State historic marker placed at Shaw Bridge

25 16news Shaw Bridge with photo

Attending the installation of the state historic marker at Claverack’s Shaw Bridge were (l to r) former Supervisor Jim Keegan; current Supervisor Clifford Weigelt; former Supervisor Robin Andrews; Deputy Supervisor Stephen Hook; Councilwomen Maryanne Lee and Katy Kashen; Chairman of the Claverack Historic Preservation Advisory Committee Ian Nitschke; and president of the Claverack Historical Society Jeane LaPorta. Photo by David Lee

CLAVERACK – On May 28 residents of Claverack gathered at the intersection of Van Wyck Lane and Shaw Bridge Road to dedicate a shiny new New York State historic marker that has been installed at the Shaw Bridge where it spans the Claverack Creek. The bridge has been closed since 1988, but through the efforts of concerned citizens, many of whom were in attendance that Saturday, it has been protected as a significant object of 19th century civic engineering.

The events that day included a musical prelude performed by Charles Robitaille and Larra Agate, a welcome from town historian Jeane LaPorta, recollections of the bridge by Supervisor Clifford Weigelt, and an outline of the bridge’s history and projected preservation by Ian Nitschke. Punch and cookies from 19th century recipes were served by the volunteers from the Claverack Historical Society.

The Shaw Bridge was built in 1870 by J. D. Hutchinson of Troy, using a design that engineering genius Squire Whipple patented in 1841. The Shaw Bridge is, according to Mr. Nitshcke, the best existing example of a Whipple Bowstring Truss bridge.

In fact there are only eight known examples of Whipple Bowstring Truss bridges remaining of hundreds that were built in the later 1800s, but the Shaw Bridge is the only double span version and the only one still in its original location. It is named for William Shaw who was a local property owner and entrepreneur.

According to the executive summary published by the restoration committee, “The bridge is at the same level of importance as the Brooklyn Bridge and the Poughkeepsie Railway Bridge (walkway over the Hudson) according to bridge experts.”

“Previous to {such engineering} bridges were built with masonry; bricks, stones and mortar for which the construction was more of an art,” said Mr. Nitschke, “but For Whipple it was a science.”

The project is supervised by Dr. Francis Griggs, Jr. a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers. The goal of the project is to restore the bridge for pedestrian traffic and to create a destination with stream access

“We are now doing an application for state funding through a Consolidated Funding Application with Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation,” said Mr. Nitschke. The application is due on July 25.

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