May 10, 2004

Freese Road bridge

David Weinstein, who lives on Freese Road along the north side of Fall Creek, sent this telling of the Freese Road bridge's history and current functions.

The Freese Road Bridge in Varna was built in 1920, replacing an earlier wrought-iron tress bridge built in 1878 by the Groton Iron Bridge Company (which may have been the same company who constructed the replacement bridge, but no name plate appears on the current bridge so its builder remains speculative). It is one of six Pratt pony-truss bridges remaining in the county to date from this period. It is the longest metal truss bridge in the county, spanning 161 feet. Because of the length of the span, a concrete pier was added to bolster the carrying capacity, and groups of diagonal angle bars were added to strengthen the truss. It is made of steel and is 12 feet 10 inches in width and 8 feet 6 inches high.
Although the bridge used a design commonly employed for economic reasons in less traveled areas, it served as an important access for farms north of Varna to the commercial centers in Varna, a grist mill downstream and a tannery and saw mill upstream from the bridge, all on the south side of the creek. Previous repairs were made to the bridge abutments in 1952 and 1978, and the sheet pilings used for the northern abutment were installed in 1981 after the flooding on Oct 28 undermined the existing abutment. A photo taken on Oct 28th that appeared in the Ithaca Journal soon afterwards showed Fall Creek waters had risen within a few feet of the bottom of the bridge tress.
The current repairs include replacement of the decking, pouring a concrete abutment to replace the attachment of the bridge to the north bank and sheet pilings, and replacement of guardrails and some of the angle braces mentioned above. The water that services Varna crosses the bridge in a pipe that is about level with the road way. The exposed way it surfaces from the ground to go on to the bridge motivated the installation of new guardrails. Although the sewer boosting station for Varna sits immediately adjacent to the bridge on the south bank (and is currently being completely replaced), no sewer line crosses the bridge.
(Information came from the National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, filed by Neil Larson, Atchitechtural Historian and Consultant with Historic Ithaca and Tompkins County on March 1, 1995, and on file at the County Transportation Office. Through this nomination, the bridge is afforded some degree of preservation protection through the NY State Office of Historic Preservation even though no official action was taken on this application).

The bridge is currently closed for construction. It was closed March 29th and originally supposed to re-open April 15, but ithas been extended every week since. The current date is May 13th.

Posted by simon at May 10, 2004 7:44 AM in , , ,
Note on photos