News and Events

Sept Update

Julie Bowers of Workin’ Bridges, the iron bridge restoration outfit that performed a March 2015 site visit and submitted a scope of work report on Hotel Bridge, has done further reseach on lifting Hotel Bridge to the parking lot across Main Street to make the repairs on land. Bowers contacted the utility companies over the summer to determine what actions might be feasable. Her findings to date follow: Moving electric, cable, and phone is doable. The big hinderance is that there is a Columbia Gas service line that runs across the south side of the bridge deck. The line carries gas to Water Street customers. Rerouting the line would be expensive (Columbia gas pays the city for use of resources). Temporary piles to hold the gas line in place while the bridge is moved would be expensive as well. Unfortunately, in order to move Hotel Bridge to land it would require two 500 ton cranes, and dollies, not the smaller crane that Julie used for the quote given at the June 1st community meeting. The conclusion drawn is that it is not a feasable alternative to move the bridge to the parking lot for repairs.

Julie is currently seeking further information from the engineering firm, Stantec Associates, that ran the original load capacity numbers on the bridge. Stantec used heavy tonnage to determine the load capacity. Workin’ Bridges would like them to rerun the load capacity using more realistic pedestrian only weight figures. Just a few days ago Paul Duquette of Stantec responded to Julie’s inquiries and said he will be conferring with his structural and legal team to see if they can change a recommendation with new data. If they are able to rerun the data, fewer repairs will have to be done in order to make the bridge safe for pedestrians. Of course the City, as owners of the bridge, would have to support the plan.


Hotel Bridge Update

The big news from the June 1st community meeting with Workin’ Bridges project manager, Julie Bowers, is that it may be possible to move the bridge to land to make the repairs which would cut the restoration cost considerably. Questions and logistics for such a plan would need to be addressed. One of which is, if Alternative Recycling is willing to allow the bridge to be worked on for six weeks in their parking area. Julie Bowers’ initial conversation with the owner implies that it is indeed a possibility. The question of the gas line being interrupted during the lift and set would need to be addressed. Electric lines, too. The fee to research these details and logistics for the operation would cost $1,000. How the LCA moves forward will be discussed at the next LCA meeting on June 9th.

The city seems to have little interest in opening the bridge temporarily citing liability issues. Bowers will be asking DPW to have Stantec utilize the numbers that Workin’ Bridges uses for loading at occupancy which would be somewhere between 30 and 60 pounds per square foot, which is more realistic for a pedestrian bridge. Thanks to everyone who came to the meeting. A strong show of community support was important. NCTV has released a video of the meeting (see link below). Leeds Civic will continue to advocate to make Hotel Bridge a working pedestrian bridge. New people are interested in helping with grant writing and we’ll continue to fund raise. And, Leeds Civic will keep the bridge entrances looking their best. Thank you, Lora Sandhusen, for adding fresh flowers to the planters on Main Street and Water Street for the summer season.

Video of June 1st community meeting:

Photo for June

Consultant Says Repairs to Hotel Bridge in Leeds Could be Reduced to About $500,000

Reprinted from Daily Hampshire Gazette Article

Gazette Contributing Writer

Tuesday, June 2, 2015
(Published in print: Tuesday, June 2, 2015)

NORTHAMPTON — A consultant told about 60 people who attended a community meeting Monday night about the historic Hotel Bridge in Leeds that a new plan could cut the estimated cost of its restoration in half — from about $1.1 million to roughly $500,000.

Julie Bowers, project manager for Workin’ Bridges of Grinnell, Iowa, which conducted an engineering study on the bridge in March, said dismantling the bridge and repairing it on land across the street would result in the lower cost.

Debated during the hour-long meeting at the Leeds School was whether the bridge could be opened to pedestrian and bicycle traffic for the summer while the city and the Leeds Civic Association, which has led efforts to restore the bridge, pursue funds for a full restoration. Workin’ Bridges and the civic association advocated temporarily reopening the bridge, while Edward Huntley, director of the city Department of Public Works, expressed concern about the safety hazards and costs involved.

Workin’ Bridges is the second firm to study the bridge. Last summer, a study by Stantec Consulting Service Inc. of Northampton — funded by a $35,000 Community Preservation Act grant — found the bridge to be unsafe and in need of extensive repairs totaling $1.5 million.

Though the bridge had technically been closed, the Department of Public Works fenced it off after the Stantec Study was released.

