A Predecessor To The Lime Kiln Bridge, Probably

It seems appropriate to end the “high bridge” topic with something different. Bridges are now “infrastructure.” As such, they are numbered, cataloged, and studied. You don’t have to go very far into the past for that to not be true. In the words of the Vermont Bridges website, “There are probably about 30 known lost bridges in Chittenden County…” In other words, so many bridges have been built and demolished that it’s not even certain how many there were.

The wood covered bridge in the photo above is probably near the Line Kiln Road bridge across the Winooski River between the town of South Burlington (annoyingly, east of Burlington) and Colchester, Vermont. Most of the river valley is reasonably shallow-sloped, but there’s a sharp gorge at this location. The 1913 Lime Kiln Road bridge was a concrete deck arch across the gorge; its 2006 replacement is very similar. It’s hard to get a greater contrast from that than a wood covered bridge. I say “probably” above because Bridgehunter has two postcards that are obviously this same bridge labelled as the second Heineberg Bridge, across the Winooski at the north end of Burlington:

I’m reasonably certain this is not the Heineberg Bridge, which was damaged in a 1927 flood and replaced in 1935, because the photos of that location show a two-span bridge without the deep gorge. Here’s another view of our mystery high bridge:

Constructing that bridge in the 1850s (or earlier, as there is reason to believe this bridge was complete by 1847) must have been far more difficult than constructing much larger bridges fifty years later was. It was still around when these photos were taken between 1900 and 1910, but it’s listed as lost “circa 1913.”

There’s a common but rarely discussed assumption that modern construction and engineering history is clear-cut: we are dealing with physical objects of known provenience. That assumption isn’t even true for late-twentieth-century structures, where it can be surprisingly difficult to get original drawings. It’s absolutely not true for anything built before 1950, where we’re stymied by mislabelling, myths, the loss of records, and the fact that original drawings may never have existed. If the carpenter who built this bridge was an experienced bridge-builder – and he probably was – there may not have been any formal documents describing the bridge. The past isn’t just a foreign country, it is often one where we don’t speak the language.

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