The First Girder – January 27, 2011

Two years ago (yesterday) was a momentus day in the lives of those involved with the Lake Champlain Bridge. On a frigid January day, the first girder was set on Pier 7 of the Lake Champlain Bridge at Chimney Point. To those of us who had never seen such a feat, it was incredible, and we stayed long past normal working hours. And to those waiting for the bridge to open, it was another visual sign of progress.

The first girder on Pier 7.

The first and second girder on Pier 7.

The first girder on Pier 7.

The first and second girder on Pier 7.

Following the first girders, other significant Lake Champlain Bridge events include the Arch Raising on August 26, 2011 and the bridge opening on November 7, 2011 and the opening ceremony on May 19-20, 2012.

Other Lake Champlain Bridge posts: Lake Champlain Bridge Photo Update &  Love a Replacement Bridge?


Lake Champlain Bridge Grand Celebration

This past weekend, May 19-20, was the grand opening celebration for the Lake Champlain Bridge in Chimney Point, VT and Crown Point, NY. The new bridge opened in November 2011, but the community celebration was planned for May. Warm, sunny skies graced the entire weekend, welcoming visitors from near and far. Events took place in Vermont and New York and ranged from performance shows to exhibits to a parade, petting zoo, car show, road race, historic site tours and much more. After years of the Lake Champlain Bridge community dealing with bridge closure, demolition, route detours, bridge construction, ferry rides, etc., it was gratifying to see everyone enjoying the new bridge and celebrating the community.

Lake Champlain Bridge viewed over the fort ruins at Crown Point State Historic Site.

View of the bridge from Chimney Point.

The Lois McClure, replica of an 1862 boat, sailing on Lake Champlain.

Re-enactors set up camp at Chimney Point.

A replica of the Vermont Statehouse. This float was a part of the 1929 bridge opening celebration and has since been restored and featured in many Vermont parades.

There must have been hundreds of antique cars in the parade.

It was an absolutely beautiful weekend! The next time your cruising through the Champlain Valley, be sure to head over to Chimney Point and Crown Point for a good look at the bridge!

Previous Lake Champlain Bridge posts: Lake Champlain Bridge Photo Update, Lake Champlain Bridge Arch Lift, Lake Champlain Bridge Opens Today, Love a Replacement Bridge?

Love a Replacement Bridge?

At dinner Sunday night, a friend asked me, “How can you be excited for the new [Lake Champlain] bridge? You’re a preservationist. They blew up the old one.” He was sort of giving me a hard time just for the heck of it, but his question made me evaluate how I can be enamored with the new bridge. And it made me think that more than one person is wondering the same thing.

The fundamental reason for loving this new bridge is due to the fact that I have seen the entire bridge construction project and it has been a part of my daily job. Anytime a project reaches completion is an exciting event. Witnessing a large (regionally speaking) construction project has been and continues to be an amazing experience, personally and professionally.

This has been a multi community and government agency effort. This new bridge means the world to the communities it serves; as the opening day speeches said again and again, this bridge was their lifeline. Once again, the bridge will change the lives of regional residents.

Furthermore, it is an interesting study in bridge architecture. The 1929 bridge was a continuous deck truss. The 2011 bridge is a modified tied network arch. Both represent the advances of technology at the time and both respect the surrounding environment.

Right, but what about the fact that the historically significant 1929 bridge was demolished? By EXPLOSION (what a dramatic ending). Good point. Of course, a rehabilitation project is preferable to demolition and replacement. Maintenance should not have been ignored and a better plan should have been in place to protect and care for the 1929 Lake Champlain Bridge. Let’s hope this doesn’t happen again. Historic buildings or bridges are expensive to replace.

As preservationists we can mourn the loss of a historic resource, and we do because resources are a part of our collective history; however, we cannot mourn to the point of despising thoughtful new construction. We cannot hold grudges; we can only use what we’ve learned and improve our respect and care of resources for the future. This is not to say that historic structures can be demolished because replacing them will be exciting and the beginning of a new story. It simply means that you make the best of situations and see the greater story.

