Built in 1837, without morter and sustained solely by expert shaping of its arched stones. It is the oldest double-arched stone bridge to survive in New Hampshire. Located near the Uriah Abbott home, it was also called the South Bridge. It is attributed to mason Benjamin F. Simpson (born in 1799), who later built two other bridges in town. (Restored in 1998)
In 1836 the Federal Government, under President Andrew Jackson, had a surplus of funds. This surplus money was returned to the states, which, in turn, apportioned it to the towns. Pelham received approximately $3800.00 in surplus federal funds in late 1836 or early 1837.
At a town meeting held on March 14, 1837, the town placed most of this money in the hands of Capt. Edward Wyman to loan out at interest for the benefit of the town. At the same town meeting the town voted to spend some of the money to build a stone bridge across Beaver Brook south of Pelham Center.
Following is an excerpt from the March 14, 1837 Town Meeting where the citizens" "Voted to build the bridge across Beaver Brook on the road leading from the meeting house to the house of Moses Bailey - to be done by a suitable arch or arches and to chose David Cutter, Esquire and Jonathan Atwood, Jr. to carry same into effect."
This bridge was built on what is now known as Bridge Street near what was then the home of the Abbott Family. Uriah Abbott, believed to be the first of the Pelham Abbotts, moved to Pelham from Andover, Massachusetts while New Hampshire was still a British colony. Uriah Abbott is listed among the Pelham patriots who fought in the Revolution. Because of its proximity to the Abbott home, Pelham's first stone bridge became known as the "Abbott Bridge," although it was sometimes called the "South Bridge."
This is an excerpt from the "Reflections" book published by the Pelham 250th Anniversary Committee
Click on this link to view the restoration project
New Hampshire Preservation Alliance Preservation Award
The Town of Pelham,
for the outstanding restoration and stewardship of the Abbott Bridge
June 4, 1999
Presented to the Town of Pelham, New Hampshire's Department of Transportation (DOT), Annemarie B. Hargreaves of the Pelham Historical Society and James L. Garvin of the state Division of Historical Resources, the award recognizes the outstanding collaborative effort that resulted in the rehabilitation and restoration of New Hampshire's oldest double-arched stone bridge. In 1994, the town applied for a Transportation Enhancement project under the federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) to rehabilitate the bridge. At a time when there were many other pressing financial priorities, the town matched the federal funds. The townspeople and local officials consistently supported the project with positive votes at annual town meetings.
DOT's Bureau of Bridge Maintenance became involved when no private contractors bid on the repair job. DOT removed inappropriate parapets of sawn granite and repaired a bulging side of the dry-laid stone structure. The roadway was underlain with a hidden concrete pad that leaves the historic stonemasonry intact but distributes vehicle loads safely.
Eagle Tribune article excerpt - June 4, 1999 By: Liz Anderson
Annemarie B. Hargreaves worked tirelessly to bring together state, federal and town dollars to save a historic stone bridge in Pelham.
The New Hampshire Preservation Alliance is giving six projects its 1999 Preservation Achievement Awards for "for significant contributions to preserving the state's historic resources."
Mrs. Hargreaves, a member of the Pelham Historical Society, remembers when she first heard in 1991 about federal dollars available for road projects, including "historical restoration."
It reminded her how representatives of the town historical society had sought to have the roadway over the Abbot Bridge designated as a scenic highway in an attempt to safeguard the structure.
Built in 1837, Abbott Bridge is the oldest surviving double-arched stone bridge in the state. It is located on Old Bridge Street North and spans Beaver Brook.
Mrs. Hargreaves helped apply for and win a $100,000 federal grant for the project in 1994, then followed through on every step of the planning and construction.
The work included adding a concrete slab to reinforce the roadway, installing safety rails and fixing a bulging spot in the stone work. Construction began last summer, and the bridge reopened in October.
"Everybody ended up being very pleased and proud," said Mrs. Hargreaves, who will share the award with the town, the Department of Transportation and James L. Garvin, the state architectural historian.
Mrs. Hargreaves said she now is working to have a historical marker placed at the renovated bridge.
