Ottauquechee River Bridge
Municipality: Hartland, VT
Location: Route 5, over the Ottauquechee River
Site Type: Bridge
Vt Survey No: 1409-32
UTMs: (Zone 18) E: 713520. N: 4830900
National Register Nomination Information:
The U.S. 5 Ottauquechee River Bridge is located in a dense woodland section of rural southwestern [sic] Vermont. A four-span steel Warren deck truss, it is 274 feet long and was built about 1930 by the state highway department as part of massive bridge rebuilding program following the 1927 flood, one of Vermont's worst natural disasters. This curved vehicular bridge carries U.S. 5 traffic over the Ottauquechee River in Hartland in southwestern Windsor County west of Interstate 91 and the New Hampshire border. U.S. 5 was a primary north/south route before the interstate was built. The bridge is an excellent example of an early auto age highway structure that has not been altered and one which maintains its integrity of design, workmanship and setting.
The main span is a riveted metal truss which runs 120 feet on the southernmost part of the bridge. The main span of the bridge, which is 34 feet above the river, has seven truss panels each 23.6 feet wide and 20 feet deep. The truss span also has full depth crossed angle sway bracing, angle top and bottom crossbracing, a lattice girder and bottom struts. The upper chord of the span is a box girder with latticed top and bottom. The lower chord has paired channels with stay plates spaced 3 feet apart with vertical and diagonal I-beams. The floor system consists of rolled I-section floor beams, a concrete slab floor and curb without stringers. The approach spans are supported by five 11" x 30" I-beams.
The bridge is distinguished by a guard rail on T-section stanchions with its system of angles and channels which is decorated with latticework on the upper railing. The bridge features inclined end panels and poured concrete abutments. The piers have a rusticated effect and rounded ends, while the north pier between I-beam spans is marked by an arched opening.
The U.S. 5 bridge over the Ottauquechee River represents an important era in bridge building and in the history of Vermont. As one of 1,600 bridges built following the devastating 1927 flood, the U.S. 5 structure uses standardized design and economical construction vital to the large scale bridge building effort launched in the state after the flood. The bridge is one of only 4 Warren deck trusses built in the state between 1928 and 1930. The Warren truss was, along with the Pratt truss, the most popular bridge type in the country during the period between 1850 and 1925. Its simple form, a series of equilateral triangles where the diagonals carry both the tensile and compressive strength, is still being used in bridge construction today. An identical truss is located in Bethel over the third branch of the White River.
As part of a multiple property submission, this bridge is being nominated under the historic context "Metal Truss, Masonry, and Concrete Bridges in Vermont." The property type is metal truss bridges. This bridge clearly meets the registration requirements for this property type. It is one of the best preserved examples of the few remaining Warren deck trusses in the state and retains its original members and structural integrity.
The deck truss was popular for longer spans with certain natural elevations because it minimized building expenses by requiring lower piers and abutments than other truss types. Its design uses the now standardized riveted construction and concrete flooring as well as rolled I-beams rather than built members, which expedited the building process.
The bridge also relates well with its rural environment. Because the truss runs underneath the floor of bridge, it appears to be simply an extension of the two-lane roadway over the river. The bridge's gently curving approach and modest decorated railing retains the feel of a early 20th-century rural auto bridge. The site is also important for its educational value. Just east of the bridge on the river's north bank, are the remains of an earlier bridge abutment, which provides an interesting contrast to the modern bridge building techniques exhibited in the truss, and is testament to the flood's devastation.
DATE ENTERED: October 11, 1990.
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