(Host) Now that much of the 80-year-old Champlain Bridge is at the bottom of Lake Champlain, many are wondering what to do to commemorate the span.
The bridge connecting West Addison, Vermont, and Crown Point, New York, was closed in October when it was deemed unsafe, creating trouble for commuters and disappointing those who loved the structure.
VPR’s Melody Bodette reports.
(Sounds of cars going over bridge)
(Bodette) The arch of the half-mile long bridge was visible for miles and was featured in orange road signs, postcards and even t-shirts.
The opening of the bridge in 1929 was marked by two governors, a parade and tens of thousand of spectators. The new bridge largely replaced ferries, and it became a vital life-line for commuters who worked in one state and lived in another, bringing communities together.
Now over 80 percent of the bridge rests in the lake, and its passing was marked with much less ceremony.
(Bodette) This time Vermont’s governor was pushing the detonator button instead of cutting a ribbon.
And as the smoke settled some were already thinking of how to remember the bridge, including Bill Blanchard of Bridport:
(Blanchard) "Perhaps at the Chimney Point historic site they should dedicate an exhibit to the bridge."
(From Meeting: "And on your survey form, you’ll have an opportunity to tell us…")
(Bodette) At a public meeting earlier this month transportation officials told crowds that something would be done after the bridge was down to commemorate it. And they took a survey of public opinions. Ideas included museum pieces and perhaps a road side display.
Lorraine Franklin is selling shirts commemorating the bridge at her store in West Addison. She’d like a visual reminder of what once stood:
(Franklin) "I would definitely like to see them take some of the pieces of the old bridge and turn them into sculptures or something a long those lines at the beginning of each end of the bridge, at the entrance so when you go over the new bridge you automatically see something that reminds you every day of what we had and what we lost and what we had to go through to get this new bridge."
(Bodette) Lisa Cloutier owns the Bridge Restaurant in Addison, which she’s dubbed the "No- Bridge Restaurant." The familiar arch is her logo and she says that won’t change:
(Cloutier) "I want the old bridge not to be forgotten, I really don’t so I’m not going to change my awnings at the restaurant, in honor of the old bridge, and I just want to honor the bridge as much as possible."
(Bodette) Two plaques from 1929 marked the dedication of the bridge, and they were saved before the demolition. Elizabeth Nolfe (Nol-fee) of Ticonderoga thinks they should play a role in remembering the old bridge:
(Nolfe) "I think to save all the plaques that were on the bridge before and to have a historical plaque on both sides of the bridge I think that’d be a great thing to do."
(Bodette) Charles Spofford’s Champlain Bridge was the first of its kind and inspired hundreds of others. Its importance to bridge architecture will be recorded in the Library of Congress.
And as bridge debris is removed from the lake and plans are made for a new bridge, many in Vermont and New York are simply looking to the future.
For VPR News, I’m Melody Bodette.