We offer this update from Stone Trust founder, certified instructor, master craftsman, and professional member Michael Weitzner, who provides the expertise and labor to restore the Follett Stone Arched Bridges. For background information, please see the original article by Charlie Marchant, President of the Townshend Historical Society. This project has unfolded over more than 45 years.
Many thanks to Michael and Charlie for allowing us to share their historic preservation process as an example for other community groups working to preserve aspects of their local heritage.
Michael writes: Charlie has asked me to send you an update on the work on the Negro Brook bridge on State Forest Road in Townshend. (Given the recent upheavals, I’m beginning to think that we might want to start referring to it as the “State Forest Road bridge” or something like that…)
[Charlie commented, “I should also point out that there is a movement coming from Williston, VT to change the name of the brook. I have spent many hours in the Town Clerk’s office researching the name. So far I have in town records the name back to 1858 … Name change is interesting as I have found out. It goes through the State Library Board and is covered by Statute. There would have to be a public hearing and we have requested such a hearing in Townshend (email communication, April 3 and 5, 2020).”]
The bridge is one of the six surviving stone arches built by James Otis Follet around the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. The arch itself is in excellent condition and requires no attention. Parts of the spandrel/wing walls were in poor condition and are being rebuilt as needed. Since this is a historic preservation project, the approach taken is to leave intact what is still sufficiently sound and replace the collapsed or unstable portions using a minimally-intrusive approach that reflects the style of the existing stonework, which is quite rough in character.
Brush and trees within twenty feet of the bridge were removed prior to the start of repairs. This includes a large yellow birch which was on the west bank just upstream of the bridge; the removal of that tree allows for the re-shaping of the bank to provide a storm overflow channel, hopefully reducing the risk of washout of the approach roadway in flood conditions. (After Tropical Storm Irene caused extensive flooding in the area, the stream bed was cleared of much rock and the banks just upstream of the bridge were raised; these modifications direct flood water to the bridge rather than allowing the stream to spill over the bank into the flood plain.)
As of this writing, repairs to the spandrel/wing walls are approximately 50% complete. It is expected that this part of the work will be finished by the end of June. Plans for a stone curb or railing along the edges of the roadway over the bridge are under discussion; previously, telephone poles had been used for this purpose.