Ledyard Bridge Span Swept Away 1935

Submitted 2 years ago
Created by
Michael Hinsley

Temporary Span Washed Away May 2, 1935

The Ledyard Bridge which has connected the Towns of Norwich and Hanover since 1796 was lost last night May 1 1935. The original bridge was constructed by Rufe Graves. Mr Graves built the bridge with heavy wooden timbers. The first bridge was a "single span with an arch twenty feet higher in the center than at the ends." The design of this uncovered bridge presented a "sharp ascent on entering and a corresponding downward pitch upon leaving". The design or structural engineering of the first bridge must have been lacking, because the bridge collapsed under its own weight seven years later in 1804.

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Additional bridges were constructed, repaired and replaced until August 6, 1854 the Bridge was destroyed by fire.

Ledyard Bridge Deck Construction Prob 1858 or 1859

Ledyard Bridge Truss Construction 1858 or 1859

The "Ledyard" Bridge, a beautiful classic covered bridge was opened in the summer of 1859. Named in honor of John Ledyard, a Dartmouth Student who lasted a year before dropping out of Dartmouth, and paddling down the Connecticut River to a life of exploration and adventure that included voyaging with Captain Cook. 

The Ledyard Bridge is named in honor of a Dartmouth College drop out..

Ledyard Bridge 1860 with early Dartmouth Rowing on the river.

This photo of the Ledyard Bridge is one of my favorites. It shows a thriving Lewiston and  a mix of horse and buggy and motorized vehicles.

The old covered bridge was never designed to carry the traffic volume or weight of the motor vehicles the traversed it old wooden deck so in 1933 the decision to replace the wooden covered bridge with a modern steel and concrete bridge was undertaken. This is where this story gets good.

The replacement of a bridge which links the two communities required a temporary span to maintain the link between Vermont and New Hampshire. The flow of goods and people to support Dartmouth College, Mary-Hitchcock Memorial Hospital and the Town of Hanover demanded no interruption. The temporary wooden span built down stream of the bridge was fraught with problems. 

Check out the partially dismantled Wooden Covered Bridge

The construction company experienced heavy rains and flooding. Remember the construction of the bridge was occurring prior to the construction of the Wilder and other hydroelectric dams on the Connecticut that greatly tamed the dangers of the river. The temporary span had a number of closures, disrupting traffic, impacting our communities and the construction work on the permanent bridge. An accident that involved the toppling of the construction derrick operating on the new bridge over the edge of the bridge and crushing the cab of a standard oil truck. The driver was cut out of the truck by the use of a torch.

After that mishap the bridge was opened to foot traffic only for a while and after opened for vehicle traffic sporadically due to flooding, log jams and structural instability.

May 2 1935 the temporary span breaks free and floats away.So with the loss of the temporary span the communities of Norwich and Hanover were separated.

The following are Pictures of the Ledyard Bridge, Lewiston and the Connecticut River.

Photo Credits to Dartmouth College Rauner Library, The coolest place on campus.

Seriously go check what they have.

Check out this great History of the Ledyard Bridge at the Norwich Times Website.  http://norwichtimes.com/crossing-the-river-the-building-of-the-ledyard-bridge/


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