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Endangered: Memorial Bridge, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

August 18, 2009
CK costume

I got my witch costume from Woolworth's in downtown Portsmouth; wonder where Caroline got hers?

My own bridge of memories.  Going to town (from our village).  My sister called it “the Singing Bridge.”  It led from Kittery to Portsmouth, where I went to see a movie, to buy my Halloween costume (the same one Caroline Kennedy picked out, as it happens), and where my mother bought mouth-wateringly delicious cinnamon horns at a little bakery (I still remember the interior, the bakecases, the darkness after the bright light of the sidwalk).

This is Memorial Bridge connecting Portsmouth, New Hampshire to Kittery, Maine.  I relate to this bridge, as I was born on the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, on an island between two states.  All my life I was never quite sure to answer the question “where are you from” since I was born between two states and never called anywhere my home for more than a couple of years.  (The legal battle over ownership of the island was settled recently, with the courts giving the nod to Maine.  So I guess I’m from Maine?)

Memorial Bridge is on the 2009 Most Endangered Historic Places list put out by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  (See my previous post here.)  The PowersThatBe want to remove and replace the bridge, saying it would be too expensive to repair.  Others suggest that removal and replacement would actually cost much more.  I would argue that I wonder if a new bridge would offer the same pleasing traceries of metal or the towers in the sky that serve as a landmark from the middle of Portsmouth.  What do you think?

Action:  Write to the governors of Maine and New Hampshire, go to the NTHP page and email your support (there’s a form, all ready to go — check it out!).  Check Save Our Bridges for more information and additional information on how to come to the rescue.

Click here for vintage Pathe news coverage of bridge’s dedication.

More info here from Seacoast Bicycle Routes which cites the bridge as an important transporation link as well as  historic landmark.  Their article notes the negative impacts of replacing the existing bridge with a high span:

Replacing the bridge with a new high span won’t support bicycle and pedestrian transportation needs. Approach ramps would need to start far back from the river, cutting through neighborhoods, while stairs or ramps to bring cyclists and pedestrians up to a span high enough to accommodate ships that ply the river would discourage walking and cycling.

For the latest updates, check “Save Our Bridges” , a coalition advocating for these important and historic crossings.

To review the NH-DOT webpage on the project, click here.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Allyson permalink
    August 18, 2009 10:38 pm

    Actually, we used to call it “the screaming bridge”, which is exactly what it would be doing now if it knew it was endagered!! What will it take before we stop destroying all these fabulous structures from the past?

  2. August 20, 2009 2:29 pm

    Does it actually sing?

    • Sabra Smith permalink*
      August 20, 2009 2:53 pm

      They paved it at some point along the way, but the road surface used to be a metal grid and when you drove over it there was a sort of whirring, humming, singing sound. That was always part of the thrill of crossing — you’d enter this metal, almost castle-like portal, and the sound would start, and then end abruptly as you came out the other side.

      (I have a distinct memory of my mother lowering the rear window of the station wagon — which meant the “singing” was even louder — to startle a station-wagon full of loud children after taking my party pals and me there for a movie on my birthday. It worked.)


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