Burrillville Then & Now: Stone Arch Bridge

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BURRILLVILLE – Welcome to Burrillville Then & Now, where we take a glance back at how the town used to look, then show how the same space looks today.

With photos and information provided by the Burrillville Historic & Preservation Society, we look now at the Stone Arch Bridge in Harrisville.

East Avenue in Harrisville is a busy road.  Much of the traffic entering Burrillville through Harrisiville follows East Avenue.  When you go past the Jesse M. Smith Library and the dam, you may not realize it, but you are traveling over a stone arch bridge that was constructed in 1902.  It was built by Fred L. Mathewson at a cost of $3,000.  Henry. J. Bruce, M. D. was the engineer, and was paid $265 to prepare the plans and supervise construction of the arch bridge. Irving H. Sweet was paid $882.92 for filling, grading, etc. at the stone arch bridge.

Before the stone arch bridge was built, there was an iron bridge that was owned by William Tinkham, owner of Tinkham’s Mill – later the Stillwater Mill.  On August 15, 1902 a large boiler was being moved from Pascoag to Nasonville and when it passed over the iron bridge, it caused the structure to shake considerably.   

The trolley line crossed the iron bridge but it was not strong enough to allow safe passage of fully loaded electric cars.  Passengers had to be transferred across the bridge where travel by trolley resumed at the fountain in Harrisville.  The fountain was located near the entrance of the present Austin. T. Levy School.  

While the stone arch bridge was being constructed, the old iron bridge had to be shored up with timbers. By mid-October the last few remaining stones were added to the new stone arch bridge and it was ready for use. On October 24, 1902 it was reported that the new bridge was complete and that teams could pass over it. Mr. Tinkham gave the old iron bridge to the town to be used to cross the Clear River on Sherman Farm Road. It was removed and transported to its new location by Irving H. Sweet. Irving H. Sweet was the nephew of Albert and Thomas Sweet who ran Sweet’s Hill Farm, later Indian Acres.  

Rails for the trolley were laid down across the new bridge

On November 21, 1904 the wing walls of the stone arch bridge were completed and the last derrick was taken down. The trolley wire was connected and on November 28th, electric cars began running, providing interrupted service between Pascoag and Woonsocket. Now the trolley could travel across the bridge and the inconvenience of transferring passengers was eliminated.  

If you walk along the footbridge between the dam and the stone arch bridge and examine the keystone, you will see the following information carved into the stone:

AD 1902

H. J. Bruce MD Eng’r

F. L. Mathewson, cont’r

I. H. Sweet
E. A. Mathewson
N. Baron
                            Com.

Betty Mencucci is president of the Burrillville Historic & Preservation Society. 

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