Old Covered Bridge Spanning River at Chicopee Center

by Laurel | September 5th, 2014

16 May 1931

Covered Bridge

Covered Bridge
Photo Taken by C. Robert Wilhelm
Courtesy of Kevin Haarmann

Which Henry Ford May Add to His Collection of Antiques
Henry Ford May Take Over Old Covered Bridge Across River at Chicopee Center

City Engineer Cobb Asked to Send Pictures and Data Pertaining to Span
After Informing Manufacturer That Structure is to Be Replaced by
Modern One Soon and Asking Him if He Would Like to Add it to Antique Collection

Henry Ford, the country’s leading antique collector, may take over as a whole or in part, Chicopee’s well known landmark, the old covered bridge spanning the Chicopee River at Chicopee Center. The bridge is to be removed this year and a modern structure built. City Engineer Frank P. Cobb was notified yesterday to send photographs and data pertaining to the history of the bridge.

Mr. Cobb Wrote to Ford

About a month ago Mr. Cobb, who has served the city as engineer for more than 30 years wrote a letter to Mr. Ford asking the manufacturer if he would be interested in a bridge that has been in constant use since it was built in 1846. Yesterday Mr. Cobb received a communication from Mr. Ford’s agent, Frank Campsall asking for photographs. Mr. Campsall desires to know it it would be possible to take over one section or the whole structure and if so, what arrangements can be made. Necessary information will be sent to Mr. Campsall as soon as possible, Mr. Cobb says.

Chicopee Covered Bridge

Chicopee Covered Bridge
16 May 1931

Late yesterday afternoon Mr. Cobb discussed the matter with N. P. Ames Charter, Chicopee’s well-known retired business man and world traveler, who offered to take choice pictures of the bridge immediately. Mr. Cobb will confer with Mayor Henry Cloutier concerning the business end. As yet it is not at all certain that Mr. Ford will add the bridge to his collection of antiques at Sudbury. The city engineer is jubilant none the less to think that Mr. Ford is even considering preserving a structure which still retains the dignity of three generations ago and that has seen Chicopee grow from a simple town to a complicated city.

Built in 1846

According to the Chicopee city manual, the bridge, a lattice truss girder structure held together with tree nails or large wooden pegs, was built in 1846 or about two years before Chicopee, then known as Cabotville, a part of Springfield, was incorporated as a town with a population of 7861. The same year the bridge was built a branch railroad from Cabotville (Chicopee Center) to Chicopee Falls was opened. Cost of the bridge at that time was $6095.

Although less than 20 feet wide for Vehicular travel, the bridge at that time was the last word in modern river spans. For the comparatively light travel of nearly a century ago and up to the period when automobiles became plentiful the bridge served the community well, but with the advent of heavy motor traffic there has been agitation for a wider and stronger bridge.

Repairs Necessitated

About 10 years ago, it was found necessary to spend $30,000 on beams and iron cleats bolted together to give the proper support to the flooring. At that time, there was much divergence of opinion as to whether so much money should be spent on an old bridge, but finally the aldermen appropriated the necessary sum.

The first of the year, the state highway department, the county and the city entered into an agreement whereby the state and county would spend $180,000 for highway improvements on Meadow and Prospect Streets if the city would remove the old covered bridge and put in its place a modern structure capable of safely handling the additional traffic that is anticipated with the improving of a through route to Boston.

Petition Authorized

Aldermen, after weeks of wrangling, authorized the mayor to petition the General Court for permossion to bond outside the debt limit to an amount not to exceed $200,000. The Legislature not only approved of the city’s petition, but increased the amount to $250,000. Mr. Cobb had been busy several weeks studying the plans of different types of bridges and it is expected that within a few weeks actual work can go forward.

With the removal of the faithful old servant, and the building of the new bridge, Chicopee will enter into a new era of improved roads. Mayor Cloutier has given assurance that Center Street from the top of Rockrimmon Hill to Market Square will be widened and paved.  With the completion of Center Street, there will be a concrete road from the Chicopee-Springfield line to the bridge, and a heavy macadam road from the other side of the bridge through Willimansett and Fairview, and across the river into the Hadleys by way of Meadow and Prospect Streets.

Adapted from The Springfield Republican/

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