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SIA 2017 Conference
Society for Industrial Archeology, 46th Conference, Houston, TX, May 18-21, 2017

This presentation will describe the Spring 2017 initiation of the careful restoration of the long-neglected Shaw Bridge, in Claverack NY, for pedestrian/bicycle traffic (although it was built in 1870 for horses and carriages as well). The Shaw Bridge is the best example of a Whipple Bowstring Truss bridge (patented in 1841), which was one of the first bridge designs in the world that used scientific principles by New York State engineering genius Squire Whipple who published these principles in the 1847 book: A Work on Bridge Building. Although designed for the Enlarged Erie Canal (1836–1862 – and hundreds were built for the canal), others were also built elsewhere in New York State, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Japan. The Shaw Bridge is one of only eight left, the lone one in its original location and the only double span. The bridge is clearly eligible for Historic Civil Engineering Landmark status in the USA and this presentation will argue that it is also a World Heritage Bridge candidate. Squire Whipple’s importance cannot be overstated. He was one of the first to develop theoretical and mathematical design principles for bridge design, he was critically important for the development of the Enlarged Erie Canal and early railway industry, was one of the first to use prefabricated construction, and helped New York State to become a world leader in the ninteenth century. The restoration of the Shaw Bridge will be a fitting tribute to the Civil Engineering pioneer Squire Whipple, whose extraordinary intellect was matched only by his humility, which has resulted in a neglect of his contributions.

BIO: Ian Nitschke is the Chair of the Historic Preservation Advisory Committee for the Town of Claverack, New York. For several years, he has been involved in the effort to restore the supremely important Shaw Bridge in Claverack. He also initiated the 2016 New York State law designating the Claverack Creek watershed as an Inland Waterway, which allows the Town to apply for waterfront program technical assistance and grants. Among other activities, he helped create the Claverack Historical Society in 2015. Dr. Nitschke is a retired New York State Public Service Commission utility analyst, retired energy efficiency consultant, and retired physics professor. Currently he is a licensed real estate broker in his wife’s firm, Peggy Lampman Real Estate, in Claverack, NY.

Francis E. Griggs, D.M.ASCE (Distinguished Member American Society of Civil Engineers), is a retired civil engineering professor and currently a historic bridge consultant. Besides the Shaw Bridge, he has been involved in the restoration of three other Whipple bowstring arch bridges: Union College, Schenectady, NY (moved from Johnstown, NY in 1980); Vischer Ferry, NY (moved from Fonda, NY in 1997); and Black River Canal Bridge, Boonville, NY (moved from Talcottville, NY in 2001)

Download PowerPoint Presentation (Converted to PDF, 4.2 MB)