Friday, November 28, 2014

Northern Avenue Bridge, Boston

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When I was in Boston a couple of years ago, I spent a couple of days wandering around the central city after I was done with meetings out in the 'burbs. At one point ended up in the Fort Point Channel area, after getting off the Silver Line at South Station and heading toward the nearest body of water. The channel is sort of a narrow arm of Boston Harbor just east of downtown, crossed by a number of bridges, and the surrounding area is a former industrial district that's been thoroughly gentrified in recent years. I've been known to devote blog posts to bridges now and then, so I took a few photos of the four bridges along the north end of the channel. I haven't posted them until now because honestly none of them are really all that remarkable to look at, and probably none of them appear on anyone's list of top 100 Boston-area tourist attractions. Still, I did manage to dig up a few semi-interesting facts and bits of trivia about each of them, so I figure I have enough material to support a brief post about each of the four. And thus, a new mini-tour is born.

So the first stop on our mini-tour is the Northern Ave. Bridge, the northernmost bridge over the channel. It's a swing span bridge built in 1908, about the same vintage as the two remaining swing-span bridges in Portland. It's also the only one of the historic channel bridges that still opens, since the channel now only serves as a harbor for small boats. It's been a pedestrian-only bridge since the adjacent Evelyn Moakley bridge opened next door. Unfortunately only a portion of the bridge is open to pedestrians since it's in a general state of disrepair, and plans to do something about it stalled out, without any consensus on whether to renovate or just demolish it.

The Library of Congress has a set of historic photos of the bridge along with a short description:

The Northern Avenue Swing Bridge, built in 1908, is one of only three surviving swing bridges built by the city of Boston in the late 19th and early 20th century. Today, still operated infrequently on its original compressed-air system, it is the only operable bridge in Boston of its type. The bridge is 80 feet in width, encompassing between four sets of pin connected trusses, two sidewalks, two roadways and a center lane reserved for a double-track freight railroad. The swing span is 283 feet in length. The rim bearing swing span is carried by a 40 foot diameter drum, in turn supported by 56 steel wheels running on a track along the rim of the granite island pier.

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