The Stantec and the Workin’ Bridges studies both initially suggested that the bridge would need to be repaired in place, which would involve expensive machinery. However, Bowers said Monday that there is potentially enough space across the street on the land of Alternative Recycling Systems to place the bridge as it undergoes repairs.

“I took a look at the site, and it looked a lot bigger without your piles of snow around it,” Bowers said. “I thought that we could pull this bridge of and perhaps put it in Alternative Recycling right across the road.”

The repair on land would lower costs to around $500,000, according to Bowers, though her team would have to further study on that option to give a more precise estimate of the cost. That research would cost $1,000, Bowers said.

Huntley said the city does not currently have that $1,000, though he expressed support for repairing the bridge on the ground.

“I don’t have any funding for that. I’d have to find the funds in my budget somewhere, or the city would have to approve it through the cash reserves,” Huntley said in an interview after the meeting.

Heidi Stevens, vice president of the civic association, said it has over $5,000 in its bridge restoration fund. Stevens said the board would discuss using this money to hire Workin’ Bridges to research the costs of repairing the bridge in the open lot.

Bowers also presented two “repair to reopen” options that would allow the bridge to reopen for the summer while funding for longer-term repairs is sought. One option, estimated at $13,700, would reopen the bridge with an 8-foot-wide pedestrian and bicycle lane, while the other, estimated at $20,300, would include asphalt patches to the bridge decking.

“I would say open it up and let you use it. The city has other concerns,” Bowers said at the meeting. “I don’t think you need to do much more than replace the section of guardrail that’s missing to open it back up and grandfather it back to the way it was.”

But Huntley said he was not satisfied with those options, and expressed concern about the asphalt patches, the deteriorating panels underneath the bridge, and its overall strength.

“Workin’ Bridges would open it tomorrow. I’m not putting my professional liability on that,” Huntley said in an interview after the meeting. “What if someone fell through the bridge, and I was the one that said it was OK to be on it?”

Huntley and Bowers said they would continue to explore ways to open the bridge for the summer.

“I support the project, I worked through the process with the CPA grant, and I look forward to doing something on this at some point. I just don’t have the time frame and there’s no funding right now,” Huntley said during the meeting.

If the DPW and civic association secure funding for any repairs, there will be a bidding process in which the “lowest qualified bidder” will be selected to do the work, according to Huntley.

People who attended the meeting said they are hopeful that the city will be able to restore the bridge.

“I used to walk across this bridge not that many years ago,” said Gary Roodman, who has lived in Leeds for 13 years. “We have a close community here, and the bridge is something we’ve taken pride in.”

Penny photo for may article

City to hear latest report on effort to open historic Leeds span

Reprinted from Daily Hampshire Gazette Article
Photo by Pennington Geis

Gazette Contributing Writer

Thursday, May 28, 2015
(Published in print: Friday, May 29, 2015)

NORTHAMPTON — Representatives from an Iowa organization dedicated to preserving historic truss bridges will present three possibilities at a community meeting Monday for work to save the historic Hotel Bridge in Leeds: a $1.1 million full restoration of the bridge, and two repairs of $20,000 or less that would allow the bridge to reopen the bridge to pedestrian traffic while the city and the Leeds Civic Association pursue additional funding.

The civic association, which has led efforts to restore the bridge for over a decade, will hold the meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the Leeds Elementary School cafeteria, 20 Florence St. The meeting will feature a presentation from the project manager for Workin’ Bridges of Grinnell, Iowa, a consulting and contracting firm that conducted an engineering study of the bridge in March.

Julie Bowers, project manager for Workin’ Bridges, said the “Scope of Work and Estimates” she will present Monday constitutes a bid for the firm to complete the engineering and construction work, if city officials decide to move forward with the project.

In addition to the Workin’ Bridges presentation, the meeting will include a question-and-answer session and a slideshow, said civic association vice president Heidi Stevens.

Workin’ Bridges is the second firm to study the bridge. Last summer, a study by Stantec Consulting Service Inc. of Northampton — funded by a $35,000 Community Preservation Act grant — found the bridge to be unsafe and in need of extensive repairs.

The Department of Public Works fenced off the bridge after the Stantec study was released.

