It was in 1891 that the Topsham Land Company decided that a footbridge across the Androscoggin River would be a safer, more direct route for workers traveling to Brunswick’s Cabot cotton mill rather than the two existing vehicle bridges. Thinking that the bridge would add enough value to their lots for it to be a worthwhile investment, they contracted with the John A. Roebling Sons Co, who’d designed the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, to build it. Once the Cabot Manufacturing Co. granted an easement that allowed the bridge to connect on the Brunswick side, construction began May 19, 1892.
Completed in September of that year, the final construction costs tallied up to about $2,000, which, adjusted for inflation, would be about $56,700. The Topsham Land Company had intended for the bridge to be accepted as a public highway when the bridge became a common necessity and hadn’t promised to maintain it.
Disaster would strike in 1936 when a flood destroyed the bridge’s superstructure, sweeping away the entire deck and rendering it completely unusable. However, the steel towers and original suspension cables survived. The federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) got to work replacing the span and resurfacing the bases of the towers with new concrete in 1938.
With pedestrian traffic limited to twenty people and the bridge not expected to survive into 2010, Brunswick and Topsham came together to appoint a committee of residents of both towns to attempt to accrue funds and restore the bridge to a usable state. Securing finances from the Department of Transportation as well as private funds, the group oversaw renovation and restoration of the swinging bridge, reopening it to the public 2006.
Though nearly every one of the bridge’s components had been replaced by this point, from the handrails to the boards to the beams, the original “ Roebling wire rope” cables built into the structure in 1892 still span the bridge to this day. The next year saw the opening of public parks on either end of the bridge. On September 8, 2007, a reopening and dedication ceremony saw the attendance of two of John A. Roebling’s great-great-great granddaughters.
In January of 2004, the Androscoggin Swinging Bridge was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In May 2011, the bridge was dedicated as a Maine Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the Maine Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers.
The Androscoggin Swinging Bridge now sits at the heart of the Androscoggin Riverwalk, enjoying routine foot traffic from locals and tourists alike. We’ve made it our task to maintain and care for it so the bridge can continue to receive visitors for many years to come. Your participation in our annual 5k runs and 2k walks, as well as your donations for engraved bricks and your contributions throughout the year, help us achieve our goals and keep the bridge safe and usable for everyone. If you’d like to contribute this year, be sure to register for this year’s virtual 5k or make a donation to have a brick in the base of the bridge engraved with your chosen inscription. Your help is what keeps our bridge swinging far into the future.