Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Swing Time in Milford

Milford, NH Swing Bridge
Doesn’t refer to 1930s and 1940s music, but a 275-foot long footbridge that, years ago, was known to swing as mill workers and others walked across it.

After reading about the bridge, we went on an excursion to Milford, NH, a 20-minute drive from Nashua. The advantages about many of our recent adventures are that all are close by car, all outdoors, and all free of charge —very nice overall.

Built in 1889, the Milford Suspension Bridge, its official name, is popularly called the Milford Swing Bridge or Swinging Bridge. It spans the Souhegan River between Bridge and Souhegan Streets in Milford just a short walk east of the Milford Oval (town center) in the downtown area.

An original wooden footbridge, built in 1850, is how the Swing Bridge got its name. That footbridge was reported to sway heavily under the foot traffic of mill workers as they travelled across it to work and home. 

In 1869, the wooden bridge was swept away by high waters and later replaced by the current iron and cable suspended footbridge. (Despite 20-years between the loss of the first bridge and completion of the second bridge, I couldn't find details on how the river was crossed.)

The new bridge was built by the Berlin Iron Bridge Company, a Connecticut-based firm, recognized for building metal bridges in the late 19th century. The firm constructed hundreds of bridges across the eastern U.S. until 1900.
Berlin Iron Bridge Company, 1898 Construction Date
Uniquely enough, the Milford bridge is the last remaining one of more than 78 suspension bridges that the company is known to have built in NH. In 2017, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Berlin Iron Bridge Company also built truss bridges in VT, RI, MA, and CT. Many of these bridges collapsed or were destroyed by floods, some have been restored and remain standing today.

A product of its time, the Milford bridge bears Victorian Era traits such as a cross beam with decorative finials (finial is a decorative ornament on the top of a bridge marking its "finish" or completion) that span opposite ends of the nearly three-story high support towers on each side of the bridge. These towers have cables which suspend the wood-plank walkway over the Souhegan River. 
Iron work and cabling, Milford Suspension Bridge
The bridge is constructed of riveted iron work and cabling and the abutments were built by a local stone worker. The bridge's
 wooden deck has been replaced over the years, and it doesn't sway. In 1975, the bridge underwent a major restoration which included installation of the chain link fencing, while it does nothing to enhance the bridge, it's more likely for safety reasons.
Walkway, Milford Suspension Bridge
Six years ago, an article in the Milford Cabinet weekly newspaper cited that heavy usage and environmental conditions were contributing to the need for a full restoration of the Swing Bridge. At that time, the price tag was listed at half a million dollars, which would be much higher now. According to the Milford Historical Society, restoration is in the hands of the NH State Dept. of transportation.
Anchoring cables, Milford Suspension Bridge
Mill workers who used the original swing bridge may have been going to work at The Milford Cotton and Woolen Manufacturing Company. It's one of the few surviving mill complexes in Milford, which derives its name in part from the word, mill

Just a short walk from the bridge we saw the former mill site. Like most New England Mills, which were located near water, the river was its power source back when it operated. 
Former Milford Cotton and Woolen Manufacturing Company, Milford, NH
This mill complex was created between 1813 - 1916 and
originally produced fabric during the War of 1812. It closed in 1833, reopened in 1838, and was sold to the American Thread Company in 1901. Products made here were sold throughout the U.S. Material woven at the mill was used in the production of army uniforms for both world wars.

The mill buildings were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982 and converted to senior residences in 1983.

Souhegan River, Milford, NH


Anvilcloud said...

I am sure that it was a pleasant little outing for you. It's good that they have kept this one intacct.

Barbara Rogers said...

well, they'd best get to fixing it for those seniors to be able to cross the bridge! That's all I have to say about that (thanks Forrest Gump.)

acorn hollow said...

There is one of those in Brunswick Maine. Very interesting

Sandra said...

I would walk this one, usually i don't do the swinging bridge thing. this one looks pretty safe, and not to far to the water. if it were really HIGH, no walking would be done. it is pretty amazing to me and I love the green entrance gate way. the part about making fabric in war of 1812 is pretty amazing also

Linda G. said...

A bridge that crosses the Allegheny River in Warren PA was torn down. The only way to the other side, while the bridge was out of commission, was a several mile drive through the countryside. The hospital was on the other side of the river. The detour added many minutes extra travel to get to the hospital. The Warren PA bridge carried foot traffic too. The foot traffic stopped during construction. I recall it was a great inconvenience not to have the availability of that bridge.

Edna B said...

Very interesting. I love that photo of the river at the end of this post. It's really beautiful. Enjoy your day, hugs, Edna B.

Bijoux said...

That’s neat that the mill buildings are now residences. Old bridges are neat to see, but boy are they expensive to keep up and restore. We recently had a 140 year old bridge near us restored. It was near an old train station and is now part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It took 6 months and cost $1.34 million.

Emma Springfield said...

I'm not sure a lot of folks understand that there are so many interesting things to see close to home. You two are setting good examples. This was so interesting.

Jeanie said...

This sounds like another wonderful trip close to home. What wonderful things you are discovering! Thanks for telling us about it!

David said...

Beatrice, What a nice bit of history and great photos too! Great to hear that the old mill buildings have been preserved and repurposed. Stay Safe and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Jon said...

It's amazing that such an old bridge is still in use. I can certainly understand the need for safety renovations - but OUCH! the cost is high.
That last photo of Milford is beautiful - a charming place!

L. D. said...

The bridge is an interesting one. It still as color on it that is a good color.

William Kendall said...

What a pretty bridge!

My name is Erika. said...

Cool bridge with such an interesting history. Was it on part of a walk that you can do? Thanks for sharing Dorothy. Hugs-Erika

Margaret D said...

Good research there on the swinging bridge. I bet some of those men way back would have made the bridge swing more :)

nick said...

Good to know there's talk of a full restoration of the bridge. In Northern Ireland there's a well-known bridge, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, that links the mainland to a small island. It spans 20 metres and is 30 metres (just under 100 feet) above the rocks below. I've never actually walked over it but I gather the experience is pretty hair-raising.

David M. Gascoigne, said...

COVID has been the inspiration for many of us to explore locally in a manner we would probably not have done if our ability to travel at will was not impaired. As we have all found out, there is much to be enjoyed right around where we live - in my case in my own back yard at times.

Doris Fahnestock said...

If a bridge moves at all while on it....just am not a fan!! Prefer my feet to be on solid ground. Sounds like an interesting place to visit though and free is ALWAYS good!

DUTA said...

I once crossed a swing bridge during a trip, at the end of which I said to myself: "never again". I remember it as a frightening experience.

Brenda Kay Ledford said...

This posting about the swing bridge is very interesting. I've never seen a swing bridge and enjoyed this very much.

DeniseinVA said...

A very nice trip within a short distance of your home. Milford looks like a pretty town and all the information was very interesting.

baili said...

thank you for sharing interesting and informative post dear Dorothy

i liked what is suspension bridge and how they differ from other bridges ,sound like swing to me and walking over them must be fun :)
last image is gorgeous !