Help Preserve the Landmark Shaw Bridge in Claverack NY
Help Preserve the Landmark Shaw Bridge in Claverack NY To: Preserve New York Grant Panel Members I am writing to urge you to fund a Historic Structure Report for the Shaw Bridge. This landmark bridge is described in the National Register of Historic Places as "a structure of outstanding importance to the history of American engineering and transportation technology.” It is included in the Library of Congress Historic American Engineering Record; ranked by HistoricBridges.org as a bridge with one of the highest Historic Significance Ratings; recognized as an important American bridge in BridgeHunter.com; and identified as an international engineering landmark by Structurae! The bridge employs the basic design of 1830 Union College graduate Squire Whipple who has been called the "Father of Iron Bridges" by Dr. Francis. E. Griggs Jr., Distinguished Member of American Society of Civil Engineers (Dist.M.ASCE). The Shaw Bridge is the only extant double-span Whipple bowstring truss bridge in the U.S. and is in its original location along the historic New York to Albany Post Road. For the first 125 years after construction, the Shaw Bridge provided vital service and was well maintained but for the last 15 years it has been closed to all traffic, including pedestrian traffic, with no maintenance (until vegetation was recently removed) resulting in rapid deterioration of the wooden bridge deck and rusting of iron components. Without maintenance the bridge will deteriorate beyond restoration and become a dangerous eyesore waiting for an accident. The modest requested funds ($10,000) would be used to pay consultants to produce a Historic Structure Report, which would describe the current condition of the bridge and recommend cost effective ways to stabilize, rehabilitate, and restore the bridge for pedestrian use. Many residents of the Town of Claverack were deeply disappointed that the Preserve New York Grant Program did not fund the Historic Structure Report last year, although Preserve New York encouraged us to apply again this year. Meanwhile, many hours have been volunteered by Town Highway personnel to clear vegetation; a professional photographer has taken more than 300 photographs of the bridge; a group of engineers have visited the site, offered advice, and strongly supported the restoration of the bridge; and the Town historian and a Community College instructor have researched and drafted the history of Squire Whipple, the Shaw Bridge, Albany Post Road, and the Shaw family. Without the expert guidance of a Historic Structure Report, however, substantive restoration cannot move forward and unfortunately momentum has been lost during this past year. It is vitally important that the Historic Structure Report is funded this year as it will not only help save this historic civil engineering landmark but also give a tremendous boost to preservation efforts in the Town of Claverack, Columbia County, and New York State. The Shaw Bridge restoration project is an important building block in Claverack's historic preservation efforts, and currently its most visible. Success in preserving this historic bridge and making it accessible to residents on a daily basis will energize the community and help define a broader historic preservation vision to preserve Claverack's unique history and make it come alive. Many worthy but difficult preservation projects are waiting in the wings for the success of this project, including the restoration of the Van Hoesen House, the Mellenville Railroad Station, updating the list of approximately 200 Town of Claverack historic homes, taking an inventory of historic homes in the Village of Philmont, and continuing to place outstanding individual historic properties on the National Register of Historic Places.