So, do I love this new bridge? Yes. Do I wish the historic bridge could have been rehabilitated? Absolutely.

Open for Traffic

The ribbon cutting ceremony started just a bit after 2:30pm on November 7, 2011. Politicians and a few community members spoke. The governors shook hands. The crowd cheered and a boy determined to be the first one over the bridge ran ahead of everyone after the ribbon was cut. After a cloudy morning, the sun shined brightly, accompanying the typical November breeze over Lake Champlain.

With freshly painted lines, Route 17 awaits automobile traffic and the newly welcomed pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Looking to Vermont Route 17 East.

Looking across from Vermont - a few hours before the bridge is open to traffic.

My last ferry trip from Chimney Point to Crown Point. The ferry would shut down soon after the bridge opened.

The ceremony took place in New York, adjacent to the old Tollhouse, which is currently the Lake Champlain Information Center. The crowd walked across the bridge from New York to Vermont, some on the sidewalks and some in the middle of the road. A few 1929 cars and 1929ers (those who attended the 1929 bridge opening ceremony) drove across before the bridge followed by other classic cars. Pedestrians were given enough time to stroll across and gaze at the bridge before normal traffic began. What a spectacular event. I was so glad to be a part of it. It is hard to believe that this bridge is built and open already. Wow!

The crowd begins the walk across the bridge.

Walking from New York to Vermont.

One of the 1929 cars.

Wide sidewalks on both sides!

Another view in the center span.

Under the arch.

Looking back from Vermont.

Still in the middle of the roadway!

Just one of the beautiful vistas from the bridge (looking north on Lake Champlain).

What a day. I love it. The communities are so happy. It may not seem historic yet, but I bet everyone there remembers this day for his/her entire life.

Lake Champlain Bridge Opens Today!

It is hard to believe, but the ribbon cutting ceremony for the 2011 Lake Champlain Bridge is set for today, November 7, at 2:30 pm.Read the article from the Burlington Free Press.

Just over two years ago (two years and one month), the 1929 Lake Champlain Bridge was closed to traffic. In December 2009, the decision was made to replace the bridge and on December 28, 2009 the bridge was demolished by way of explosion. Since then the old bridge was removed from the lake and the new bridge constructed. It is an amazingly short period of time for such a large construction project.

The new bridge looks fantastic and I’m excited to walk across on the sidewalks; the views are spectacular. If you’re driving through the Champlain Valley region, a visit to the new bridge and the adjacent historic sites will certainly be worthwhile.

While the new bridge will be open to traffic and the ferry shut down, there is still a lot of work to be done. The cleanup process will take a while and next year the historic sites will be restored (and enhanced).

I’ve been studying the case of the 1929 bridge and working with the 2011 bridge since I started grad school in September 2009. It’s been quite a ride! Here are a few photo flashbacks:

November 2009.

June 2010.

Setting the first girder - January 27, 2011.

View from Vermont, April 14, 2011.

August 2011.

Lake Champlain Bridge Arch Lift on August 27, 2011.

My how far we’ve come. To find all of the Preservation in Pink posts about the Lake Champlain Bridge click here.  More to come!

Lake Champlain Bridge Arch Lift

Three weeks ago on a beautiful Friday, many Vermonters and New Yorkers spent the entire day watching the arch center span be lifted. After 14 months of watching the bridge construction through sun, rain, wind, snow, sleet, cold and all other weather, this sunny, perfectly calm day was one of my favorite days ever. You’ve probably seen many bridge photos, if you’ve been looking, since they are all over the web, so here are just a few (or many…) of my favorites. Enjoy.

(These are large files, so click and zoom for greater detail. They may appear blurry in a small size, but they are actually very clear when viewed larger.)

Just as the arch is arriving to the bridge. It was floated upstream from Port Henry.

Morning fog was heavy in the Champlain Valley.

View from the ferry.

The benefits of a zoom camera -- up close for scale. Port Henry NY in the background.

Looking from New York to Vermont, with the sun starting to shine through the clouds.

Looking to Chimney Point State Historic Site, VT. The bridge is behind the trees.

