Vol. III No. 4 2/15/2022
20 Bridges of Stockbridge
By Bernie Drew
Part three — conclusion
Once a town highway bridge, the Lester or Butler Bridge, as it was variously called, on Butler Road is open only to foot traffic today. Just south of the Norman Rockwell Museum, this is Berkshire's oldest surviving metal bridge. Constructed in 1882, the 88-foot bridge is a pinned wrought iron half-through truss. The design is based on a pattern developed by Ohio engineer August Borneman, who received a patent in 1879 for a "bedstead" truss.
Historic American Engineering Record has documented this bridge, calling it "an apparently unique example of a small highway bridge designed by the preeminent bridge engineer George Shattuck Morrison, who is remembered primarily for his long-span railroad bridges and his service with the Panama Canal Commission." J.H. Burghardt of Curtisville built the abutments.
When we reach Glendale, the river crosses at the still-active Glendale Middle Road bridge (14). The previous bridge on this site, a 117-foot Berlin Iron Bridge Co. lenticular-style metal bridge, collapsed in a spectacular auto accident in 1974. The driver of a sports car struck the side of the bridge midway through and it buckled into the water. Berlin (or its predecessor, Corrugated Metal Co.) put up more highway bridges in the Berkshires than any other company in the latter half of the 19th century.
The present 1978 bridge, 107 feet long, was installed by Boston Bridge Works.
Visible just to the east of this crossing are stone piers of another Berkshire Street Railway bridge (15), which brought the line in and through Glendale village. Actually, for a very brief time, there were side-by-side trolley bridges here. Besides the permanent one mentioned, there was a temporary span (16) built on a wooden trestle when the line was first put through in 1905. A photo of the two spans is shown in O.R. Cummings' history, Berkshire Street Railway (1972).
There's a phantom bridge crossing here (17), connecting with Dry Bridge Road (now called Mohawk Lake Road). The crossing existed only on paper. It's shown in the 1876 Beers Atlas of Berkshire County map of Stockbridge. It would have carried the Lee & Hudson Railroad over the river, had that line been completed in 1875. But the rail line was abandoned. Ledge cuts and fills for the track bed are still to be found near Mohawk Lake and in West Stockbridge. The Berkshire Street Railway used the Lee & Hudson right-of-way over or near this proposed crossing.
Continuing on Route 183 toward Housatonic, just below the hydroelectric station, abutments are visible to a bridge (18) built decades ago to enable service to the upstream dam (which was originally built to power a textile factory).
Continuing toward Housatonic village, a steel girder Housatonic Railroad bridge (19) brings the rail line to the north side of the river.
And just before the Great Barrington line, at Alger Furnace, abutments can be seen at low water for the last bridge in Stockbridge (20). This span provided access to the south side of the river to maintain the furnace's dam there, and to bring charcoal down the mountain to fire the ironworks.
Gary Leveille collection