Last year the Grems-Doolittle Library of the Schenectady County Historical Society featured the photographs of early Schenectady photographer Henry Tripp. Since yesterday we heard the story of cows falling through the old Burr bridge that connected Schenectady to Scotia, today we’ll take a look at Tripp’s great photo of the Washington Avenue approach to the bridge. Unfortunately, the photo is undated, but it’s probably from somewhere around 1871, when the old 1806 wooden cable bridge (yes, there can be wooden cables) was dismantled, to be replaced by an iron structure using the same piers, which was completed in 1874.
Prominent across the top is the painted legend “ONE DOLLAR FINE FOR CROSSING THIS BRIDGE FASTER THAN ON A WALK.” Beneath that, interestingly, are advertisements, for such things as “Peruvian Syrup for the Blood,” “Wister’s Balsam,” and H.S. Edwards’ hardware store. It’s clear that demolition has begun, as the roof, added in 1830 to protect the bridge, has already come down in places, and there is a sign on the center post that says “NO ONE ALLOWED ON THIS BRIDGE.”
Why these gentlemen are arrayed across the entrance is not clear – the dandies up front may have been the builders of the new bridge, and the less well-dressed gentlemen in the background may have been the demolition crew. Or they all could have just been some Schenectadians with time on their hands to pose for a photograph. Not clear. All this wood was carted away and most of it re-used, in local barns and by a match company.
While the iron bridge that replaced this was in service until 1926 (and torn down ten years later), its abutment is still visible at the end of Washington Avenue. In fact, an aerial view of the Washington Avenues in Schenectady and Scotia makes it pretty clear what path the original bridge took; the avenues align perfectly.
By the way, Theodore Burr, because of his innovative, patented bridge designs, deserves to be at least as famous as his cousin Aaron.