Several historic bridges span the water between Brunswick and Topsham. The oldest is the Androscoggin Swinging Bridge, originally built in 1892 by the John A. Roebling Son’s Company, which also built the famous Brooklyn Bridge. The Swinging Bridge is a 223-foot pedestrian walkway suspended by cables across the Androscoggin River. It was put in place for the French-Canadian workers who lived in Topsham but worked at the Cabot Mill in Brunswick.  

The two towers at each end were originally made of wood, but these were replaced with the present steel towers in the early 20th century. A flood took out much of the bridge in 1936 and it was rebuilt a couple years later by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. Restored again in 2007, the bridge now features public parks on each end and is a very popular piece of local history.

Nearby is the Black Bridge, a double-decker structure that was designed for cars and trains. Unlike the Carlton and most other double-decker bridges, the Black Bridge has the railroad on top with the roadway hanging suspended underneath. There weren’t many cars around when the bridge was built in 1909 by the Pennsylvania Steel Company, which might account for the narrow and frightening nature of the roadway. It was a two-way bridge, but the wooden roadbed could only accommodate one car at a time. 

Two cars would often enter both sides of the bridge simultaneously in a scene reminiscent of Robin Hood and Little John crossing the log; somebody was always forced to back out and let the other car across. An accident lead to the eventual closure of the roadway, and it was demolished in 2014. Today the Black Bridge can only be used by trains.

The newest bridge is the Frank J. Wood Bridge, which crosses the Androscoggin between the old Cabot Mill and the old Bowdoin Mill and is the ninth or 10th bridge to stand in the same spot since 1795. Built in 1932, the green steel truss bridge is in poor condition despite being rehabilitated in 1985 and 2006. While the bridge has great sentimental value for many residents, it was not designed to carry the present traffic load, and the Maine Department of Transportation has decided to replace the structure with a modern bridge.

While the new bridge will be safer and better built, no modern bridge can compare to the aesthetic appeal of the old one.

Source: historicbridges.org, The Times Record

Photo: hippostcard.com