“It was technically closed to all traffic before the study, but once the study was done they actually chained it off,” Leeds Civic Association president Sue Carbin said of the bridge. “So this is where it becomes a hardship for us. Everybody who walks in this town — and everybody walks in this town — is missing that route of going down Mulberry, down Water, across the bridge.”

Mayor David Narkewicz echoed disappointment over the bridge’s closing, and offered city support to help the restoration effort.

“The bridge has degraded over time, and it’s been disappointing that it’s had to be closed because of safety concerns,” Narkewicz said. “To the extent that we can work with them and hopefully restore it as at least a foot bridge and bike bridge, that’s exciting and hopefully we can achieve that.”

Restoration costs

Both the Stantec and Workin’ Bridges studies estimate that a full restoration of the bridge would cost over $1 million and require repairs to the deck, rails, and underside of the bridge.

The Stantec study pegged the cost of repairs to be upward of $1.5 million. Repairs listed in the Stantec report included work on the deck — which has holes open to the river below — railings, and significant repairs to the floor beams, stringers, and truss members, which need to be strengthened.

The Stantec study also called for $650,000 to clean and repaint the bridge — a task and price tag civic association members initially questioned because the work would not address safety issues. The Workin’ Bridges study arrived at a similar estimate for cleaning and repainting the bridge — and the work will eventually be necessary, Bowers said.

She said that while her firm estimates the cost of a full restoration to be $1.1 million, it could cost less than $20,000 to safely reopen the bridge to pedestrian traffic. Those repairs would cover immediate safety hazards such as the holes in the decking, broken bolts, and a lack of adequate fencing, Bowers said.

The Workin’ Bridges estimates include two “repair to reopen” options. Under the least expensive option, estimated at $13,700, the bridge would reopen with an 8-foot-wide pedestrian and bicycle lane. A second repair plan estimated at $20,300 would include asphalt patches to the bridge decking. Both options could allow the bridge to reopen this summer, Bowers wrote in a letter to Carbin and Department of Public Works director Edward S. Huntley.

“We could come in and repair the broken bolts and put in some fencing and fix the decking so that it could be open for limited crossing while they come up with the money for the bulk of the repairs,” Bowers said.

“They have submitted a scope-of-work report with costs,” Stevens said. “They would definitely be considered for both jobs.”

Bowers said Workin’ Bridges reached out to the civic association and offered to do the second study for $6,000 after reading news reports about efforts to restore the bridge.

To pay for the Workin’ Bridges contract, the Community Preservation Committee approved the use of roughly $5,000 left over from the $35,000 CPA grant that funded the Stantec study, and the civic association contributed $1,000 of its own money, Carbin said.

“They come in pretty close to each other,” Carbin said of the two estimates.

Of the choice to hire Workin’ Bridges for a second study, Carbin said, “We wanted Workin’ Bridges because they actually are a company that is passionate about saving old iron bridges, and they really know old iron.”

Huntley said Stantec was one of two companies to submit a proposal to lead the initial study, and Workin’ Bridges did not emerge as a possibility until recently.

Next steps

Stevens, the civic association vice president, said it will be the city’s decision whether to proceed with the less expensive repairs and reopen the bridge. The civic association is willing contribute roughly $5,000 it has raised and help apply for a CPA grant for the work, she said.

“We are well aware that it will take several years to acquire the funding for a full restoration, but there are smart, creative and dedicated people who are willing to help,” Stevens said in an email.

Stevens said she hopes city officials will come to Monday’s meeting to learn about the repair options.

Narkewicz said that if scheduling does not permit him to attend Monday’s meeting, he will send a representative from his office.

Huntley agreed that money for repairs could come from fundraising and grants, with additional funding opportunities if the bridge receives a national historic designation.

“The biggest thing is the funding, of how we would find the money to replace this,” Huntley said.

Civic association members hope to succeed in a campaign to have the bridge listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which would make the restoration project eligible for federal grants. Last month, the Department of Public Works submitted the civic association’s nomination for the bridge to the Massachusetts Historical Commission. That agency will evaluate the nomination — a process that could take 14 to 18 months — before sending it on to the national historic register.

The nomination included a letter of support from Mayor Narkewicz.

“The Hotel Bridge is not only symbolic of the manufacturing history around Leeds, but is part of a larger American architectural and engineering story,” Narkewicz’s letter reads in part. “Today, Leeds remains a thriving part of Northampton — and the ability to restore the bridge would serve as a useful link between the extension of the Norwottuck Rail Trail and the Roberts Hill conservation area and Musante Beach swimming area, offering pedestrians and bicyclists a connection to local recreational resources.”

