2006-04-06 / Editorial

An island landmark that will be missed

Next week the center three spans of the old Jamestown Bridge will tumble into the West Passage of Narragansett Bay - if all goes as planned. It will be an inglorious ending for a structure that had much to do with changing the nature of Conanicut Island.

The bridge was criticized even before it was built. The span was proposed to replace the ferry service from Saunderstown to Jamestown. In the early 1930s the idea for such a bridge was called "Jamestown's Folly" and later become known simply as the "Bridge to Nowhere."

Of course, we are all familier with the story that follows. The bridge was built. You could drive to Jamestown, but still had to take the ferry from Jamestown to Newport. Then the Newport bridge was built, and the ferries became part of our island lore.

The old Jamestown Bridge was much maligned over the years because people were afraid to cross it. Open grates at the top allowed motorists to see the bay below them. The bridge was narrow and tended to sway, which left you with the certain feeling that the structure was not all that stable. Finally, there were the reports that the bridge had outlived its usefulness and in the words of some was "falling down."

The new Jamestown Bridge was opened in the early 1990s and a new four-lane highway was constructed across the island. Jamestown was now a great place to live for those who worked in Providence. Again the island became a popular location for summer homes, just like it had been 100 years earlier.

It has been more than a decade since the old Jamestown Bridge was retired from service. There were many debates about what to do with the old structure, but in the end, an artificial reef for fish will be its final mission. We'll be sorry to see the old landmark disappear from view.

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