The 1870 Shaw Bridge is described in the National Register of Historic Places as "a structure of outstanding importance to the history of American engineering and transportation technology.” It is included in the Library of Congress Historic American Engineering Record; ranked by HistoricBridges.org as a bridge with one of the highest Historic Significance Ratings; recognized as an important American bridge in BridgeHunter.com; and identified as an international engineering landmark by Structurae! The bridge employs the basic design of 1830 Union College graduate, Squire Whipple who has been called the "Father of Iron Bridges" by Dr. Francis. E. Griggs, Jr., Distinguished Member of American Society of Civil Engineers (Dist.M.ASCE). The Shaw Bridge is the only extant double-span Whipple bowstring truss bridge in the U.S. and is in its original location along the historic New York to Albany Post Road.
For the first 125 years after construction, the Shaw Bridge provided vital service and was well maintained but for the last 15 years it has been closed to all traffic, including pedestrian traffic, with no maintenance (until vegetation was recently removed) resulting in rapid deterioration of the wooden bridge deck and rusting of iron components. Without maintenance the bridge will deteriorate beyond restoration and become a dangerous eyesore.
The modest requested funds ($10,000) would be used to pay consultants to produce a Historic Structure Report, which would describe the current condition of the bridge and recommend cost effective ways to stabilize, rehabilitate, and restore the bridge for pedestrian use. Included in the report would be recommendations for the restoration of the stone abutments and stone pier, cleaning, repairing, and painting all the original iron members that are in good condition, removal, repair and/or replacement of deteriorated iron members, removal and replacement of the wooden deck, and restoration of historic pedestrian railings. The consultant would identify, as much as possible, opportunities to farm out tasks and materials (including masonry work and wooden deck materials) to local businesses that may be willing to provide services and materials at low or no cost. As they became available, sections of the Historic Structures Report would be used to inform interested parties for fundraising purposes, to inform those who may be willing to provide in-kind services and materials, and for the Town of Claverack to apply for a Transportation Enhancement Grant from the Federal Highway Administration (or a similar grant) to cover the costs for the bridge restoration. The Historic Structure Report would also be used to focus on urgent maintenance work that can be done by the town, county, and in-kind services and material before the onset of winter 2012-2013.
The Shaw Bridge restoration project is an important building block in Claverack's historic preservation efforts, and currently its most visible. Success in preserving this important historic bridge and making it accessible to residents on a daily basis will energize the community and help define a broader historic preservation vision to preserve Claverack's unique history and make it come alive. Many worthy but difficult preservation projects are waiting in the wings for the success of this project, including the restoration of the Van Hoesen House, the Mellenville Railroad Station, updating the list of approximately 200 Town of Claverack historic homes, an inventory of historic homes in the Village of Philmont, and continuing to place outstanding individual historic properties on the National Register of Historic Places.