The Grand Avenue Bridge
In 1790, the townsmen of New Haven voted to construct a bridge over the Quinnipiac River at the place known as Dragon. They deemed that, "There shall be solid abutments or piers built from each shore or bank of sd. river to extend so far across ye same as to leave an opening or space of twenty six and a half rods only from one abutment to ye other in ye most convenient place in sd. river for ye current or water to pass through...and the whole of sd. stonework laid complete together and in a workman like manner." Until the authorization of the bridge, travelers and merchants crossed the Quinnipiac by ferry, a time-consuming and inconvenient method. The New Haveners hoped that the new bridge would not only speed transportation but improve commerce as well. The new wood and stone bridge was constructed in 1791. It had a draw lifted by oxen on its western end. Because Fair Haven was still referred to as Dragon throughout much of the bridge's existence, the bridge was known as Dragon Bridge.
By the mid 1800s, the old bridge was in frequent need of repair. In 1860, it was replaced by a new drawless bridge that had a sidewalk for pedestrians. The drawless bridge was replaced in 1896 by an "asymetrical steel swing bridge" which a U.S. Historic engineering survey describes as "a representative example of a moveable truss fabricated by one of the most prominent bridge building companies of the 19th century." That company was the Berlin Iron Bridge, Co. The masonry on the 1896 bridge was done by Geary. The bridge was 427 feet long and 50 feet wide and once again had a draw.
In the early 1980s, plans surfaced to replace the Grand Avenue Bridge with a much wider modern bridge. The approach to the bridge would have begun much farther back along Grand Avenue, requiring the demolition of the King's Block building along with others. Fair Haveners' local pride was piqued and they successfully rallied around the bridge. The bridge that now stands over the Quinnipiac is a replica of the historic 1896 bridge.
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