Although significantly more durable than timber, stone was not a common building material for bridges in Vermont. Stone construction is extremely time-consuming and labor intensive, and it requires a great amount of specialized skill. However, during the 19th and early 20th centuries, several of these monumental structures were erected. The stone arch bridges in Vermont can be broken down into several categories, which are discussed below.
Common Arch Bridges from 1800 to 1850
Vermont's early stone arch bridges were generally quite modest, spanning less than 40 feet. An small, 22-foot span is illustrated below.
Railroad Bridges from 1850 to 1900
Although railroad companies initially began constructing timber bridges, the durability of stone was eventually put to use. Railroad companies were able to afford the high cost of stone arch bridges, and they hired their own stone masons to perform the work. The stone bridges of the railroad were not as rough as the earlier common bridges. Rather, they displayed expertise in the carefully dressed and laid granite, and they constructed multiple arches to span much greater distances.
The railroad companies also constructed a number of culverts, as well a few stone tunnels.
Just prior to and just after the Civil War, several Vermont towns erected stone-arch bridges, many of which were located at prominent, heavily-traveled village sites. Again, after 1893, Vermont towns were swept up in a stone-arch bridge building frenzy. The World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago introduced the country to the ideals of City Beautiful. In an effort to improve and beautify their villages, Vermonters erected monumental stone bridges as gateways to their communities. A few examples are shown below.
Masonry Slab Bridges
Although not as picturesque as the arching stone bridge, the majority of Vermont's masonry bridges consist of a large stone slab, or lintel, stretching across abutments.
Railroads constructed a number of stone-lintel culverts during the 19th century; and, between 1892 and WWI, thousands of stone-lintel culverts were constructed by Vermont towns as part of the Good Roads Movement.