September 8, 2017

Brunswick-Topsham bridge named to 'most endangered historic places' list

Photo / James McCarthy
Photo / James McCarthy
Frank J. Wood Bridge, spanning the Androscoggin River between Topsham and Brunswick, has been added by Maine Preservation's 19th Most Endangered Historic Places List, an annual listing that identifies historic properties threatened by development, demolition or neglect. Maine Department of Transportation earlier this summer announced that its preferred option is to replace the heavily traveled 1932-era bridge with a new bridge.

Maine Preservation has added the Frank J. Wood Bridge spanning the Androscoggin River between Topsham and Brunswick to its 19th Most Endangered Historic Places List, an annual listing that identifies historic properties threatened by development, demolition or neglect.

Of the 144 places included on the list since its creation in 1996, 53 have been saved and 26 are in motion to be saved.

Besides the Frank J. Wood Bridge, new listings this year are:

  • Mary E. Taylor School in Camden
  • Bowery Beach Schoolhouse in Cape Elizabeth
  • Brining Shed in Lubec
  • A.B. Seavey House in Saco
  • Waldo Theatre in Waldoboro
  • Wiscasset's Downtown District and its Historic District Commission, which could be disbanded only a year after its creation.

Statewide listings include historic residential neighborhoods, coastal and waterfront communities and historic houses and land trusts.

"Maine's 2017 Most Endangered Historic Places List illustrates the diverse historic buildings and issues that are critical to the future of communities across our state," Greg Paxton, executive director of Maine Preservation, said in a news release. "Preservation of key structures is a catalyst for community revitalization, economic development and continued quality of life for the citizens of Maine's towns and cities. Historic preservation bolstered the state's economy throughout the recent downturn. To consolidate these gains, we must continue to wisely manage our downtowns, in town neighborhoods and rural historic assets to bolster our tax base and provide a firm foundation for future prosperity and quality of life, as this list illustrates."

Heavily trafficked bridge eyed for replacement

The 805-foot Frank J. Wood Bridge, which opened in 1932, serves approximately 19,000 vehicles per day as well as pedestrian traffic. Maine Preservation says it's eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and is a good example of a three-span Warren Truss system — a type of bridge once common in Maine and now increasingly rare.

Maine Department of Transportation, however, in a June 27 news release, identified a replacement option with a new bridge to be built upstream and adjacent to the Frank J. Wood Bridge as the "preferred alternative" to making repairs to the existing bridge. MDOT has created a website with detailed information about that option here.

Maine Preservation, in its news release cited a local group called Friends of Frank J. Wood Bridge, which claims MDOT's recommendation is "premature" and made "without full consideration of the possibility of rehabilitation."

"Given the level of public interest and concern, the significant loss of historic bridges in Maine and a clear and financially responsible reuse option for this historic bridge it is essential that MDOT accurately and fairly consider rehabilitation of this local landmark," Maine Preservation concluded.

Maine Preservation is the statewide nonprofit, membership organization that promotes and preserves historic places, buildings, downtowns and neighborhoods, strengthening the cultural and economic vitality of Maine communities. For more information on each of the listings, go here or click on the link to the PDF below.


2017 Maine Endangered Historic Places list


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