Massena Center residents seek historical marker near bridge

Massena Center residents are hoping to get a marker to put near the Massena Center bridge to point out its historical significance. The bridge was designed and built by a Massena Center native.

MASSENA CENTER — Massena Center residents are hoping to get a marker that will let everyone know the historical significance of the now-closed Massena Center bridge.

They had originally hoped to have the bridge open for biking or walking, but were told that no funds were available. So they hope to at least get a marker for the bridge.

The suspension bridge was designed and constructed by Holton Duncan Robinson, who was born in 1863 in Massena Center and came to be a well-known engineer. Mr. Robinson and David Steinmen, who formed the engineering firm of Robinson and Steinmen, designed bridges such as the Deer Isle Bridge in Maine, the Hercilio Luz Bridge in Florianopolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil, and the Thousand Island Bridge System on the St. Lawrence River.

In 1910, Mr. Robinson returned to Massena Center to design and construct the suspension cable bridge across the Grasse River. It has been closed since 1989.

“A neighbor was telling me that years ago, they went to the county to find out about maybe reopening the bridge. I went to some of the historical papers. They had a few groups that over the years tried to get it to stay open for use as a walking trail,” said Massena Center resident Cindy Bradford, who lives across the road from the bridge.

She said, despite its age, the bridge still spans the river, but vegetation that hides it from the road has built up over the years.

“It’s still the same structure. It isn’t falling apart. It’s all together,” Ms. Bradford said.

She said residents recently sent a letter to the St. Lawrence County Highway Department, which owns the bridge, to inquire about having it reopened for foot and bicycle traffic. They received a letter back that indicated the county didn’t have the resources to open the structure at this point.

“I wanted to know about walking or biking. They do not allow people on the structure,” Ms. Bradford said.

She has discussed the bridge with Massena Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray.

“He said maybe we can talk to the Massena Museum and see about getting a historical marker or plaque,” Ms. Bradford said.

“That bridge is historically significant,” Mr. Gray said.

He said members of the Massena Town Council had discussed it around 1998, but nothing came out of those talks, and the bridge has sat dormant since its closing.

“The highway superintendent said there’s no means to open it without sinking a whole bunch of money into it. I don’t like the fact that it is sitting there overgrown with brush. I would like to see the brush cleaned up. It’s an attractive thing to look at. It’s just a neat bridge,” Mr. Gray said.

“It would be wonderful if some day it was opened to pedestrians and bikes,” he said. “I think it’s great that Cindy and some of her neighbors have taken an interest it. I wish we could do more.”

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