22 Water Street
Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts 01370
Bridge of Flowers webpage
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About Bridge of Flowers
The Bridge of Flowers was once a trolley bridge built in 1908 by the Shelburne Falls & Colrain Street Railway. As the nearby Iron Bridge had only a 20-ton weight limit, the five-span, 400-foot concrete arched trolley bridge, connecting the towns of Shelburne and Buckland, was constructed to help deliver heavy freight from the Shelburne Falls railyard to the mills on the 7 1/2-mile line along Route 112 North to Colrain, as well as passengers and local goods, such as milk, apples and cotton.
The trolley was a “social and commercial connection” to area residents at that time. The railway company, however, was unable to keep up with progress, such as the invention of the automobile, as goods began to be hauled by truck and the company eventually went bankrupt in 1927. The railway’s treasured history is maintained by the Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum.
The Bridge became overgrown with weeds in the two years following the demise of the railway. But in 1928, someone had an idea …
In a letter to a local newspaper, Shelburne resident Clara S. C. Barnard recalled how the late Antoinette Burnham (Mrs. Walter E. Burnham) first had the idea of transforming the old trolley bridge into a bridge of beauty. Barnard insisted that Mrs. Burham told her how the thought came to [Antoinette] one day when she was occupied with household duties. She was more than busy in those days, striving to care for her family because her husband had become an invalid. Busy as she was, she went to the doorway of her husband’s room and mentioned the idea to him. According to Barnard, Mr. Burnham typed out an article, which developed the idea.
Antoinette Burnham had the vision to take a community problem of a discontinued trolley bridge and turn it into a beautiful Bridge of Flowers. According to The History and Traditions of Shelburne, Massachusetts published in 1958, the trolley bridge was an “eyesore.” It was too expensive to destroy, yet it was not needed as a footbridge. It could not be destroyed partly because of expense and because it carried the water main to the Buckland side of the river. The Shelburne Falls Fire District purchased the bridge for $1,250.
The Shelburne Falls Women’s Club sponsored this project in 1928. In April 1929, 80 loads of loam and several loads of fertilizer were put on the bridge, all by donated labor. The Women’s Club and other organizations in town raised $1,000 in the early spring of 1929.
From Bridge of Flowers webpage