Shelburne, Massachusetts

The Bardwell's Ferry Bridge, constructed in 1882, stands as a historical treasure and a vital link between the towns of Shelburne and Conway in Massachusetts.

Location Added By:

Tom Riley (GoXplr Account)

About This Location

The Bardwell's Ferry Bridge, constructed in 1882, stands as a historical treasure and a vital transportation link between the towns of Shelburne and Conway in Franklin County, Massachusetts. This magnificent structure is a pinned lenticular through truss bridge, spanning the Deerfield River and carrying Bardwell's Ferry Road. Nestled within a deep valley, the bridge traverses the river with steeply sloping roadways on each side.

The need for the Bardwell's Ferry Bridge arose in 1882, when the towns of Conway and Shelburne joined forces to replace a covered bridge that had been toppled by strong winds earlier that year. The original covered bridge, constructed in 1862, met its demise and necessitated a replacement. Thankfully, the collaboration between the towns resulted in the creation of the Bardwell's Ferry Bridge.

Manufactured and erected by the Berlin Iron Bridge Co. of East Berlin, Connecticut, this bridge spans 198 feet and comprises 13 panels. The design of the bridge is based on a lenticular or Pauli truss, which was patented by the company. It is noteworthy that there are only eight other known lenticular truss bridges in Massachusetts, with the Bardwell's Ferry Bridge being the oldest and the largest among them. It's also one of the largest and oldest in the country.

During the late 19th century, the Berlin Iron Bridge Co. was responsible for manufacturing and erecting nearly 800 lenticular truss bridges across the United States. Although most of these bridges were constructed in New England, a few were located in Ohio and Texas. These bridges are often referred to by various names, such as "pumpkin-seed bridges," "cats-eyes bridges," "elliptical truss bridges," or "parabolic truss bridges," owing to their distinctive lens shape. Lenticular bridges were primarily designed for vehicular traffic and were generally not considered suitable for railroad and trolley loads due to their relatively lighter construction. Bardwell's Ferry Bridge is only capable of holding about 3 tons.

The bridge's name, Bardwell's Ferry Bridge, is derived from the Bardwell family, who resided near the site and operated a ferry that predated the bridges. In 1777, Gideon Bardwell Jr. arrived from Montague and began operating a ferry across the Deerfield River, providing transportation for livestock, goods, and people. His son Joel continued the family tradition, and around 1842, he established the Bardwell Family Homestead, a property that would later be acquired by the renowned American comedian, actor, spokesman, and media personality, Bill Cosby. Joel's son, Oramus, continued the family's legacy by ferrying people across the river and delivering mail and produce to Greenfield.

The construction of the Bardwell's Ferry Bridge marked the end of a rudimentary ferry system and ushered in increased commerce between the Deerfield and Conway areas and the Village of Shelburne Falls. Without the bridge, the ferry provided the only means of crossing the Deerfield River in the area, and that too, only during suitable weather conditions, which significantly lengthened the travel distance by almost 50 miles. As the use of automobiles became commonplace, the bridge's strategic location became even more crucial.

In recognition of its historical significance and architectural importance, the Bardwell's Ferry Bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places on February 10, 2000. This prestigious designation highlights the bridge's role in shaping the region's transportation and its significance as a historical structure. The bridge's listing on the National Register is identified by the reference number 00000076.

The maintenance of the bridge is a shared responsibility between the towns of Conway and Shelburne. While the bridge is physically located within the borders of Shelburne, the high water mark is situated on the Conway side of the Deerfield River. In the 1980s, the bridge underwent a substantial restoration to ensure its continued functionality and preservation.

Visitors are welcome to park on either side of the bridge to admire its timeless beauty. A walk across the bridge offers a unique experience, allowing you to appreciate its historic charm up close. For picturesque views, a trip to the shores of the Deerfield River is highly recommended, providing a stunning backdrop for capturing the bridge's elegance.

However, it's essential to note that on August 24, 2023, the Bardwell's Ferry Bridge was closed by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) due to structural deficiencies, rendering it unsafe for travel. As of the provided information, no reopening date has been specified by MassDOT, emphasizing the importance of addressing the bridge's structural concerns to preserve this iconic piece of history for future generations.

Location Features

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Bardwell’s Ferry Road, Shelburne, Massachusetts

GPS Coordinates:
42.555417, -72.677917
Directions to location:
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Directions to parking area:
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Parking Notes:
There are small parking areas located on the side of Bardwell's Ferry Road. The parking areas can be found on both sides of the bridge. There is no parking fee.


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