The award, she said, "is sort of like a final touch."
Annemarie B. Hargreaves helped secure federal, state and town money to restore historic Abbott Bridge in Pelham. Today the project will be honored by the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance as some of the best restoration work in the state.
Lowell Sun - June 5, 1996 Excerpt By: Claudia Combs
The town is now the proud caretaker of its own valuable, historical treasure.
Abbott Bridge on Old Bridge Street North built in 1837 is the oldest surviving double-arched stone bridge in New Hampshire, making it eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
Officials from the N.H. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Bridge Design, and N.H. Division of Historical Resources gave selectmen a series of reports on the bridge. They provided estimates on what restoration work and repairs need to be done to preserve the landmark.
Jeff Brillhart of the New Hampshire DOT said the main issues are the bridge's condition, its guardrail - which Brillhart said is a hazard - its age and importance.
Brillhart said the bridge is in fair condition, but is an "old bridge and is showing its age."
In May, Brillhart said he met with the state Historic Preservation Office which was completed additional research "to see just how historic this bridge actually is."
During the bridge's re-evaluation, the historical experts discovered the structure's historical importance, and stepped forward to "take care that the history is not diminished."
Mark Whittemore, bridge design chief from the Bureau of Bridge Design, offered selectmen four options:
James L. Garvin, architectural historian for the state Division of Historical Resources, said the bridge is now eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, so "we are required to protect this historical structure."
He assured selectmen that all three state organizations will sit down and discuss every option available.
Selectmen Chairman Paul Scott smiled and said, the town is being given "a belated birthday gift for its 250th anniversary."
Brillhart said the restoration project is not scheduled for construction until 1998, but they would like to receive direction from the board on the design.
Eagle Tribune - May 21, 2001 By: Chris Markuns
When the sign is unveiled in a small bit of Memorial Day pomp and circumstance, it will tell of a bridge that has survived for 164 years to become the only one of its kind in the state.
But perhaps the better story is of the past seven years.
The Pelham Historical Society will proudly introduce the official New Hampshire State Historical Marker erected at Abbott Bridge on Monday at 11:30 a.m. The last double stone arch bridge in the state, it joins the Robert Frost Farm in Derry and 176 other New Hampshire locations in earning the deep green seal and sign that indicates a rare historical landmark.
But state officials say the long, expensive cooperative effort to research, rescue and restore the bridge may be as noteworthy as the bridge itself, which was built in 1837 and spans Beaver Brook on Old Bridge Street North.
"This is just a wonderful example for other communities to show what can be done," said Linda R. Wilson, an architectural historian with the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources.
"This is a splendid example of local dedication, commitment and research, and the fact that you can still go out and find important information on important history. It doesn't rely on some bureaucrat in Concord," she said. "This certainly was a momentous discovery."
After watching two other similar bridges in town have their character wiped away by improvement work focused solely on the engineering, the concern over the crumbling Abbott's fate grew in the 90's. Enter Annemarie B. Hargreaves, who in 1994 took up the task of getting a federal grant and saw to it the town paid only 20 percent of the $185,000 restoration cost, then followed through on all the planning and construction.
It was a project unique enough that the state couldn't find a single contractor to do the work, forcing the Department of Transportation to do the job itself. Four months of careful construction -- which involved adding concrete reinforcement, steel bars, safety rails and repairing stone work all without making any significant aesthetic changes -- led to a New Hampshire Preservation Alliance award in 1999.
And all the research Mrs. Hargreaves did to earn grant money was easily applied to the obtaining the historical marker, which now makes the bridge eligible for the National Registry of Historic Places.
"It's a rare occasion that a historical marker gets placed, and not everything that is important in the eyes of local people will receive a historical marker," said Mrs. Hargreaves, who is in the process of getting a bench placed where people could sit by the brook and enjoy the bridge. "It has to have some statewide historical significance."
Historical Society members hope that the marker will give people pause as they drive over a piece of history on their way to the town center or Pelham Plaza.
"I think a sign there will help people realize this is something special," said member Herbert S. Currier. "I was hoping someday they might get to it, but I give credit to Anne for getting the ball rolling and following through."