July 28, 2010

Mini Bridge of Flowers

Drake Hill Bridge from Town of Simsbury website
I remember this bridge.  In the 1970s I lived nearby, and had to drive over the one-lane bridge spanning the Farmington River to get to some places.  You drove up to it, waited at the stop sign to make sure no one was coming the other way, then drove over it slowly, as it was kind of rickety.  The wooden planks covering the iron framework made whoppity whopp sounds under the car's tires.

It  was built in 1892, before automobile traffic.  Even though it was a normal route to get places, and I routinely crossed it in my car, it was kind of an adventure each time, and I would briefly imagine carts and horses --- and later tin lizzies --- crossing where I drove.  It was closed after I moved away and a new one was built just a few yards away in 1992, but since I no longer traveled that way, I didn't realize the road had been slightly rerouted and the old bridge abandoned.

Then a couple years ago I started visiting a small garden center that is located on the river, right at the foot of the new bridge.  I was surprised to see that the old bridge had been closed, but not torn down.  Instead, it was covered, literally swamped in colorful flower boxes and hanging baskets all up and down the railings.

It's modeled on the abandoned trolley bridge that spans the Deerfield River, the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne, Massachusetts.

There has been so much hype and excitement about the High Line public park built on abandoned elevated railroad tracks on Manhattan's West Side. It's really just an expanded version of the Bridge of Flowers. It's the same idea: reclamation of an old eyesore where weeds once grew, making it a public garden spot. Of course the High Line is 22 blocks long, a mile and a half of gardens, paths, native plants and Piet Oudolf designed installations.  The High Line itself was inspired by a similar railroad bridge reclamation in Paris.

from Town of Simsbury website
Our little reclamation project is just a modest bridge.  Just a short iron span across a small river in a semi-rural town in New England.  It's maintained by volunteers, many of them high school groups.  Although there are some perennials at the entrances, it's mostly baskets and boxes of annuals, not professional European inspired native plant installations.  
flowerboxes on Drake Hill Bridge - photo: rbglasson
But it's pretty.  It's a gentle surprise as you drive over the new bridge to get where you are going and happen to look over and see the incongruity of a decayed old iron structure festooned with bright flowers.  Canoeists look up as they drift below.  Weddings take place on the bridge.  Walkers and bikers and runners cross it.

And I love to go by it, thinking of a time when I was so much younger, carefully crossing that bridge on my way to my future self.


  1. I used to drive over this bridge way back when I lived in that area of CT. So nice to see it decked out in flowers.

  2. That is really nice to plant the bridge like that - what a great idea.

  3. Joene, I'm glad you recognized this bridge. It does look so nice now.

    Karen, there seems to be a little bit of a trend now to decorate old abandoned structures, which really is a nice idea.

  4. Laurrie...thanks for sharing this, I will make a detour next time I am in CT to see this bridge. Just love the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls and what a great way to turn an industrial urban blight into something brimming with beauty and life...

  5. What a neat thing to do with an old bridge. There are several old covered bridges in our area. ONe has been landscaped by Master Gardeners. It is pretty.

  6. That is a very clever idea, a bit of beauty brought to everyone who might see it.

  7. Laurrie, what a sweet project! I love it. I have to say, your last paragraph kinda got me choked up. :)

    It's so nice that something you have such fond memories of has found a new sweeter second life for the next generation. Awww!

  8. Ellen, I hope you do make it down here to see the bridge while it is decorated.

    Lisa, I'm glad to know other parts of the country are beautifying old structures too.

    Deborah, it really is a little bit of whimsy in the middle of almost nowhere!

    Garden Ms. S, we should all be so well taken care of and tended as we age....

  9. This bridge was a total surprise to me one summer day a few years back when I was kayaking the Farmington River with a friend. It's really lovely.

  10. Fern, I'm so glad you got to see it, especially from the river below.


Sorry about requiring code verification -- I experimented with turning it off to make commenting easier, and I got too much spam. Thanks for taking the time to comment, and to type in silly codes. I appreciate hearing from you.