Monadnock Moments No. 71: Stoddard's Stone Arch Bridge
Near the Stoddard/Antrim town line, beside New Hampshire highway Route 9, stands a twin arch highway bridge made of stone. This bridge was built without any mortar and is sustained solely by the shaping of its archstones. It is one of several surviving bridges of this unique style that were constructed primarily in the Contoocook River Valley in the first half of the 19th century. Today this bridge, and others like it, is recognized as being a significant part of our national architectural heritage. The stone arch bridge in Stoddard was not always appreciated as much as it is today, however.
At the town meeting in March of 1852, the residents of Stoddard voted to build a new bridge over the North Branch river on the road to Antrim. The town’s three selectmen, Abner Knowlton, Nathan Morse, and William Wilson, were to oversee the project. The bridge that the selectmen contracted and paid for with town funds, was this stone arch bridge which still stands near Stoddard’s eastern boundary.
The town’s residents became very upset when they saw the bridge being constructed. They felt that the twin arch bridge was much too extravagant and a waste of the taxpayer’s money. Despite their objections, the bridge was completed and put into use. The taxpayers had the last word, however, as they would never again elect the three selectmen under whose direction the structure had been built. Little did those Stoddard residents know that the bridge they had condemned would survive for more than a century to be recognized as a landmark of American engineering.