CT's Historic Masonry Arches

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Bulkeley Bridge,
Bridge No. 980A

Bulkeley Bridge

Interstate 84 over Connecticut River
Stone arch
Length: 9 spans, 1,192' overall, 119' maximum span length
Built 1903-1908
Edwin D. Graves, chief engineer
Edmund M. Wheelwright, architect
Construction of Bulkeley BridgeIn 1926 one of the Bulkeley Bridge's engineers speculated, probably correctly, that it was the last monumental stone bridge that would ever be built. Within a few years of its conception, concrete and steel had entirely replaced stone in the construction of large bridges. Not only was it the last of its kind, but also in many ways the Bulkeley Bridge was one of the greatest. Five of its spans are longer than any of the other stone arches in the state; 100,000 cubic yards of pink and gray granite were consumed in its construction; Every stone was individually numbered according to its place in the bridge.the tolerances for the stone-cutting were unbelievably close (less than 3/8" over the whole face of a 10-ton block); and its total cost, some $3 million, made it for many years the most expensive bridge built in Connecticut. Four people perished during construction, and the chief engineer, Edwin Dwight Graves, suffered a nervous breakdown from which he never recovered.

Bulkeley BridgeThe Bulkeley Bridge was built to replace Hartford's 1818 covered bridge, which burned in 1895. Hartford's civic and business leaders were determined that the new bridge would be "an ornament to the city which should endure forever." To create a proper setting, the bridge commission tore down rows of tenements and constructed wide, landscaped approach boulevards on both sides of the river. The red arrow indicates bridge widening, c. 1960.In designing the bridge, the architect and engineer studied numerous ancient European bridges, and they decided that uncomplicated geometry and restrained architectural detailing would create the proper sense of "strength, beauty and dignity." The Bulkeley Bridge's tremendous scale, plain but graceful lines, arched form, and simple Classical ornament make it one of the state's pre-eminent examples of Neo-Classical architecture.

Historic drawing of Bulkeley BridgeFormer governor and U. S. Senator Morgan Bulkeley was an early proponent of the bridge and chairman of the special commission created by the State Legislature to oversee its construction. After his death in 1922, the bridge, originally known simply as the Hartford Bridge, was renamed in his honor.

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