National Register Nomination Information:
Located in a wooded area of scattered residential, commercial, and agricultural buildings in the County of Windsor, Vermont, the Quechee Gorge bridge is the oldest standing steel arch bridge in Vermont. It is significant as an early example of steel-arch construction, as an impressive engineering challenge, and as the leading work of a prolific, regionally important bridge engineer. Designed for the Woodstock Railroad in 1911 by John W. Storrs and fabricated by the American Bridge Company of New York, the Quechee Gorge bridge is rare for its unusual design and construction method. Due to its relatively unaltered state, the bridge retains its integrity of location, setting, design, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association.
This large tri-span, spandrel-braced, deck arched bridge is 285' tong, 41' wide, and sits 163' above the dramatic setting of the Ottauquechee River. As with virtually all of Vermont bridges built before the 1927 floor [sic], the Quechee Gorge bridge has built-up members in various combinations of plates, channels, and angles, which are connected with rivets.
The Quechee Gorge bridge rests upon poured concrete footings. Interestingly, the bridge replaced an 1875 wooden truss bridge and the granite coursed-ashlar abutments are still visible behind these concrete footings. The bridge's center span is a three-hinged parabolic spandrel-braced arch, with ten Pratt truss panels. The ten panels of the center span combine to form a span of 188'. The remaining two spans are both 45' long and have plate-girder approach spans at either end. The upper chord of the bridge consists of a box girder with side channels and a latticed underside. The lower chord, a larger box girder built up of plates and angles, has a latticed underside. The end vertical is the same as the lower chord and the second vertical is a box girder with two latticed sides. The remaining verticals are l-section plate girders. The diagonals are made up of box girders with two sides latticed. The lattice-girder struts have lower cross-bracing and the first two interior cross-braces are built up T-sections.
The floor system contains large plate-girder (I-section) floor beams, two central plate-girder stringers with six outer I-beam stringers for a concrete slab floor, and angle-section cross-bracing. The I-beam stringers and concrete floor were added to the system in 1933 when the right-of-way was taken over by Route 4 and the bridge was converted for highway use. The bridge also contains sidewalks with a replaced railing, which runs on both sides of its floor. A builder's plate located on the structure states:
JOHN W. STORRS
AMERICAN BRIDGE COMPANY
STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE
As part of a multiple property submission, the Quechee Gorge 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 historically significant under National Register Criterion A for contribution to the broad patterns of our transportation history since it was built as a railroad bridge during the height of railroad transportation and then, in 1933, was incorporated into a highway bridge due to increased automobile traffic on Vermont's roadways. The bridge is architecturally significant under National Register Criterion C for embodying the types, forms, and methods of engineering and construction associated with bridge building in Vermont in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is also associated with the work of a master bridge builder, John W. Storrs. The bridge is intact with an identifiable truss system. The truss system is functioning, and the structure retains its integrity of location, setting, design, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association.
The Quechee Gorge bridge, which crosses the Ottauquechee River In Hartford, is significant as an early example of steel-arch construction, as an impressive engineering challenge, and as the leading work of a prolific, regionally important bridge engineer, John W. Storrs. Although a few steel arches had been built in America in the 1880s and 1890s, they did not become common until the first decades of the twentieth century, and then only for special circumstances. Now that the 1905 Bellows Falls Bridge has been demolished, this span ranks as Vermont's oldest steel arch. It is also the only spandrel-braced arch. Unlike the rib arches of bridges over the Connecticut River, the spandrel-braced arch uses trusswork in the area between the roadway and the ribs, in effect, making the whole web into part of the arch. The design was especially well-suited to situations such as this where the crossing had to be made high above a rocky gorge. By utilizing an arch, the abutments could be made lower than a comparable deck truss, and more importantly, could be erected without falsework. Although the method of erection of this bridge is not known, steel arches typically were constructed with the ribs cantilevered out over the river and held in place by stay cables, Thus, this bridge could have been erected without first building 163 of falsework precariously perched in the gorge below.
The bridge was built in 1911 to carry the tracks of the Woodstock Railroad over the gorge and replaced an 1875 wooden truss bridge which was less suited for heavyweight, twentieth century locomotives. In 1933, the right of way was taken over for U.S. Route 4, and the bridge was converted for highway use. This procedure chiefly required adding stringers and a concrete deck to the system.
The fabricator of the Quechee Gorge bridge was the American Bridge Company. The firm, whose parent company was U.S. Steel, was the most prolific bridge fabricator in Vermont before, during, and after the 1927 flood. John W. Storrs was the chief designer of the bridge and was not associated wth the company.
At the time John W. Storrs designed this bridge, he was employed as a bridge engineer for the Boston and Maine Railroad. He also worked as an independent consultant for others, including the Woodstock and Montpelier and Wells River Railroads. Around 1909 his son, Edward, associated with him and by 1915 the firm, known as Storrs and Storrs, was doing a large business in northern New England. The firm also designed a Connecticut River bridge in Brattleboro, as well as a granite bridge in Barre which are both still standing. The Quechee Gorge bridge appears to be the largest and most sophisticated bridge Storrs designed.
MAJOR BIBLIOGRAPHICAL REFERENCES
Hartford, Vermont. Vermont Historic Sites and Structures Survey, Survey Number 1408-44. Vermont Division for Historic Preservation. Montpelier, Vermont.
FORM PREPARED BY: M. Nadine Miller, UVM Historic Preservation Program, Wheeler House, Burlington VT. 05405. Tel: 802-656-3180. Date: April 20, 1990.
DATE ENTERED: October 11, 1990.
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