While waterways provide a terrific method of getting from here to there, there are many times when one needs to cross a river or stream to get to one’s destination. Over the years, there have been many solutions to the dilemma of crossing a river. A ferry boat was an easy answer, but what if the ferry was left on the wrong side of the riverbank when you wanted to cross? A bridge was a better solution to this problem because it required no luck!
There have been many bridges built in Cortland County over the years and the variety is quite impressive. Many know of the landmark stone bridge which was located over the Tioughnioga River on Clinton Avenue. That bridge lasted for almost 100 years before being replaced after wear and tear from Mother Nature and the inevitable march of modernization caught up to it. The change from a horse and buggy economy to a world of automobiles and large delivery trucks certainly aged the structure more rapidly. The Old Stone Bridge was built in 1849 by David Fisk. He was contracted at $1,050 and it cost about $500 more due to high water and difficulty of obtaining the right materials. It was originally called the Mudge Mill Bridge because of the mill on Clinton Avenue. The Old Stone Bridge was a lovely monument to life in a slower paced world. It was not the only stone bridge in the county.
Another bridge that was interesting was the covered wooden bridge in Cincinnatus which was built after an existing bridge was washed out in April of 1865. It was on Main Street, over the Otselic River. An ordinance was passed that anyone riding or driving faster than a walk across the bridge would be fined $3. The bridge was lighted in 1900 and was ultimately taken down in 1902 when traffic increased due to the growing automobile industry. A covered bridge in Willet was taken down approximately ten years before this one. The Cincinnatus covered bridge was sold to A.T. Brannon for $21.
Included in the photos is the Rickard Street Bridge which was located “downstream from Riverside Park on Grant St.” Riverside Park was a popular destination for city folks and all kinds of water activities were enjoyed there. On the back of the photo of this bridge is written: “Building had slide from peak of roof into river. Pails of water lubricated slide for toboggans. Swimmers (some shown) had to go downstream to avoid danger of toboggans. Canoe and rowboat rentals available.” Along with the photos is a page from the “Cortland Industrial and Commercial Review” from 1914 which gives some additional information about this idyllic place.
Cortland County is still home to some rare structures called lenticular truss bridges. We had bridge enthusiast and CCHS member Jerry Wood visit to give a talk for a Lunch and Learn, and he highlighted our county bridges in that program. Here is the link to that program which can be found on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cWll8dWsUc…
If you are interested in bridges, there is a great deal of information and there are many photographs on file at CCHS for you to peruse. We are open Wednesdays-Saturdays from 12 to 5pm. We invite you to stop by and find the answers to your local history questions! ~Tabitha