AVON — The Five Arch Bridge off Route 39 has stood tall since it was first constructed in the 1850s. But decades of exposure to the elements have taken their toll on the well-known span.
“The problem we’ve had over the years is the water migrated through the top and it’d get in between the big limestone rocks. It starts to affect the mortar and the integrity,” explained Avon Village Mayor Tom Freeman. “Before we go to work on preserving the whole structure, we need to stop the water.”
Earlier this month, crews started work on installing a roof and drainage system to funnel water away from the iconic landmark so it doesn’t continue to deteriorate.
“They’re taking the stone and the old railroad ballast off down to the concrete in order to put a drain system in with – it’s called an EPDM roof. It’s what they put on large commercial buildings,” said Freeman.
On Monday, village crews were using a truck-mounted crane to cart bucket after bucket off of eroded stone from atop the bridge’s span.
Freeman credited the work of the village’s Park Commission and Village Treasurer Christine Quinlan with getting the project off the ground.
“She’s very thorough and we’re very fortunate to have her ability to write our grant applications,” Freeman said of Quinlan. “It was a team effort, for sure.”
The bridge, which is about 200 feet long, was constructed in 1856 and 1857 by the Genesee Valley Railroad as part of its Rochester-Avon-Geneseo-Mount Morris line to carry trains over Conesus Creek. The line was electrified in the early 1900s and abandoned in 1941. The village took ownership of the bridge in 1971 and it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012.
The village of Avon previously received $100,000 in funding for the project through the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York.
The contractor for the project is Elmer W. Davis, Inc., and the project architect is Bero Architecture, PLLC. The village of Avon is providing in-kind services including a cash match. Work on the roof and drainage system installation is expected to wrap by Thanksgiving.
Once the roof and drainage system are installed, Freeman said the village’s focus can turn to restoring the bridge outright, though that’s a project for the future.
“Stopping the water is the first part. Now you have the ability to go in and tuck and point the joints, perhaps there might be a couple stones that have to be replaced – I don’t know,” Freeman said. “...The bridge isn’t going to fall down in 100 years, but we’re here to make it last for another 500 years and hand it off to our future.”