Grand Avenue Bridge

April 3, 2020

This wasn’t the plan. About a month ago a celebration was hosted for the soon to be closed Grand Ave. Bridge. I didn’t have much interest in it. My interest was in how long the bridge would actually be closed. In New Haven, 18 months tends to be code for 4 plus years when it comes to bridge closings. For the last year and a half I drove across the bridge daily and its closure was going to make the daily trips to my child’s daycare a little longer and frankly less scenic. Now a month later my daily routine has completely been upended, and things like that are of little to no concern. However the bridge is still a part of my daily habits.

We now only leave the house to take morning walks to the park alongside the river. There’s less people early in the morning and the air is fresh and crisp. For the first time in the 10 years that I’ve lived alongside the Quinnipiac, I’m actively tracking the shifts in tides and more aware of the daily minor and major changes in the neighborhood as the bridge prepares to close to traffic on April 13th.

It’s not the first time the bridge has closed for repairs. It’s also not the first bridge. It is the longest standing however. Prior to the bridge’s completion in 1898 (it’s of note that the bridge’s construction began in 1896 and was scheduled for completion in 8 months- 2 years later it was completed. Steady habits are reassuring in times like this!)  there was a wooden bridge built in the 1860s. As trolley lines were rapidly expanding throughout the city, this bridge connected Fair Haven Heights (then a part of East Haven) to the growing oystering village across the river and ultimately all the way to Westville. The bridge lacked a draw function though, and was replaced by the current bridge 30 years later.

In the early 1940s the Grand Ave. Bridge was closed for repair. Increased auto traffic and deferred maintenance throughout the Great Depression required a renovation. Notice in the photo that Routes 15 and 80 were the major highways of time as this preceded the interstates by 15 years.

Today we have the unique opportunity to walk by daily as the planned closing and construction begins. Collectively and apart we can all observe the continual changes and consistency of history on a micro level, taking the time to enjoy and observe our homes and neighborhoods and our place in them.

Jason Bischoff-Wurstle
Director of Photo Archives, New Haven Museum

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