Vol. III No. 2 1/15/2022
The 20 Housatonic River Bridge Crossings in Stockbridge
By Bernard A. Drew
Stockbridge — with the accent on "bridge" — is appropriately named with more bridges over the Housatonic River than any of its neighbors: a remarkable 20 highway, foot, trolley, and railroad spans. That's as many as Great Barrington and Sheffield combined. Ten of Stockbridge's bridges are still in use.
Starting at the east end of town at Stockbridge Industrial Park off Route 102, near the Lee boundary, we'll travel downstream. Dwight D. Hopkins constructed a private bridge here in the early 1900s so he could reach his extensive sawmill and railroad tie factory on the south side of the river. Concrete foundations of the old business remain visible to those passing on freight trains or who venture beyond the limits of the Laurel Hill Association's Mary V. Flynn Trail to follow the old Berkshire Street Railway roadbed to the river.
The Hopkins business failed after his death in 1944 and the bridge went into disuse and was removed. A bridge pier still stands in the river. It was an unusual bridge, the only wooden truss in the entire street railway, situated on the river in such a way as to frequently trap flotsam and branches floating downstream.
Immediately downstream and also crossing from the industrial park was a Berkshire Street Railway bridge. The trolley line was active from 1903 to 1930, after which that bridge closed. An abutment survives.
A pedestrian bridge crossed the river from the foot of Lincoln Lane to the south side of the river to connect with a woods trail. There's still an abutment on the south bank.
Next is the double crossing at Park Street. There's long been a footbridge across the river for hikers climbing to Ice Glen or Laura's Tower. That side of the mountain was for years the property of David Dudley Field Jr. When he hosted Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne and others at Laurel Cottage (where the tennis courts are today) in 1850, several of the group followed a trail behind the house, forded the river and went up to see the sights. Eventually a footbridge was installed.
The first wooden bridge to Ice Glen wore out and was replaced in 1869. In 1895, German engineer Fritz von Emperger designed a new reinforced concrete arch bridge, one of the first ever built in this country and elegant to the eye. When the bridge was nearly finished, workers placed heavy barrels on the span to see how strong it was. The concrete wasn't yet dry. The bridge twisted and fell in. Rebuilt, it was used by hikers to Ice Glen until about 1931, when an inspector said it was unsafe.
End Part One
Editor's note: Bernie Drew, Gary Leveille, Rick Wilcox, all local historians, are more than story tellers. They are preservationists. They preserve in word what cannot be preserved in fact.
The bridges have been part of the infrastructure and the beauty of Stockbridge. As wear and tear takes its toll, what we do next is important and Drew's words become important. This is a long article and will appear in SU in three parts. Thank you, Bernie and Gary, for preserving in word and picture.
Stockbridge Trolley bridge 1907 Gary Leveille collection
Old bridge at Ice Glen circa 1912 Gary Leveille collection
Stockbridge arch bridge 1880s likely Curtisville in Interlaken Gary Leveille collection