A Bridge to Freedom

UPDATE: This Sepia Saturday was originally published July 3, 2010. You will see updated photos of the newly completed bridge at the end of this post.

For this Sepia Saturday I thought it appropriate to work in a bit of tomorrow's holiday, America's Independence Day, the Fourth of July.
antique postcard deer island bridge amesbury massachusetts


The bridge on the left side of the postcard was once known as the Essex-Merrimac Bridge or the Merrimack River bridge. It connects Main Street in Amesbury, Massachusetts to Deer Island. The bridge you see on the right is the older incarnation of the Chain Bridge which connects Deer Island to Newburyport, Massachusetts. I'll have a Chain Bridge post at a later date.

antique postcard deer island bridge amesbury massachusettsThere have been many versions of the Essex-Merrimac Bridge and the first one dates back to 1792. These bridges were the first to span the Merrimack River. Before that, if you needed to cross the river, you used a ferry. George Washington himself crossed this river on a ferry in 1789 on his tour of the New England States. The ferry crossing is within sight of these bridges just up river. The black and white drawing shows what those bridges would have looked like. They were simple wooden arches.


The bridge I remember was the truss style bridge you see in the postcard view. That bridge was destroyed in a spectacular fire when it's wooden deck caught fire in 1965. The fire was so intense the steel support trusses were badly warped and it had to be completely demolished.


deer island bridge fire 1965
July 1965
By 1966 another bridge was built upon the piers and approaches of the old bridge. As you can see by the newer photos it is simply a steel girder and concrete bridge. Both bridges were turntable style swing bridges to allow larger vessels up or down river. It was manually operated until the 1980's when it was electrified. I clearly remember this process both manual and electric was extremely slow. This was one of the detour bridges I wrote of in my post entitled "Bridge of Death."


This bridge was honored with a new name in 2006. It is now known as the 1st Lt. Derek S. Hines Bridge.


Derek grew up in the Newburyport area. He was a highly respected citizen of the community. He was also an honor student, known for his enthusiasm and work ethic. He excelled at all sports but his real passion was hockey where he was a fan favorite. He played for the local youth leagues and carried all of these attributes qualities on to St. John's Prep and then to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.


old hines bridge amesbury massachusetts
1st Lt. Derek S. Hines Bridge
Derek's company, the 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, was deployed to Afghanistan in March of 2005. They were assigned to search for Taliban combatants. During firefights he acted with bravery and put his own life ahead of his fellow soldiers. In the early morning of September 1, 2005 in his 26th year Derek was killed in a raid of a Taliban commander's headquarters. He dedicated and gave his life for the cause of American freedom.


In November 2008, the Hines Bridge was shut down suddenly when it was struck by a barge carrying a National Grid Power transformer; the impact extensively damaged the northern pier, moving it 8 inches. The swing span could not be closed by the bridge tender. It was eventually repaired and put back in service by the summer of 2009.
hines bridge deer island
1st Lt. Derek S. Hines Bridge

Take a good look at the 1st Lt. Derek S. Hines Bridge. As of this October (2010) it will not be seen again. It was  determined to be in need of extensive repair to the support structure and roadbed. After almost 45 years of service it will be razed and replaced with a newer version.


To remind us of the sacrifices for the cause of freedom it will forever carry the name of 1st Lt. Derek S. Hines.

Feel free to browse more Sepia Saturday posts by clicking here.




Have a wonderful Fourth of July everyone!
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