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The One and Only Cribstone Bridge

On the rocky coast of Maine there’s a bridge like no other in the world. Its formal name is The Bailey Island Bridge, but its more descriptive name is the Cribstone Bridge. What makes it unique is its beautifully complex simplicity. It’s basically stacks of cut granite, piled just so one atop the other to form the foundation for a concrete bridge. The magic is in its strength and open design that permits water to flow freely through it. This stack of granite extends 350 meters across an active tidal waterway in Casco Bay, Maine, and has withstood surf, ice flows, boat wakes and a steady flow of vehicular traffic since it was completed in 1928, with only one major repair between 2009-2010.

There’s truth in the expression “they don’t build them like that any more”. Time tells, and the bridge has proven itself built to last. Anyone who’s played Jenga can appreciate the complexity of a bridge like this. Stacks of granite slabs bear the load, while shrugging off the ocean tides, nor’easters and the harsh cold of a Maine winter. As a critic of mediocre civil engineering projects, I take a bow to this gem of a bridge, showing generations of Civil Engineers what’s possible with a bit of creative genius. It seems I’m not alone in my appreciation, as the bridge is recognized as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, and also on the National Register of Historic Places.

I wasn’t seeking out this bridge, but I encountered it on a drive out to Land’s End, quite literally a point of land at the end of the road on Bailey Island. I suppose that makes me an accidental tourist of sorts, but these are the kind of encounters that inspired me to start blogging in the first place. Will the Bailey Island Bridge inspire a return to more deliberate regional exploration in this blog? Time tells.

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