In an interview, Narkewicz pledged continued support for the effort.

“We’ve been trying to be supportive of that effort to secure placement on the historic register, and then we’ll continue to try to be supportive in assisting them with the effort to restore the bridge,” Narkewicz said. “I know that there’s private fundraising going on, and there are obviously other historic preservation kinds of funds out there that we can work with them on.”

Carbin said she has seen significant community support for the project.

“Most of the people who live in Leeds have used that bridge and miss it,” she said. “I hope we get a lot of questions from people in the community as to what they’d like to see.”

A meaningful bridge

The single-lane iron truss bridge, sometimes called Old Shepherd Road Bridge, was built in 1880 and is the oldest bridge in Northampton. Over the years, it offered a river crossing to stagecoaches and then cars, but it has been closed to vehicle traffic since 2004.

“It’s really a part of the history of Northampton that needs to be preserved,” said Ward 7 City Councilor Alisa F. Klein. “It’s just been a vital factor in the life of the village of Leeds and Northampton as a whole.”

Leeds resident Tom Quinn offered childhood memories that included jumping off the bridge into the river with his friends, and fishing beneath the bridge. He said he took his daughter, 10, fishing under the bridge last weekend — though he wishes she could enjoy full access to it.

“It’s just sad to see the state that the bridge is in now — closed, off limits. It’s just sitting there rotting,” Quinn said.

According to Jason Johnson, chairman of the Leeds chapter of the Mill River Greenway Initiative, the bridge offers a connection to both the history of Leeds and the river.

“It gives you not only a sense historically of what was going on in the town 150 years ago, but it also puts you in a really unique vantage point to see the river and experience what’s going on from its very center,” Johnson said.

Narkewicz reiterated the bridge’s value to “ecotourism” in Northampton.

“We have a lot of people come to Northampton to ride and experience our bike trails, so to the extent that this becomes another spur off of or a link as part of our existing rail trail system, I think it adds that value as well,” Narkewicz said.


Restoration – Community Meeting with Workin’ Bridges

The Workin’ Bridges community meeting will be held Monday,  June 1st at 6:30pm at Leeds School Cafeteria. In addition to Workin’ Bridges presenting a plan for full restoration and the cost involved, a plan to open the bridge to foot traffic and bicycles while restoration funding is sought will be offered. The city of Northampton owns the bridge and must approve of any bridge opening. If the historic 1880 iron bridge can be opened in a safe way, it will greatly improve the enjoyment and movement of Leeds folks and others who relied on the bridge to cross the river.  An open bridge will also increase restoration fund raising opportunities.

What made this special meeting come about:

The Community Preservation Act grant that was used in 2011 to hire Stantec Assoc. to assess the bridge had a balance of $5,292. Rather than use the funds for a Stantec public meeting about their findings (which are available for free on the Northampton website), the LCA requested that the money be used to hire Workin’ Bridges, a team of iron bridge specialists, to perform a site visit, submit a scope of work report, and hold a larger community meeting here in Leeds.

The LCA, DPW, and Workin’ Bridges took advantage of the frozen river in early March by quickly organizing the site-visit. The WB site-visit team consisted of iron worker, Nels Raynor of Bach Steele, Jim Schiffer, bridge engineer and Julie Bowers, project manager. They flew in, spent a day and a half assessing, measuring and photographing the top and bottom chord members, abutments and deck. The river was frozen solid so the team could inspect underneath while standing on the ice – no boat, no scaffolding necessary! The Workin’ Bridges’ Scope of Work report was recently submitted to the city and on Monday, June 1 at 6:30 the third part of the Workin’ Bridges contract will take place with a community meeting led by WB project manager, Julie Bowers. You are all invited, as well as the mayor, city officials, bridge historians and enthusiasts, engineering professors and students, bicyclists and walkers. Please mark your calendars, bring your friends and find out what it will take to open the Hotel Bridge.

