Photos: A History of the Northern Ave. Bridge
The rusty, sad structure that links downtown to the Seaport is set to be removed in March.
But the Northern Ave Bridge wasn’t always such a rickety construction; it became a grand throughway across the Fort Point Channel after it was built in 1908. It’s also one of the remaining few swing bridges in Boston, meaning that it pivots when traffic in the water below needs to pass by.
The steel bridge was closed to vehicles in 1997—and recently to pedestrians in December 2014—after the Coast Guard asserted it was hazardous to cross and in danger of collapsing. The bridge’s demolition seems unfortunate, since the aged platform boasts a distinctive history.
In 1912, a firehouse was built on the bridge. It kept the northern harbor safe until 1948, when Fireboat Engine Company 44 moved to the North End. The floating firehouse itself was abandoned by the company, and 20 years later in 1968, the entire building and the supporting piers under it toppled into the water.
Situated on an end of the bridge was the operator’s house, which has come into disrepair in recent years. In 2009, it was partially demolished and boarded up.
“The boarded up and rambling structure served for nearly a century as a home for the keepers of the rotating swing bridge—who had to be available, night and day, to let ships through,” wrote Scott Van Voorhis for a Fort Point blog in 2008.
In addition to the firehouse, operator’s house, and vehicle lanes, the center area of the bridge’s truss was reserved for a double-track freight railroad.
The removal of the Northern Ave bridge could add up to $15 million—a hefty price tag to get rid of more of Fort Point’s remaining industrial roots.