Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Bridging Bovina

As I write this, the 55 year old bridge on County Route 6 at the lower end of Bovina Center is undergoing repairs. This bridge was built to replace a more picturesque bridge that had become unsafe and unsuitable for modern vehicular traffic. There has been a bridge at this end of the hamlet since at least 1873, when the first documented bridge there was built. Unfortunately, within three years, it collapsed. The replacement stone arch bridge lasted over 80 years, but the change from horse drawn vehicles to trucks and automobiles made the bridge very challenging to cross - it was easy to scrape your car on the sides of the bridge. Click on the image to the right to see a larger version of this picture from the 1930s, courtesy of Christine Hilson Batey.

In March 1954, the Bovina Town Board passed a resolution in requesting that a new bridge be built:

"Resolved: Whereas the bridge at Bovina Center has been deemed unsafe for travel,
"Whereas, two school buses, one carrying 52 children and the other 25 children, are forced to unload the children and said children must walk across said bridge on their way to school in the morning and on their return at night,
"Whereas, this is the main outlet of said Town – all milk being hauled in trucks from community and all grain and supplies hauled in comes over this bridge,
"Whereas, the Post Office at Bovina Center is reached by a mail car using this bridge,
"Whereas, the bridge in use was built in the 1870's and very little repair work has been done since then,
"Whereas, signs stating, “Proceed at your own risk” has been posted at the approaches to the bridge,
"We, the undersigned members of the Town Board of the Town of Bovina, do recommend that a new bridge be built as soon as possible."

Construction began in September 1954. On the left is a photo taken on September 15, 1954 - the old bridge can be seen in the background. Click on the image to see a larger version (photo by Bob Wyer, courtesy of the Delaware County Historical Association).

The Delaware Republican Express reported in its July 7, 1955 issue that "The new bridge almost completed down by Frank McPherson's was open to traffic last week and is sure getting a work out." To the right is a photo from the Jack Hilson family of the newly completed span (click the image to see the larger version - you'll see in the background a shot of the old bridge).

Much to the disappointment of many, including Stella McPherson, who lived across the street, the old bridge was demolished on July 26, 1955 by the same company that built the new one. Stella had marvelous flowers in her yard and did the arrangements for the church for years. I think she would have done some lovely displays on that old bridge. Click on the image to the right, courtesy of the family of Jack Hilson, to see a photo of the demolition.

A piece of the old bridge still exists at the Bovina Historical Society's Museum. Click on this image to see a photo taken by Bob Wyer in the late 1950s of this piece. (Photo courtesy of the Delaware County Historical Association).

The repairs on the current bridge are bringing a rather unusual element to Bovina - a traffic light. Click on this image I took on June 5 heading towards Route 28. The bridge is where the orange cones are laid out.

The need for a new bridge at this spot in 1955 can be well understood. The old bridge, while lovely, was treacherous and a challenge for drivers. The new bridge is much safer to navigate. But I'm sorry that the old bridge couldn't have stayed around. It would have been an interesting relic of Bovina's past and an interesting curiosity.

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