National Register of Historic Places 

Hotel Bridge has an excellent chance of being listed on the National Register of Historic Places which could allow access to grant funding for restoration. On Tuesday, April 28, the Northampton Department of Public Works submitted the Leeds Civic Association’s nomination for the Hotel Bridge to be officially recognized as a national historic place. The nomination must first be evaluated by the Massachusetts Historical Commission, a process which can take 14 to 18 months, before they then submit it to the the National Historic Register. Letters of support from Mayor Narkewicz; DPW director, Ned Huntley; The Mill River Greenway Initiative chairman, John Sinton; and Northampton Historical Commission Chair, David Drake were included with the application. Volunteer researchers, writers, and editors helped with the application. Many thanks to Penny Geis, Jim Montgomery, Jason Johnson, Sue Carbin, Heidi Stevens, Megan Freedman, Megan McNally, and Andy Kuether.

Expert Iron Bridge Team, Workin’ Bridges, Inspected Hotel Bridge

WB-at-HotelThe extreme cold temps that continued month after month this winter turned out to be lucky for Leeds in one regard; the Mill River stayed frozen long enough for the iron bridge restoration team, Workin’ Bridges, to get a close-up look at the Hotel Bridge. When Workin’ Bridges suggested they come to see the bridge while there was still ice, the preparations moved very quickly. The site-visit was coordinated and delivered in the span of 1 week. With the cooperation of the DPW and the City’s chief procurement officer, the LCA was allowed to front the portion of the Workin’ Bridges fee for the site-visit, and Workin’ Bridges was able to get their flights arranged to make the visit happen before temps rose and the ice melted.

They climbed on and inspected the top chord, got a good look at the deck. Standing on the ice they could easily touch, measure, and photograph the components underneath. The site visit took place on Sunday, March 8th and there was a meeting with DPW and the LCA the next day. Workin’ Bridges will be sending their restoration recommendations and costs to the city in the next few weeks. Julie Bowers, WB project manager, will be returning to Leeds on June 1 for the Workin’ Bridges Town Hall style public meeting. She will lay out their findings and propose options for restoration. All Leeds residents are invited to come to this event and show support for restoring the oldest Pratt through truss iron bridge in the state….which happens to reside in our village of Leeds!

Little things and little amounts matter. Efforts by the LCA and volunteers over the past 5 years made the Workin’ Bridges site-visit possible. Four bicycle ride fund raisers occurred in the past 5 years, organized by Alice Baedecker and Stephy Cho. Several dozen Leeds hats, Hotel Bridge shirts, greeting cards, and mugs have been sold. All of the proceeds from these ventures were available in the LCA Hotel Bridge account when the time was ripe to have the iron bridge team assess our bridge’s needs. Thank you to everyone who contributed in these efforts or purchased an item. The LCA will continue to offer mugs, shirts and cards for sale to benefit the bridge restoration. Other fund raisers large and small are being planned. To find out how you can get involved please email:

Remaining CPA Funds – New site visit

The Leeds Civic Association has been in discussion with the DPW to bring Workin’ Bridges, the organization that specializes in helping communities bring their bridges back into use.

The original 2011 CPA funds used to hire Stantec Associates to assess the bridge has a balance remaining of $5,292. Rather than use the funds for a public meeting by Stantec about their findings (which are available for free on the Northampton website), the LCA has suggested to the DPW and the Planning Dept that the money be used to hire Workin’ Bridges to do a site visit and an assessment on the Hotel Bridge. Their 2-3 day visit will also include a community town hall style information meeting about the bridge restoration, a meeting with DPW engineers and the LCA. Workin’ Bridges will also provide, within two weeks of their site visit, a Scope of Work proposal which will break down the repair work step by step and give a cost estimate for each repair. Having this information will be helpful when applying for restoration grants and holding fund raisers for specific restoration goals. The available CPA funds almost meets Workin’ Bridges’ fee. The balance will come from the LCA-Hotel bridge fund. Scheduling details for the site visit are in the works.


Restoring the Hotel Bridge to a Walking Bridge

Leeds Civic Association members have been busy this summer and early fall attending meetings and speaking with city officials about the need to restore the 1880’s bridge to a walking bridge. Ward 7 city councilor, Alisa Klein has been helpful in getting the Hotel Bridge on the agenda at these city committee meetings and the city is in support of a restoration effort.

