click for source.

Moral of the story? Love your bridges. Save your bridges.

Buildings as Artifacts

I spent a couple of days in Concord, NH this week and had a chance to explore downtown during a run. Concord appeared to be a mix of historic buildings, infill buildings, new buildings (that have replaced demolished older buildings) and interesting neighborhoods. Concord is the capital of New Hampshire and the state house has a gold dome (as many capital buildings do). Surrounding the capital are beautiful historic, civic buildings such as the post office, library and historical society. The  New Hampshire Historical Society Library building was my favorite, partially because of the banner at the entrance (see below).

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Icons of History: Objects that Define New Hampshire. The banner matches the building and to me said, the buildings are our artifacts, just as important as any material culture items. And I thought back to saving the world, saving the buildings.  We need our buildings to remember and to tell our story and history. Brilliant banner.