Around lunchtime, view from Vermont.

Later in the morning.

Picture perfect afternoon on the lake.

Zooming in from Crown Point State Historic Site, NY.

Mr. Stilts came along, too.

From New York.

It moved slowly. We picked a point to watch.

Just one of the many, many boats out for the show. Doesn't this make you want to visit the Champlain Valley?

View from New York at Crown Point Memorial Lighthouse and pier in the late afternoon.

Still watching movements.

Pier 4.

Around 5pm on the ferry.

The sun was still shining.

Heading back to Vermong on the ferry.

I couldn’t stay until the arch was set; that wouldn’t happen until after dark. But it was such a wonderful day; it was amazing to see this after seeing the entire project over the past 14 months. The bridge is not open yet, as there is still much work to do. But it’s getting closer everyday. What a project!


You are welcome to use any of these photos, but please give credit to Kaitlin O’Shea and Preservation in Pink. Thanks!

Preservation Photos #98

The new Lake Champlain Bridge on August 27, 2011 at the arch raising. Photo taken around 5pm.

You may have seen my flickr link with some Lake Champlain Bridge photos (click on the sidebar link if you haven’t). I’ll share more this week. It was such a perfect day.

Raising the Arch

Today is the day. The arch has floated down the lake to the piers and today it will br lifted. What an exciting day for the project and the region!

Pardon the cell phone pictures for today; I will have better images to share.


Concrete Bridges

Consider it Bridge Week or Bridge Days, as the Lake Champlain Bridge center span is set for floating and lifting any day now.

Hardly any structure proves to be permanent; very few materials hold up for eternity. Concrete is a particularly troublesome material to many because moisture and salt and lack of maintenance equal a recipe for structural failure. Yes, I am referencing the 1929 Lake Champlain Bridge; but I am also thinking about the small concrete bridges across the nation. These bridges have concrete decks and concrete piers and railings, and we are losing them at an exponential rate.

Ripton, VT

Often, these small bridges face the fate of poor hydraulics or structural and geometric inadequacies; simply put, they do not meet AASHTO standards and any projects that rehab these bridges are required to bring them up to federal standards and code.  But because these bridges were so ubiquitous in the middle decades of the 20th century, they are hardly significant, according to many. Some are significant for technology or design or engineering, but mostly they come across as yesterday’s steel girder, single span (i.e. boring) bridges. Furthermore, repairs to these bridges have destroyed their integrity, and with that, any eligibility for significance.

Albany, VT

However, I have recently found myself disheartened by the fate of these bridges; I love small concrete bridges with decorative concrete piers and interesting railings. Whenever I cross a new 3 bar aluminum (or worse! steel w-beam type) bridge, I wonder what it has replaced and when. Alignments have likely been straightened and a bridge with character destroyed. (Go ahead, call me a transportation preservation nerd; blame it on the day job).

Sheldon, VT

Covered bridges are adored and respected. Metal truss bridges are heading in that direction. But, concrete bridges that aren’t elaborate concrete arch bridges are often overlooked.  I’m working on understanding the context and significance of small concrete bridges so I can either a) come to terms with the fate of such bridges or b) convince others of their importance. That doesn’t mean that I am the only one who thinks about concrete bridges, but I am looking for others who would like to talk about them. We can’t save everything in preservation, nor should we, but as time passes we need to reevaluate what is important, what is diminishing, what has been insignificant, and figure out what to do with these resources.  How are they treated differently if they are out on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere v. in a historic district. (Okay, that’s probably an easy answer, but what if the concrete is indicative of the landscape and a certain era of road travel?)

Wheelock, VT

What are your thoughts on small concrete bridges? For now, I’m still pondering and gathering any historical context I can find.




Preservation Photos #97

The (new) Lake Champlain Bridge is getting closer and closer to completion. The middle span, the arch, will be floated and raised by the end of August, according to the NYSDOT press release. In this picture, New York is on the left, Vermont is on the right, and the Adirondack Mountains are in the background. Beautiful!

(Picture taken with my phone, but you can still click for better details.)