Since the bridge closed this summer, three newspapers have run articles about the Hotel Bridge. After the Sept. 16th front page Gazette article came out the LCA was contacted by the director of Workin’ Bridges, an Iowa based organization committed to helping communities restore their historic iron bridges. Workin’ Bridges’ engineers are experts in iron and passionate about saving historic bridges.  We hope to have the Workin’ Bridges team visit the bridge, assess the scope of work, meet with city officials, and help us layout a step-by-step plan for restoration. In the mean time we will be consulting with UMass civil engineering professor, Sanjay Arwade. An application is being prepared to have the Hotel Bridge placed on the National Register of Historic Places which will then make it eligible for certain grants. A bike ride fund raiser for the Hotel Bridge will take place this coming Spring which will be organized by Alice Baedecker and Stephy Cho. Along with securing grant funding, support from the community is needed. A few fundraising ideas being considered are Hotel Bridge mugs, calendars, cards, shirts, and of course –good old individual contributions which can be made out to: LCA-Hotel Bridge Account and mailed to Florence Savings Bank, 85 Main Street, Florence 01062.

Leeds group makes push to preserve beloved Hotel Bridge

From The Daily Hampshire Gazette article September 16, 2014

By Chad Cain
Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 16, 2014

color-Gazette-picNORTHAMPTON — As a special police officer for Northampton nearly five decades ago, Chuck Dunning had frequent occasion to cross the iconic Hotel Bridge as part of his job walking the beat in Leeds.

He remembers lingering on the bridge during those walks like it was yesterday.

“In the summer time, it was always a pleasure to cross the iron bridge, stopping and admiring the scenery,” Dunning said by email from his home in Florida. “Strange. I’m now 81 and it was like yesterday that I can remember walking over the bridge. It holds great memories, as the entire village of Leeds does.”

So when Dunning heard about a fledgling effort spearheaded by the Leeds Civic Association to save the dilapidated bridge spanning the Mill River between Water and Main streets, he fired off an email offering to donate to the project.

He’s not the only one waxing nostalgic, said Heidi Stevens, the association’s vice president. “We’ve been getting emails like this from a lot of people sharing their memories about the bridge,” she said.

bridge topThat’s partly why a group of Leeds residents led by the civic association is reviving a long-desired effort to raise money to restore and preserve the bridge for pedestrian use. The effort is taking on renewed significance this summer now that the bridge is on its last legs and in recent weeks has been permanently blocked off to walkers and bicyclists.

“It really is a beloved bridge here in Leeds,” Ward 7 City Councilor Alisa F. Klein said. “It has this incredible history.”

The single-lane iron truss bridge, constructed in 1880, was named after the Leeds Hotel, which was built next to it in 1885 to accommodate the village’s growing population. The historic structure is also known as Old Shepherd Road Bridge.

Over the years, the bridge became a key passage over the Mill River, first for stagecoaches and later for vehicles that served the manufacturing hub. And in more recent times, the bridge has been a popular pedestrian and bicycle way for people wanting to visit the Roberts Hill Conservation Area, Musante Beach, and the post office, among other sites.

In addition to being the oldest bridge in Northampton, the Hotel Bridge is the sixth-oldest iron bridge in the state.

“The bridge represents the heart of our community,” said Jason Johnson, chairman of the Leeds chapter of the Mill River Greenway Initiative. “The bridge is really this vital artery of transportation for a lot of members of the town.”

Fenced off

The Mill River Greenway is backing efforts to preserve the bridge as part of its overall mission to design a greenway that connects people to the river.

The bridge has been closed to vehicles since 2004 when the city installed Jersey barriers on each end. Pedestrians and bicyclists continued to cross the bridge over the last decade, despite signs warning against it. That changed about a month ago when the Department of Public Works installed a chain-link fence on both sides of the bridge to keep people off it for good.

DPW Director Edward S. Huntley said the corrugated metal decking of the deck has missing pieces and there are holes in the pavement. “Basically, someone could get really hurt up there,” he said. “You can see the water through the bridge.”

The decision to fence off the bridge was made because of findings of a recently completed engineering study that analyzed its structural integrity and pinpointed weaknesses in certain beams, among other problems. The $35,000 study completed by Stantec Consulting Service Inc. of Northampton was financed by a Community Preservation Act grant awarded last year to the DPW at the behest of the civic association.

“The impetus here is, we were still using the bridge up until last month,” said Susan Carbin, civic association president. “Now everybody is feeling the pinch.”

Carbin said people are longing to use the bridge again, which she said is “absolutely part of Leeds” and historically significant to all of Northampton.

