The History of the Swinging Bridge as Featured In Memories of Maine Magazine
Originally built to accommodate woolen mill workers from a new housing development in the 17th Century, the Androscoggin Swinging Bridge (Swinging Bridge) has served many thousands of people of all ages who have used it to walk back and forth to school, to church, to entertainments, to visit family and friends, to shop, and recreation. It is an integral part of the Topsham and Brunswick community and a popular stopping point for people driving along Route 1 who want a scenic view of the Androscoggin River or a peaceful pause in their vacation travel.
After many years of refusing to accept the swinging bridge as a public way, in 1906, the Swinging Bridge was so designated. Brunswick and Topsham became jointly responsible for bridge maintenance. Between 1913 and 1916, the bridge’s timber-framed towers were replaced with steel presumably by South Portland steel fabrication company Meguire & Jones.
Disaster struck in 1936 as a flood destroyed the bridge’s decking and railings, 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) replaced the span and resurfaced the bases of the towers with concrete in 1938.
With pedestrian traffic limited to twenty people and the bridge not expected to survive into 2010, Brunswick and Topsham appointed a committee of residents from both towns to raise funds and restore the bridge. The citizen’s group did just that. Securing finances from the Maine Department of Transportation as well as corporate grants and private funds, the group oversaw renovation and restoration of the swinging bridge, reopening it to the public 2006.
Over the years, although nearly all the bridge’s components had been replaced—from the handrails, to the planks, to the beams—the original “Roebling wire rope” cables built into the structure in 1892 still support the bridge. The year after the 21st Century superstructure rehabilitation, saw the opening of public parks on either end of the bridge. Two of John A. Roebling’s great-great-great granddaughters attended the reopening and dedication ceremony on September 8, 2007.
Maintenance continues even during the pandemic. CPM Constructors with the guidance of Hoyle- Tanner Engineers inspected the bridge and performed all needed repairs (respectively). Funds for repairs are raised through annual 5k runs and 2k walks, donations for engraved bricks and contributions throughout the year.
This bridge is historic and an area icon that people support and use all year round. Donations will keep it swinging far into the future.