Recently Completed Projects
The remains of the Norcross Brothers Granite Quarry consititute a significant historic resource for the city of Branford and therefore have been nominated for the National Register of Historic Places. At one time there were nine active granite quarries in Branford, with six more not far away in Guilford, yet today, residential development has erased nearly all evidence of quarrying, leaving the Norcross/Castelucci site as the prime reminder of this once-vital activity. Granite quarrying pumped life into the local economy and added immigrants from the British Isles, Scandinavia, and Italy to the social mosaic of the community. The impressive rock face bearing the extraction marks of air drills and torches, the ladders trod by generations of quarrymen, the huge blocks of granie blasted out of the face and left in place, and the Neoclassical architectural fragments left moldering in the woods all serve to bring this aspect of history to life. Now town-owned and part of a passive recreation area, the property can be expected to play its heritage-fulfillment role for many years into the future.
PAST's historian, Bruce Clouette, assisted McFarland & Johnson, Inc. in preparing plans for the restoration of the Comstock Covered Bridge, one of Connecticut's three covered bridges. Mr. Clouette identified the areas of the bridge in need of improvement and upgrade; those areas that had historical significance and should be preserved; and those areas added in various improvement projects over the years, which are not part of the original structure. He also hunted down historical photographs and compiled a comprehensive history of the Comstock Covered Bridge.
This project was undertaken by PAST, Inc. and the Connecticut Department of Transportation as mitigation for the loss of wetlands, as a result of nearby road reconstruction. Preliminarily designed and drafted in 2000, the Quinebaug River wetland site was determined to lay in an area of high archaeological sensitivity. In 2001 and 2002 archaeological studies were performed by PAST, Inc. and seven Native American archaeological sites were identified. Five of the seven sites were determined eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The wetland was built in the summer of 2002 and impact to the archaeological sites was avoided through a combination of design modifications; close on-site coordination between PAST, the construction contractor, and state and federal agencies; and site protection strategies that included burying the sites beneath geotextile and fill and the creation of a State Archaeological Preserve.
In late March 2003 this project was nominated for an American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials National Environmental Stewardship Competition Award. Currently in progress, and scheduled for completion in the summer of 2003, are the nomination of the sites to the National Register, the publication of a booklet on the archaeological significance of the project area, and a Web site version of the booklet.
Planned construction of a handicapped access ramp entrance to the Jonathan Trumbull Jr. House prompted the Town of Lebanon to hire PAST, Inc. to perform a small-scale archaeological excavation in advance of construction in order to avoid impact to the potentially valuable resources in the ramp's subsurface footing area. A total of 2, 805 artifacts were recovered and the buried wall of an early, previously undocumented fieldstone building foundation was identified. Most of the artifacts recovered date to the 18th and early 19th centuries, consistent with the period when the house was occupied by Governor Jonathan Trumbull Jr. and his family (ca. 1760's-1814). The archaeological findings contribute to an improved understanding of the daily lives of the Trumbulls, who played a critical role in local, state, and national history.
As part of Connecticut Department of Transportation utility improvements to the Central Vermont Railroad Pier PAST, Inc. in partnership with DMJM + Harris, performed a cultural resources assessment of the project area. The pier itself is a historic resource, and meets the criteria for listing on the National Register of Historic Places as an early major facility of the Central Vermont Railroad. Historical research indicates that the pier was completed in 1876, the design following period practice for harbor works: masonry perimeter walls, probably resting on timber-pile foundations, with an earth-fill interior. One of the pier's chief functions was to unload coal from Reading Railroad frieghters into waiting rail cars; the pier could process more than 100 tons of coal an hour. In 1904 the railroad reconfigured the pier in conjunction with a new freight service to and from New York harbor. Two steamers, the New London and the New York, were purchased specifically for this purpose. Freight headed to New York City or for export from the harbor would be carried by rail to the pier, where it was transferred to one of the freighters, which would travel overnight to New York's Pier 29. Shortly after World War II, during a postwar economic slump, aging steamers and competition from truck traffic brought the rail-sea connection at the Central Vermont Railroad Pier to an end.
In September 2002, following historic background research, the pier area was walked over and closely inspected at low tide by using kayaks in order to assess the historic integrity of the structure. It was determined by PAST's historian Bruce Clouette and historical archaeologist Ross Harper that the original pier is still intact but is now under the cover of modern asphalt.
Open-spandrel concrete arches represent one of the high points of early 20th-century bridge engineering. Reinforced-concrete was a relatively new material at the time, becoming a standard bridge-building material only around 1910. Within a few years, engineers realized they could use its unique characteristics to bridge even the widest river valleys with a series of long, high arches. Open-spandrel concrete arches were often the largest bridge projects of their era, demanding the highest level of technical and project-management expertise. They also were aesthetic triumphs. Even today, the soaring arch ribs and tall columns of Connecticut’s open-spandrel arches create surprise and delight when one comes upon them unexpectedly, and they command our admiration for the state engineers who created such bold designs.
PAST, Inc., working for the Connecticut Department of Transportation, has prepared a multiple-property National Register of Historic Places nomination and comprehensive Web Site exhibit of Connecticut's extant open-spandrel bridges. Connecticut is home to six open-spandrel concrete arch bridges, each built during the early 20th century as part of improvements made to Connecticut's Trunk Line highway system. To read more about these bridges, view photographs, maps, and original Connecticut Highway Department drawings, please visit www.past-inc.org/open-spandrel/.