The Stantec study pegged the bridge repairs at $1.5 million, although civic association members believe they will not need to spend near that amount to address safety issues. Carbin pointed out that $650,000 of that estimate is for painting alone, a feature that is not vital to safety.

The group intends to enlist the help of Alan Lutenegger, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and engineers who live in Leeds and want to help with the project, Stevens said.

Lutenegger said Monday that preserving these kinds of structures is an important way to understand a society’s heritage, especially in terms of engineering. While some bridges are preserved for vehicle traffic, he said, it’s just as useful to try to save them for pedestrian use.

“It’s a great learning tool for students at all levels,” he said. “To see where you’re going in the future, you need to look at where you’ve been in the past. That’s certainly true in all types of engineering.”

Historic designation

While various fundraisers have taken place over the last several years in an effort to raise money to fix the bridge, including an annual bike ride, the renewed effort by the civic association will involve a more elaborate strategy.

“The Leeds Civic Association and volunteers want to raise awareness in Leeds and throughout Northampton about the value of this bridge to the city and to the state,” Stevens said.

The civic association, with the support of the Board of Public Works and the City Council, intends to submit an application in the coming months to the Massachusetts Historical Commission seeking to have the bridge certified as an historic structure. That designation will then allow the group to apply for federal grants from the National Register of Historic Places to help pay for the repairs.

Klein said these types of iron truss bridges were only constructed for a short period of time in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and about half of the bridges constructed have been lost over the last two decades. A renewed push at the federal level to save historic bridges is now underway, she said.

“There is a feeling among preservationists that we are losing key pieces of our history,” Klein said. “Preservation of historical bridges is one of the key goals for the U.S. at the federal level.”

She said the group has no intention of asking the city to use capital money for the project.

The goal is to have the bridge repaired and reopened for foot traffic, Stevens said.

While the fundraising effort is in its early stages, Stevens said in the meantime the civic association is doing what it can to beautify the area. DPW crews removed the Jersey barriers late last week and replaced them with cement planters purchased by the association. Those planters have since been filled with flowers.

In a related project, Huntley said engineering students from Smith College will study the possibility of creating a spur from the Norwottuck Rail Trail to the bridge.

In addition to its historical significance as an engineering and architectural structure, a restored bridge that’s linked to the bike path could have a positive economic impact for Leeds, Stevens believes. She said a community in Simsbury, Connecticut, that restored a similar bridge now rents it out for community events, weddings and more. The bridge is decorated with flower baskets and is a popular walking spot, she said.

“It is something that has really unified a lot of people in Leeds,” Klein said. “Everybody has a story about the bridge. It really is held in the hearts of Leeds.”

Chad Cain can be reached at


Fourth Annual Hotel Bridge Bike Ride

For the fourth year in a row riders came out and enjoyed a scenic bike ride through Western MA towns which began in Leeds and ended in Leeds.  All routes traveled over the historic Hotel Bridge where riders saw a freshly painted thank you sign.  We thanked them for taking part in the fundraising efforts and riding a 10, 25, or 50 mile route on their bikes.  In return they went home with an awesome Tshirt with our Leeds Hotel Bridge graphic designed by Heidi Stevens. About 55 riders, age 8 through 72 took part in the event.  The weather was perfect for biking, cool and no rain!  At the top of a long climb about 13 miles into the ride, cyclists laughed and chatted as they were greeted by Bob Riddle who had snacks and drinks ready.  Back at Chartpack more volunteers worked registration tables checking in and out riders. Thank you Stephy Cho, Deb Jacobs, Alisa Klein, Amy Stamm, and Sue Carbin. Registration was well organized by the set up crew of Joel Emrick, David Rondina, and Tom Silliman. Photographing the smiles all day was Joel Emerick with a camera ready at every turn!

Riders who braved the hilly 50 mile route were greeted by George Merriam at the Conway covered bridge with much needed snacks. A big thank you to Alisa Klein for her expertise in advertising our ride, although we had many returning riders, she got the word out and new faces were riding too!  Justin O’Connor made online pre-registration available so sign ups were quick and easy the morning of the ride. All in all, the event was successful, riders had fun, there were no injuries, and a profit was made toward restoring the Leeds Hotel bridge.  Our next step will be to meet with DPW to get an update on the progress of restoration plans.  Thank you to all who came out and to sponsors…Stop & Shop, River Valley Market, Walmart, Staples, B.J.s, and Joe’s Garage.