The Forgotten Village: Greenbank’s Hollow

Drive across U.S. Route 2 in eastern Vermont and you’ll pass through a small town named Danville. Turn right in Danville on Brainerd Road, which will turn into Greenbanks Hollow Road, ending at the lost village of Greenbank’s Hollow. It’s a picturesque spot in Vermont: leafy dirt roads, farms on either side, the covered bridge at the crossroads, and the rush of the water at the bottom of the hill.

Entrance to the historic site - check the map and pick up a pamphlet to guide you through the numbered sites.

Entrance to the historic site – check the map and pick up a pamphlet to guide you through the numbered sites.

It’s hard to believe now, due to the small size of Danville and the quiet, rural road, but Greenbank’s Hollow was a bustling mill village in its day. The village grew around a woolen mill. Benjamin Greenback bought an existing mill in 1849, converted to a five story woolen mill that employed 45 people in the 1850s – the largest in the area. The company village included a post office, a store, a school, residences, a gristmill, and a sawmill. Sadly, in 1885 a fire destroyed much of the village, including the mill. Slowly the village residents left, businesses closed, and the school closed in 1912. {Summarized from the Danville Historical Society’s brief history page.}

Greenbanks Mill, South Danville, probably around 1885. Photo source: Danville Historical Society. Click for link.

Greenbanks Mill, South Danville, probably around 1885. Photo source: Danville Historical Society. Click for link.

The Division for Historic Preservation marker gives you a brief history of the site.

The Division for Historic Preservation marker gives you a brief history of the site.

A covered bridge in the middle of Greenbank's Hollow.

A covered bridge in the middle of Greenbank’s Hollow.

Remains of the mill.

Remains of the mill across the river.

Looking from the covered bridge to the gristmill foundations.

Looking from the covered bridge to the gristmill foundations.

All sites are identified with a green marker. The pamphlet (grab one at the main site entrance) will give you brief descriptions of each location

All sites are identified with a green marker. The pamphlet (grab one at the main site entrance) will give you brief descriptions of each location.

The village is all foundations, and it's a peaceful walk in a quiet Vermont spot.

The village is all foundations, and it’s a peaceful walk in a quiet Vermont spot.

The trail takes you through the trees for a few sites.

The trail takes you through the trees for a few sites.

The historic site exists today thanks to the efforts of the Danville Historical Society who preserved the site as a public park. Can’t make it to Greenbank’s Hollow? Check out this virtual e-book tour.

Preservation Photos #167

The Bartonsville Covered Bridge under construction, December 2012.

The Bartonsville Covered Bridge under construction, December 2012.

On Saturday January 26, 2013, the reconstructed Bartonsville Covered Bridge opened for traffic. The community gathered in the chilly but sunny morning hours for a ceremony and then at a local restaurant to enjoy the long awaited occasion. The Bartonsville Covered Bridge is the famous bridge from Tropical Storm Irene, which washed downstream and was filmed by local resident Sue Hammond. Here’s the VPR story.

The Un-Covered Bridge

Have you ever seen a covered bridge without its roof (its cover)? How about without its joists, floor beams, deck and everything but the arch? How about this scenario with the other span (the other half) of the bridge intact?

It doesn’t sound like a common sight, and it’s not. However, you can see such an “un-covered” bridge in Woodstock, Vermont. Stop by the Taftsville Covered Bridge on Route 4.

The Taftsville Covered Bridge, as seen from VT Route 4.

The Taftsville Covered Bridge was damaged during the floods of Tropical Storm Irene on August 28, 2011. What you cannot see from this picture is the failing stone abutment. Due to structural and safety concerns, the bridge was closed to traffic and then pedestrians soon after the August flooding. Unfortunately, the abutment continued to show signs of stress and failure, to the extent that it would have to be replaced.

Closed to traffic, but you can park off Route 4 and take a look (just don't cross any barriers or fences).

Because this particular site poses many obstacles (nearby buildings and power lines), but required immediate action in order to save the bridge, the Vermont Agency of Transportation made the decision to dismantle one span of the two-span bridge. This allows temporary reinforcing to be installed, prevents the bridge from being completely dismantled, and allows the abutments and pier to support the remaining weight of the bridge. For further stabilization, the abutment is supported with newly poured concrete (you’d have to catch a glimpse of that from the Quechee side of the bridge).

The central pier between the two spans. Only the arch remains.

Close-up view showing reinforcements installed (see new cables).

