A Once in a Lifetime Harvest: The North Washington Street Bridge (Boston)

At Stone Farm, we are constantly seeking out potential reclamations that will yield antique stone building products. We were beyond excited, when we were approached with the North Washington Street Bridge (also known as the Charlestown Bridge) in Boston. A hard product to find, this bridge has thousands of stone wall blocks that where originally quarried beginning in the late 19th century. To best understand our excitement, let’s take a step back in time and learn more about this iconic bridge’s history.

Built in 1900, the North Washington Street Bridge connected the USS Constitution to the Freedom Trail, and was a main transportation zone for motor vehicles, trains and pedestrians. The construction also featured a center section able to swing to let boats through. The railway portion was demolished in 1975 to make way for the MBTA Orange Line’s Haymarket North Extension. Because the original design was for both an elevated railroad as well as automobiles, the bridge spans 6 lanes. Fun fact: in 1945 a wartime Liberty ship crashed into the bridge when a junior crewman misunderstood his navigational directions and took a chunk out of the lower level. 

A photo of the railroad tracks in 1901, a year after the bridge was built. (photo: Boston City Archives)
A train crossing the bridge in 1945 (photo: Boston City Archives)

This 120 year old structure also includes a history in its masonry construction. The lower masonry of the piers above the foundation is concrete with a heavy facing of granite. The top of the coping and the granite facing of the piers and abutments are 115 feet in length. The masonry above the coping serves to carry the roadway where it passes over the piers and is made of substantial walls of granite. This granite is expected to have been harvested from surrounding quarries in Massachusetts and other parts of New England. 

Today, the North Washington Street Bridge is a main transportation hub for the MBTA Commuter Rail, Amtrak, as well as several subway lines and bus routes. It is estimated to carry over 42,000 vehicles per day including heavy pedestrian traffic. Its proximity to the TD Boston Garden (home of the Celtics and Bruins) carries a history in and of itself! 

The stone that is being reclaimed as the bridge is taken down (photo: Stone Farm)

As we continue to harvest these stones for reclaimed stone wall block, we will share additional stories of this incredible bridge that allowed boats, trains, vehicles and people a mode of transportation. This is a truly special Stone Farm find. 

The Bridge has yielded some beautiful rectangular blocks, that are easily handled by this machine! (photo: Stone Farm)

To learn more about the reclaimed stone wall blocks that are ideal for stone benches or stone wall block for seawalls, please visit https://stonefarmliving.com/reclaimed-materials/reclaimed-stone-wall-blocks/ or call us at 203.270.2900.