Follett Bridge. Detail from Risperidone video installation, 2001.
Following is information regarding Follett's stone bridges from the Townshend Historical Society of Vermont:
TOWNSHEND'S HISTORIC STONE ARCHED BRIDGE
In an age of concrete and steel, few examples of earlier engineer ing technology are allowed to remain. Yet, on the roads of Townshend, Vermont, several fine examples of handcrafted stone masonry now practically a lost art are still in use today. Scattered through out the town to be found and admired if you know where to look are six small stone arch bridges. These bridges were built between 1894 and 1910 by James Otis Follett, a local farmer turned stone mason. Like many other farmers who worked on town road crews to supplement their income, James Follett worked on the roads of Townshend and there developed the skills to construct his stone marvels. Follett built his stone bridges with local material, using either nearby fieldstones or granite blocks which he drilled and split by hand from local rock. The bridge foundations were "mud sills," hem lock logs sunk underwater where they are protected from rotting. On top of these, the arch was the first bridge component to take form. To form the arch, he first built a wooden arched frame, or rib. The stones were lifted into place with a derrick and horsedrawn winch. The two sides of the arch were built up and then the top keystone lifted into place. To finish, fill was laid in behind the arch and a gravel road surface was laid on top. Follett used little or no mortar, relying on the keystone and the weight of the stones above the arch to hold the bridge together. Anachronisms before they were completed, James Follett's bridges still serve well the back roads of Townshend. Follett reportedly built as many as forty stone bridges through out the region of southern Vermont and New Hampshire. Today, only eleven are known to remain one in Walpole, New Hampshire, four in Putney, Vermont, and six in Townshend.
The Stone Arch Bridge at West Townshend
WEST TOWNSHEND BRIDGE, built in 1910 of granite blocks and located just off Route 30 on the old road to South Wind ham across Tannery Brook,is the largest Follett bridge in Townshend. The bridge can be viewed by walking down the bank on the village side of the bridge. Just a short distance down the brook once stood another Follett arch bridge, which carried the old Route 30 until it was washed out by the flood of 1938. These were the "Twin Bridges of West Townshend."
SIMPSONVILLE BRIDGE, on Route 35 about 2 miles north of Townshend,is difficult to recognize because culverts have been added to both sides of the stone arch to widen the bridge. However, by walking under the bridge one can examine the inner arch of large cut granite blocks.
NEGRO BROOK BRIDGE carries traffic next to the west entrance to the Townshend State Forest. The arch, only 5 feet high and 15 feet long, is built of roughly cut granite slabs and can be easily seen from under the bridge when the brook is low.
ROGERS ROAD BRIDGE can be found on a path which leads upstream from Scott Bridge along the riverbank for about 300 yards. This 3~ foot high bridge, built of roughly cut granite slabs, carries an abandoned road over a dry streambed.
BUCK HILL BRIDGE is on the logging road which enters the Townshend State Forest behind the farmhouse near Scott Bridge. Like the Rogers Bridge, this is a very small bridge built of roughly cut stone blocks. FAIR BROOK BRIDGE, distinguishable by its guardrails, is about three tenths of a mile from Townshend Dam. This Follett bridge, the largest on the west side of the West River, has an arch 10' feet high and 22' feet long and is built mainly of thin fieldstones with abutting walls of larger stones.
In the fall of 1976, the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation nominated all of Townshend's stone arch bridges to the National Register of Historic Places. This official recognition establishes that these bridges deserve protection against destruction or neglect. In addition, the National Park Service has selected these bridges to be recorded by the Historic American Engineering Record... .from a brochure published by The Conservation Society of Southern Vermont, Townshend.
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