Additional reinforcements. The failed abutment (not shown) would be located on the bottom right of this image.

Looking east.

Looking northwest.

The Taftsville Covered Bridge, constructed in 1836, is one of the oldest covered bridges in the State of Vermont.  Originally constructed as a multiple king-post truss, the burr arches (the exposed arch you can see in the photograph) were added in the early 20th century. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and documented for the Historic American Engineering Record.

How to Photograph a Bridge

In the world of transportation and preservation, I spend a lot of time around bridges, conducting resource IDs, evaluating the historic significance of these bridges and reviewing projects for any adverse effects to our historic bridges and adjacent historic resources. Anyone who conducts resources IDs in the field knows that photographing the project area and the resource is a vital part of documentation and research. Why are photographs important? By photographing particular elements of structures – whether buildings or bridges – it is possible to date the historic resource by construction methods and materials used. Architectural styles date buildings, but also date bridges. Railings, deck systems and truss types allow for dating bridges.

Most often, preservationists photograph buildings and districts, but not necessarily bridges.  Just as it is important to properly photograph a building (all elevations, 3/4 shots, details, context), there is a correct way to photograph bridges. The Historic American Buildings Survey and the National Park Service have similar guidelines (your State Historic Preservation Office has likely adopted these same guidelines) for photographing architectural structures. HABS/HAER documentation includes (1) historical research, (2) measured drawings and (3) photography.

The Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) provides four main guidelines (see page 4) for photographing bridges. While these are somewhat vague, it is a good starting point and basic checklist. All bridges are different, so it would be hard to have one comprehensive list.  Want some preservation jargon? We usually say “photo-doc” for short – obviously for photographic documentation. Up for some photo-doc? Let’s go through these four HAER guidelines with a variety of examples.

1. General views of all sides.

Photograph all sides/elevations of a bridge.

The Windsor-Cornish Covered Bridge, connecting Windsor VT to Cornish NH. Actually, this is from NH, so it's the Cornish-Windsor Bridge. This photograph is not ideal because it doesn't capture the entire bridge; it should. Smaller bridges are much easier. If I were documenting this one, I'd have to find a better view or go for a swim in the river.

The bridge openings count as sides and should be photographed, too, along with the approach to the bridge and the contextual surroundings. Context is important for determining the significance of a bridge. This is also helpful for an approach detail photo.

2. Detail views of portals, portal connections, upper chord connections, vertical members, traffic deck, bridge plates, manufacturer’s badge and any decorative features.

Truss bridges are more complicated to document (I think) but again, take note and photograph the connection details like on this pin truss.

Photograph the connection details. This picture shows the hand cut connection for the metal baluster and the bolt connection to the concrete post.

Photograph the railing connection to the endwall or post.

Many bridges have the date stamped on the endwall and have a state bridge plaque. These are important historic features of the bridge.

Of course, make sure to photograph the truss members in order to identify which type of truss. This a Town Lattice Truss covered bridge. On some bridges, you will be able to photograph this detail from the outside (e.g. on metal truss bridges). If not, photograph the details inside.

Photograph truss bridge chords and diagonals and connection bolts.

Railings! Photograph the railings, whether concrete, metal, cable or other.

3. If accessible, the traffic deck support system (such as floor beams and stringers viewed from underneath the bridge).

Underneath the bridge you can see the connections of chords, joists, floor beams, etc.

If you can safely access the bank adjacent to the bridge, photograph the bridge piers. This photograph shows the center pier, one abutment, and a general view of the deck support.

This photograph shows the detail of the pier, deck support, and the railing in addition to the steel girders.

4. Abutments and approach details.

This photograph shows the railing and endwall connection and the barely visible wood & cable approach rail.

Under the bridges you can see the abutments (that massive concrete abutment is not original to this covered bridge) and the floor beam system.

This photograph shows the abutment (new concrete abutment faced in dry laid stone. You can see the concrete on the bottom left of this image and above the top row of stone on the far side of the bridge).

Photograph the approach to this bridge to show the height of the portal (opening), the type of guardrail (weathered W-beam mounted on wood posts) and other details such as the narrow single lane approach.

And there you have it. In review, when photographing a bridge, remember to include

(1) all sides of the bridge; 

(2) details such as connections, railings, plaques;

(3) the deck and piers – what supports the bridge from below; and

(4) approach details: the abutment, guard rail, endwall.

