Milford aims to recognize local landmark

MILFORD – The town’s Victorian-era pedestrian bridge has been nominated for the National Registry of Historic Places, a designation that could help with fundraising efforts to save the 128-year-old span.

According to Peter Michaud, national register coordinator at the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources, the town should learn by mid-June whether the National Park Service will enter the bridge into the registry.

James Garvin, a retired New Hampshire architectural historian and a preservation consultant, nominated the bridge at the request of the Milford Historical Society and with the permission of town officials.

The Swing Bridge, as it’s called, was built in 1889 and refurbished in 1975 and now needs full restoration, which could cost $500,000, the engineering firm of Hoyle, Tanner and Associates estimated in 2015.

The bridge is 200 feet long, made of towering uprights nearly three stories high that support a wooden walkway hanging from cables.

The structure shakes and squeaks and has peeling paint and rust, and the engineers’ report includes photos of severed wires, bent trusses and other problems.

It’s called the Swing Bridge because the first bridge on the site, a wooden span built in 1850, swayed. It was built to help mill workers get to nearby textile and furniture mills.

“A wooden walkway and railing allowed for a precarious crossing,” is how “The Granite Town” described it.

Now the decking and support towers are classified as fair, but the rest of it – the superstructure and the substructure – is poor, based on Federal Highway Administration standards.

“Left in its current condition without any repairs and under existing light duty, it is estimated that in the next five or 10 years, the bridge may require closure,” according to the Hoyle, Tanner report.

Engineers recommend an annual maintenance plan, but said that “is not enough to save the bridge from further deterioration, and the town’s ongoing maintenance, such as replacing deck boards and replacing stringers, does not arrest decay.”

If the bridge is saved, “It would continue to provide a safe transportation corridor for all trail uses through the congested downtown and encourage regular healthy exercise and recreation.”

Michaud said the nomination is the first step in a three-step approval process.

“It’s a wonderful bridge,” he said Monday. “Milford has many treasures and this is one of them.”

Chuck Worcester, Milford Heritage Commission chairman, said the town has received more than $10,000 in individual donations so far, and all the money goes into a non-lapsing fund, and will only be spent on this project.

The town will wait until the historic designations – for the state and national registries – before applying for grants.

“When they come through, there will be a better chance,” he said.

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the country’s historic buildings, districts, sites, structures, and objects worthy of preservation. It was established as part of the National Historical Preservation Act of 1966 and is overseen by the National Park Service.

The evaluation process looks at a property’s age, integrity, and historic significance.

Donations can be sent to The Town of Milford, 1 Union Square, Milford, N.H. 03055, attention the Heritage Commission and marked for the Swing Bridge.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.

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