Built in 1903 and closed in 1985 - Schell Bridge, Northfield, Massachusetts - the most beautiful bridge on the Connecticut River
Schell Bridge - Past and Present
Schell Bridge - one of the Ten Most Endangered Historic Resources (PreservatiON Mass, 2003)
In 1903 Schell Memorial Bridge, a
515 foot long steel cantilever truss bridge, was donated to the
town of Northfield by one of its leading citizens, Francis R. Schell,
who hoped to obtain easy access from his
chateau in downtown Northfield to the East Northfield Railroad Station.
Schell Bridge is the third oldest of five Pennsylvania Truss Bridges and
was designed by Edward S. Shaw, an important bridge engineer in
Massachusetts from 1873 to 1919. Up
until its closing, in 1985 Schell Bridge provided the town with easy
transportation between the two sides of the village, which is divided by
the Connecticut River.
In 1985 Schell Bridge was closed because it had deteriorated too far for
safe use. Due to lack of funding, the bridge had not been adequately maintained.
MassDOT devised a plan to rehabilitate the bridge, but the town could not
justify the costs of assuming responsibility for maintaining the
rehabilitated structure. In 1987, with no group willing to take on the
responsibility of the bridge, the decision was made to tear it down.
Demolition bids were made and contracts awarded in 1999, but the bridge
has thus far not been torn down.
"There’s a funny cycle that
occurs in the
history of the building,” observed Kent Barwick, former chairman of New
York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. “It is very much appreciated
when it is put up, then it sort of disappears into the city when other
buildings become more noticeable or celebrated. And just a little while
is rediscovered, it is thought to be absolutely worthless. That’s the
dangerous moment for a building.” Such is now the case with Schell
In 2003 Preservation Mass named Schell Bridge one of the ten most endangered historic resources in Massachusetts.
In 2004 a private group, Friends of
Schell Bridge, was formed to try to trigger rediscovery of the
Friends of Schell Bridge a non-profit 501(c)3 corporation ¦ P.O. Box 27, Northfield, MA 01360 ¦ info@SchellBridge.org