Once again, the iconic Saugatuck Swing Bridge – AKA the William F. (Crobar) Cribari Bridge – in Westport, Connecticut is threatened. The Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT) has proposed two options for this historic span, now believed to be the nation’s oldest active bridge of its type. The first option is to enlarge the historic bridge to allow 18 wheelers into Saugatuck and Greens Farms. The second option is to replace the bridge to allow 18 wheelers into Saugatuck and Greens Farms. We say “No” to both options and call on DOT to adhere to the recommendations stated in its own Historic Bridge Preservation Plan. It should not only restore this beloved icon but also maintain it with the kind of stewardship befitting a structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The 1884 Saugatuck Swing Bridge, which carries Route 136 over the Saugatuck River in Westport, has been listed individually on the National Register of Historic Places since 1987. It continues to remain in its original setting, retaining all of its original pin-connected Pratt truss wrought-iron spans and is fully operational. While documented to be the oldest movable highway bridge in the state – as well as its only hand operated one – the 286 foot long Saugatuck Swing Bridge appears to also be the oldest active pin-connected swing truss highway bridge in the nation.
State and national significance notwithstanding, this span, now in its 134th year of service, arguably means the most to the residents of Westport. As a tangible and accessible link to our maritime history, the bridge connects us with a unique heritage – one that is critical to the understanding of our community’s origins. Perhaps as important, in the present time, the Saugatuck Swing Bridge, which has withstood no less than five earlier attempts to replace it, has become the very symbol of the publically spirited activism for which Westport is well known. And justly proud.
Will you please help us save it?