Hillsborough's Five Stone Arch Bridges - A March 2012 Motorcycle Ride

During the 19th century countless bridges were build along carriage roads and railways crossing streams and broad valleys. The Granite State has nearly 60 existing historic covered bridges, ranking fifth after Pennsylvania, Ohio, Vermont and Indianna.

There are many stone-arch bridges in New England and other states. Some well renowned, such as: New York's Central Park: bridges designed by Frederick Law Olmstead & others, and Acadia National Park, Maine - those along the carriage roads.

However, these and most others were constructed with mortor. An estimated 40-plus dry-laid stone bridges were built in New Hampshire prior to 1900. Twelve were built in Hillsborough, of which eight survive. One was submerged when the North Branch River was dammed and now lies under Franklin Pierce Lake. There are now seven accessible bridges. Two sets of double-arch bridges are now considered single bridges.

These five bridges of Hillsborough constitute the largest extant cluster of dry-laid stone arch bridges within the United States. They were built by trained masonry craftsmen and continue to demonstrate the durability of such construction.
1) Sawyers Bridge, Hillsborough

From Weare, drive up RT. 149 to Hillsborough, turn left onto Main St. The bridge is at the intersection of US Rt 202 & West Main St.

This bridge is the finest of the five. Recently called the local "bridge to nowhere", this area is being developled as part of a town park. Located in the nearby parking lot is the "Stone Arch Bridges" Historic Marker shown above).

Sawyers Bridge (circa 1866) (N 43° 06.691' W 71° 55.881')
2) Old Carr Bridge, Hillsborough
(also known as Jones Road Bridge)

From Sawyers Bridge, continue west on Main St., after a short distance, turn left (north) onto Beard Rd. Beard Road becomes a dirt road, and pretty muddy in spots at this time of year. Drive north on along Beard Rd, about 1.6 miles north of West Main St. The bridge is located where Jones Road intersects Beard Road, crossing Beards Brook.

This is the most scenic, most often photographed, stone arch bridge in Hillsborough.

Old Carr Bridge (mid 1800's) (N 43° 07.628' W 71° 56.670')
3) Gleasons Falls Bridge, Hillsborough

Go one mile farther north (from the Old Carr/Jones Road Bridge) and the Gleason Falls Bridge will be on the right.

Beards Brook flows under the birdge in a series of splashing cascades over large boulders. Just downstream is a popular summer swimming hole.

Gleasons Falls Bridge (circa 1830) (N 43° 08.606' W 71° 57.341')
4) Gleason Road Bridges, Hillsborough

Continue north on Beard Road for 1/4 of a mile and then then turn left onto Gleason Falls Road. Just ahead Gleason Road crosses this double arch bridge.

An "odd bridge combination".

Gleason Road Bridges (mid 1800's) (N 43° 08.688' W 71° 57.583')
5) Second NH Turnpike Bridge, Hillsborough

After leaving Gleason Road Bridges, go 1 mile southwest to the intersection of Rt. 31 (Second NH Turnpike Bridge). Turn left (SE) onto Rt 31, proceed 1.8 miles to Rt. 9. Cross Rt. 9 and continue 0.8 miles on the turnpike to the double-arch stone-arch bridge.

(Or you wish to spend less time on dirt/mud roads, you can go back down Beard Rd. to Main St./RT. 9 and go west to the intersection of Rt 9/202 and Rt. 31 coming in from the north on the right. Turn left on Second NH Turnpike Bridge (sign says Saw Mill Road? Go 0.8 miles).

This is over the stream draining Franklin Pierce Lake.

Second NH Turnpike Bridge (circa 1864) (N 43° 06.677' W 71° 56.606')

Other NH Stone-Arch Bridges:

Stoddard Stone-Arch Bridge, Stoddard, NH
Twin arched bridge was build in the first half Nineteenth Century, without mortar One of most visited and easily accessible. Rt 9, just west of the Stoddard/Antrim line. A parking lot & historic marker are located on the south side of the highway at the bridge.

Gilsum Bridge, Gilsum, NH

A stone arch bridge over the Ashuelot River on Old NH 10 in Gilsum. One of the highest, along Rt 10, at Lower Village, about 0.8 miles south of Gilsum Village (Cheshire County). Surry Road leaves Rt 10 to the west and crosses the bridge over a deep gorge of the Ashuelot River.

Cheshire Railroad Stone-Arch Bridge, Keene

Located along Rt 101 (Marlborough St.) in South Keene. Just over a mile east of Main St. in Keene and about 2 miles west of of Marlborough. A stone arch railroad (abandoned) bridge over Branch River on


February issue of NH ToDo magazine: "The Bridges of Monadnock Country, Stone-Arch Strong" by Ernst H. Kastning, pgs.42-45
Five Stone Arch Bridges
Stone-Arch Bridge Constuction (pdf)
Historic Stone Highway Culverts in New Hampshire (pdf)
Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks Index - Listed by States
Stoddard's Stone Arch Bridge
Bridgehunter.com - Historic Bridges of the U.S. - NH

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