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Battell Bridge

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1892. Main St. over Otter Creek, Middlebury village

This is one of a series of Vermont bridges built near the turn of the twentieth century as much for civic beautification as for utility. Middlebury had long sought to replace the village's lone wooden bridge but was caught in a debate over iron or masonry. When the old bridge was destroyed by fire in 1891, the town decided upon iron for reasons of economy, despite the protests of prominent landowner, newspaper editor, and philanthropist Joseph Battell. Arguing that stone was the only material suitable to the dignity of the community, Battell ultimately prevailed by agreeing personally to cover the difference in cost between the two bridge types. Since he was already paying dearly, he insisted that the bridge be modeled on the Ponte Sant'Angelo in Rome. The great semicircular arches necessitated elevating the bed of the bridge, and thus the level of Main Street, some ten feet—an action made possible by the fact that all the adjacent buildings also needed post-fire reconstruction. The impact on the village center is evident in the dramatic change in level from the front to the rear of the neighboring Battell Block (1892–1898; Main Street at Merchants Row), built by Joseph Battell as a model for the reconstruction of downtown with more unified commercial design and fireproof building methods.

Writing Credits

Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson


What's Nearby


Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson, "Battell Bridge", [Middlebury, Vermont], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Vermont

Buildings of Vermont, Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2013, 122-122.

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