By all means, you do not have to be a professional to photograph bridges. Some bridges are beautiful and make quite the statement on the landscape and built environment. I don’t claim to be an expert; I’m always working to improve my documentation skills.  Hopefully this gets you more familiar with bridges and ready to practice your photography on more than buildings. Enjoy!

Sometimes you have crawl on the abutments to really see what's going on with the bridge.

P.S. A few safety notes. Climbing over, under and around bridges can be dangerous. Do  not do this alone. Abutments, wingwalls and all sections of the bridges can be slippery and treacherous. Beware of swiftly moving waterways below. If you park on the side of the road, leave your flashers on and wear reflective gear. Do not trespass. If you photographing deteriorated or abandoned bridges, beware of holes in the deck and unsafe structures. Basically, use your common sense and be safe.

Friday Vermont Links

Today is the annual downtown & historic preservation conference (combined this year!) in Poultney, VT. The entire conference sounds like fun, but I’m most looking forward to the Streets as Places theme.

Some news from Vermont:

The Vermont Division for Historic Preservation has awarded $186,000 in grant money for preservation and restoration projects throughout the state.

Lake Champlain has reached its record high water level and it seems as though the entire state is flooding. The Charlotte-Essex (NY) ferry is shut down due to high water levels. Rivers and lakes throughout the state are flooding towns across the state. This will create damage for all buildings and displace people and businesses for a time.  If you are aware of a historic building in danger, be alert, now and when the water recedes.

On the night of Sunday April 17, a fire broke out in the historic Brooks House on Main Street in Brattleboro. The five-story French Second Empire building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building was home to many businesses and apartments; their fate is unknown at this time.

On a lighter note, the site of the University of Vermont’s first baseball diamond will be recognized on April 30 in the Old North End of Burlington.

Have you heard of the Checkered House Bridge project in Richmond, VT? The metal truss bridge is going to be widened. You can learn more about this unique project on its website.

In connection to Vermont and its tourism, what are your thoughts on covered bridge preservation? A Richmond (Virginia) Times Dispatch article seems to debate the fate and purpose of such a thing. A necessity? An obligation? Too much money? Would a state like Vermont, known for its covered bridges, think it’s a frivolous expense?

A Very Fine Appearance: The Vermont Civil War Photographs of George Houghton was released earlier this month. The book includes over 100 photographs from the Vermont infantry experience during the Civil War. Photographs were all taken by Brattleboro resident George Houghton. You can buy the book in hardcover or paperback through the Vermont Historical Society.

Happy Spring! Happy weekend!

Preservation Photos #55

On the double barreled covered bridge at Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, VT. Definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.

Quinlan Covered Bridge

What is more fun that coming across a covered bridge on your way to work in the morning on a beautiful day?

This is the Quinlan Covered Bridge off Spear Street in East Charlotte, Chittenden County, Vermont.

It is a Burr truss bridge, ca. 1850. (Covered Bridges Info.) The information below is from the plaque on the bridge.

S of East Charlotte over Lewis Creek, East Charlotte, Vermont USA. “The Quinlan Bridge, circa 1850, is 88 feet long and is of kingpost Burr Arch construction. The builder is unknown. Also called the “lower” bridge, it is downstream on Lewis Creek from the Seguin covered bridge. The Quinlan Bridge spans what was then the 1812 turnpike, part of which is now Spear Street.

The Sherman family owned surrounding land, and in 1830, built a sawmill just up the creek. The building burned down, but the area around the bridge continued to be a center of manufacturing, with a woodworking mill that made sash, doors and blinds, a nail-making shop, and a foundry where plow points, cultivator teeth and other farm implements were cast.

In the 1860s, Winfield J. Scott. a carpenter-joiner. operated a gristmill and butter tub factory nearby. Portions of the old mill dam can still be seen from Lewis Creek Road above the bridge. Later, John Quinlan, an immigrant from Ireland, ran the mill. In recent times, steel I-beams were inserted under the bridge as reinforcement for school buses. – Town of Charlotte”

Covered Bridge

Photographs of a covered bridge in Canada! Traveling with some classmates on Saturday, we turned to follow a sign that said (in French) covered bridge, 4km. We were in Notre-Dame de Stanbridge, a village in the province of Quebec. We got out to take pictures and walk on the bridge, which is still in use. There was a sign inside the bridge explaining the architecture and the history, but since I do not read French, I cannot be sure. See below.

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translation, please?