About This Location
The Androscoggin Swinging Bridge, also known as the Swinging Bridge, is a remarkable pedestrian suspension bridge that spans the Androscoggin River, connecting the towns of Topsham in Sagadahoc County and Brunswick in Cumberland County, Maine. This historic bridge, which has stood the test of time and the elements, holds a significant place in the region's history and continues to be a beloved local landmark.
Constructed in 1892, the Androscoggin Swinging Bridge was a practical and vital addition to the area. It was primarily built to provide a more convenient and safe route for the employees of the Cabot Manufacturing Company, located in Brunswick. At the time, many residents of Topsham Heights, a nearby housing development, worked at the cotton mill and needed an efficient way to commute to and from work.
The bridge is characterized by its two steel A-frame towers, each standing at a height of 30 feet 6 inches and supported by concrete abutments. Suspended from the towers are wire ropes that support a wooden plank deck, connected to the cables by metal rods, with railings measuring 3 feet 6 inches in height. The span between the towers across the river measures 332 feet, with a total distance of 520 feet between the cable anchor points. The substantial cables are 1.875 inches in diameter, consisting of seven wires, each composed of seven strands.
Over the years, the Androscoggin Swinging Bridge underwent some changes to ensure its longevity and safety. Between 1913 and 1916, the bridge's original timber-framed towers were replaced with more durable steel by Meguire & Jones, a steel fabrication company in South Portland.
The bridge faced a significant challenge in March 1936 when a destructive freshet swept away the superstructure. Ice and logs from the swollen Androscoggin River collided with the bridge, temporarily isolating Topsham from Brunswick. Thankfully, the steel towers and suspension cables survived the flood. The bridge was rebuilt, with its towers filled in with concrete, in 1938 under the auspices of the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA).
In 2000, a joint study by the towns of Brunswick and Topsham revealed considerable damage to the bridge, including issues with concrete abutments, wood planks, and rust on the metal components. A committee comprising residents from both towns embarked on a restoration project in 2006, securing funding from the Maine Department of Transportation and corporate grants. Public parks were established on either side of the bridge in 2007, enhancing the recreational value of the area.
The Androscoggin Swinging Bridge received well-deserved recognition when it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on January 14, 2004. This designation acknowledges the bridge's historical significance and its contribution to the region's heritage. The reference number for the bridge in the National Register is 03001404.
Further recognition came in May 2011 when the bridge was dedicated as a Maine Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the Maine Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers. To commemorate this distinction, a special plaque was installed on the bridge, commemorating its importance in the field of civil engineering.
Today, the Androscoggin Swinging Bridge remains a cherished part of the community, offering a picturesque and nostalgic passage over the river. Visitors can access the bridge from small parking lots on both sides, located on Bridge Street and Mill Street. While parking is limited, it is free of charge, and dogs are welcome to join you on your journey across this historic landmark, which continues to bridge the past and present for all who visit.