On August 6, 1938, a newly constructed steel through arch bridge was formally opened in Middlesex County in south-central Connecticut. This structure, spanning the Connecticut River and connecting the city of Middletown with the town of Portland, took the place of a drawbridge that had been opened in 1896. The building of a replacement bridge began in 1936. Charles J. Arrigoni, who served in the Connecticut House of Representatives from 1933 to 1936 and the Connecticut State Senate between 1937 and 1940, was a staunch champion of this construction project. Originally called the Middletown-Portland Bridge, the structure was eventually renamed the Arrigoni Bridge.
The bridge was opened with considerable fanfare despite inclement weather throughout that Saturday afternoon. The festivities included a huge parade that made its way across the new structure. The Hartford Courant reported, “Along the sidewalks of the Main streets in Middletown and Portland, filling every available space in windows, doorways and grandstands, between 75,000 and 100,000 people, according to police estimates, stood in an intermittent downpour, which for a time threatened to drive everyone to cover, to watch the 22,000 on parade.”
The Hartford Courant also reported, “The dedication ceremonies were held in the center of the two great bridge spans, at a height of 104 feet [31.7 meters] above the river, in the presence of State, County, Middletown and Portland officials and members of the bridge celebration committee.” Arrigoni was among those officials in attendance. He proclaimed during his remarks, “This mass of concrete, granite and steel upon which we now stand will for many years be a monument to the generosity of the State, the tenacity of purpose of the residents of Middlesex County, and the patience of the hundreds of thousands of automobile drivers who for years have borne the delays and inconveniences presented by passage over our old bridge.”
Other dignitaries on hand for the dedication ceremonies included Wilbur Lucius Cross, governor of the Constitution State; Herbert S. Johnson, a former member of the Connecticut House of Representatives from that section of Middlesex County; William J. Cox, who had become commissioner of the Connecticut State Highway Department (now the Connecticut Department of Transportation) only five months earlier; John A. MacDonald, whom Cox had succeeded as commissioner; Leslie G. Summers, the department’s engineer of bridges and structures; and William G. Grove, associate highway engineer.
While addressing Cross in remarks during the dedication, Johnson cited the work of those who were instrumental in actually designing and building the bridge. Johnson said, “Before presenting this completed structure to you, I wish to pay highest compliment to the engineering skill show by the employees of the State Highway Department.” In his own subsequent remarks to everyone in attendance, Cross likewise acknowledged the department’s role in making the bridge a full-fledged reality.
At that time, the newly opened bridge was one of the largest of its kind in New England. The bridge also had the distinction of being awarded first prize by the American Institute of Steel Construction for Most Beautiful Steel Bridge in the large bridge category.
Photo Credit for the 2007 image of the Arrigoni Bridge: Denimadept (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)
For more information on the Arrigoni Bridge, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrigoni_Bridge