In 1903 Schell Memorial Bridge, a 515 foot long steel cantilever truss bridge, was donated to the town of Northfield by one of its leading citizens, Francis R. Schell, who hoped to obtain easy access from his chateau in downtown Northfield to the East Northfield Railroad Station. Schell Bridge is the third oldest of five Pennsylvania Truss Bridges and was designed by Edward S. Shaw, an important bridge engineer in Massachusetts from 1873 to 1919. Up until its closing, in 1985 Schell Bridge provided the town with easy transportation between the two sides of the village, which is divided by the Connecticut River.In 1985 Schell Bridge was closed because it had deteriorated too far for safe use. Due to lack of funding, the bridge had not been adequately maintained.
MassDOT devised a plan to rehabilitate the bridge, but the town could not justify the costs of assuming responsibility for maintaining the rehabilitated structure. In 1987, with no group willing to take on the responsibility of the bridge, the decision was made to tear it down. Demolition bids were made and contracts awarded in 1999, but the bridge has thus far not been torn down. "There’s a funny cycle that occurs in the history of the building,” observed Kent Barwick, former chairman of New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. “It is very much appreciated when it is put up, then it sort of disappears into the city when other buildings become more noticeable or celebrated. And just a little while before it is rediscovered, it is thought to be absolutely worthless. That’s the dangerous moment for a building.” Such is now the case with Schell Bridge.
In 2004 a private group, Friends of Schell Bridge, was formed as a non-profit organization to try to trigger rediscovery of the Schell.
In 2013 MassDOT proposed replacing the bridge with a historically-faithful new bridge, instead of simply tearing down the Schell. The Town of Northfield and Friends of Schell Bridge both supported this proposal.
Friends of Schell Bridge a non-profit 501(c)3 corporation ¦ P.O. Box 27, Northfield, MA 01360 ¦ info@SchellBridge.org