Townie Tidbits


By now everyone in Charlestown seems to know about the new bridge being planned to replace the aging 116 year old structure that looks old enough to be on the Freedom Trail.

This paper ran a news story last week on the construction plans and even the Boston Globe ran a news story too. A proposal is out there for a new $90 million bridge and Boston city engineer Para Jayasinghe informed the media that plans to unveil plans and photos should be made public next month.

It does seem it may take years to replace the current structure which opened in 1898 the same year that Teddy Roosevelt rode up San Juan Hill. Even with approval for this project, the money for it may take another three years to come by.

The new bridge will have wider sidewalks and dedicated bike lanes. It will also have a new name. Para Jayasinghe adds, “Calling it the North Washington Bridge shows we have no imagination. We can ask lots of people. What should we name it?”  I wonder how long this city engineers has lived in Boston? Most people in Charlestown, except for the newest of new residents never call it the North Washington Bridge. To many it is the Charlestown Bridge but to those with long family roots in Town , it will always be the High Bridge because long ago fifty or so years ago, there was a Low Bridge over by the former site of the old YMCA building in City Square that ran over the river to the North Station area. As a kid, I used it as a shortcut to Boston Garden as did many Townies. It wasn’t torn down for years after it closed and eventually was replaced with the current pedestrian walkway near the Charles River Locks.

Charlestown had a High Bridge and a Low Bridge and over the early part of the 20th century, the two bridges became a meeting place for gangs of kids from both Charlestown and the North End to rumble. I had both Irish uncles and Sicilian uncles of the same age and both spoke of those fights between the two neighborhood’s kids. Sometimes I am sure one side won and the other lost but according to all my uncles, their side never lost.

Both sides spoke of running around the Low Bridge to catch the other side off guard. Good thing, no one ever died in these fights and eventually lots of guys from both sides ended up liking the girls from the other side.

I think the new bridge should be called the Charlestown High-Low Bridge in honor of all Gaelic-Garlics out there who might not be here today if not for this bridge.

By the way, I guess I never suffered from “acrophobia” because I love looking down through the grates at the water below. I know I’ll never get wet falling down crossing this piece of Boston history.

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