The Merritt Parkway was the first divided-lane, limited-access highway in Connecticut. As one of the first roads to combine the beauty and leisure of scenic recreational parkways with the efficiency of high-speed motorways, the Merritt Parkway represented a significant development in the evolution of American highway design. By improving access to New York City, the Merritt Parkway also played a crucial role in the rapid commercial and residential development of Fairfield County in the 1930’s and 1940’s.
The design of the Merritt Parkway bridges introduced commercial architectural styles such Art Deco, Art Moderne, French Renaissance, Gothic, Neoclassicism, and Rustic to a new audience. So the next time you’re on the Merritt Parkway, remember to look a bit closer at the bridges.
Welcome to Connecticut’s Merritt Parkway
The Merritt Parkway originally began in Greenwich, CT and ran 38 miles to Stratford, CT. The bridges of the Merritt Parkway were largely inspired by the Art Deco and Art Modern architectural styles of the 1930’s. At the time of its construction, each bridge was decorated in a unique fashion so that no two bridges on the parkway looked alike.
Merwin’s Lane Bridge
Experimental forming techniques were employed to create the ornamental characteristics of the Merritt Parkway bridges. This picture shows Merwin’s Bridge in Fairfield, Connecticut. Ornamental butterflies adorn the pillars and ironwork.
Butterfly’s on Merwin’s Bridge
The experimental bridge designs and the uniqueness of each structure makes the Merritt Parkway bridges distinctive. Here you can see butterflies adorning the decorative iron railing of the Merwin Bridge.
Round Hill Road Bridge in 1935
George L. Dunkelberger (1891 – 1960) was the architect of the Merritt Parkway bridges. His goal was to recreate the scenic openness of the countryside surrounding the Parkway so that drivers could experience the openness and beauty of Connecticut when passing through. This picture shows the Round Hill Road Bridge in Greenwich shortly after construction.
Round Hill Road Bridge in 1968
This picture, taken 30 years after the construction of the Round Hill Road Bridge, shows vegetation obscuring much of the bridge’s original design. Development has since further encroached on the open fields that once surrounded the Merritt Parkway, reducing the roads wide-open design.
Lake Avenue Bridge
Lake Avenue Bridge spans the Merritt Parkway at the 4.71 mile mark in Greenwich, CT. The center and side posts have ornamented cast-iron grapevines and urns which you can see details of in the next picture.
Grape Vines on Lake Avenue Bridge
These grape vines are a nod to the Connecticut State Seal. The State Seal has three grape vines supporting and bearing fruit. Appearing below the grape vines is a banner with the state motto: “Sustinet Qui Transtulit” (Latin for, “He who is transplanted still sustains”).
Stanwich Road Bridge
The Stanwich Road Bridge spans the Merritt Parkway at the 7.47 mile mark in Greenwich, CT. It has a Bas-relief shield displaying a winged wheel near top of each abutment, which represents swift travel.
Stanwich Road Bridge Decoration
A Bas-relief shield displaying a winged wheel sits near the top of each pillar on the Stanwich Road Bridge. The wing was the symbol of the Greek God Hermes, famous for his speed. Hermes sandals were said to enable him to “take the roads with the speed of wind”. The wheel is symbolic of the motor vehicle. Together the symbols represent the idea that the Merritt Parkway would be a place of “swift movement” for automobiles.
The Old Route 65 Bridge
Three of the original 69 Merritt Parkway bridges have been lost completely. One of them, the Route 65 Bridge, is seen here. This bridge was on Nichols Ave in Shelton, CT. It was constructed in 1940 and demolished in 1979.
Guinea Road Bridge
The Guinea Road Bridge, also known as the Rocky Craig Road Bridge, spans the Merritt Parkway in Stamford, CT. The bridge face is composed of rock-faced rubble stone.
North Avenue Bridge
The North Avenue Bridge spans the Merritt Parkway in Wesport, CT. It’s an Art Deco bridge featuring ferns, flowers, and a snail depicted in sgraffito panels at the top of the low protective wall.
Grumman Avenue Bridge
This bridge spans the Merritt Parkway in Norwalk, CT. It was originally called the “Grummond Hill Road Bridge”.
Griffin Relief Sculpture
Detail of the ornamental characteristics of the Grumman Ave bridge. The neoclasical griffons flanking the Connecticut State Seal are Sgraffito panels.
Newton Turnpike Bridge
The Newtown Turnpike Bridge was modeled in the French Renaissance Revival. The bridge was made from a concrete cast and then treated to imitate ashlar stone. It was designed to look like a fortified bridge.
Rippowam River Bridge
This bridge spans the Rippowam River in Stamford, CT.
Newfield Avenue Bridge
The Connecticut State Seal adorns the center of this bridge, which spans the Merritt Parkway in Stamford, CT.
Clinton Avenue Bridge
This bridge spans the Merritt Parkway in Westport, CT. The tower-like abutments have waterspouts sticking out, and there are shield patterns in the metal railing.
Easton Road Looking at Merritt Parkway
This picture shows the Merritt Parkway Easton Road/Route 136 Bridge. The bridge spans Easton Road and Route 136 in Westport, CT. The picture was taken circa 1940.
Redding Road Bridge
Redding Road Bridge spans the Merritt Parkway in Fairfield, CT. The bridge was created in the Streamline Moderne style that emerged in the 1930’s. The moderne architectural style emphasizes curving forms and long horizontal lines. This picture was taken in 1940.
Congress Street Bridge
Congress Street Bridge spans the Merritt Parkway in Fairfield, CT.
Hillside Road Bridge
The Hillside Road Bridge spans Hillside Road in Fairfield, CT. This bridge is another example of Streamline Moderne Art Deco.
Detail of Hillside Road Bridge Relief Sculpture
A detailed owl adorns both supports of the Hillside Road Bridge in Fairfield, CT.
Burr Street Bridge
The Burr Street bridge spans the Merritt Parkway in Fairfield, CT. It features two bas-relief murals on each side of the bridge. This picture was taken in 1940.
Relief Sculpture on Burr Street Bridge
This cast bas-relief panel depicts construction workers building the Merritt Parkway.
Relief Sculpture on Burr Street Bridge
This cast bas-relief panel depicts engineers working on the Merritt Parkway.
Morehouse Highway Bridge
This is Morehouse Highway Bridge in Fairfield, CT. Each square contains a geometric pattern with concentric quarter circles.
Park Avenue Bridge
Park Avenue Bridge in Trumbull, CT. Drain spouts run along the curve of the arch. The bridge sits near the Trumbull town line.
Madison Avenue Bridge
Madison Avenue Bridge spans the Merritt Parkway in Trumbull, CT. On each abutment, two panels fold out to form a pier carrying flowers and scrolls.
Frenchtown Road Bridge
Frenchtown Road Bridge spans the Merritt Parkway in Trumbull, CT. It is made of concrete cast and treated to resemble random ashlar stone facing and voussoirs. The small square openings were styled to resemble a fortified bridge.
Main Street/Route 111 Bridge
The Main Street Bridge was first constructed in 1936, and rebuilt in 2003. The bridge was created with concrete that was cast in horizontal layers. The bridge spans the Merritt Parkway in Trumbull, CT.
Nichols Street Bridge
This bridge was located directly before the exit for Route 8 in Trumbull. The bridge has since been destroyed and was replaced with a standard concrete bridge.
James Farm Road Bridge
The James Farm Road Bridge spans the Merritt Parkway in Stratford, CT. A stone motif on the left and right supports have the letters “CHD”, for “Connecticut Highway Department”.
Detail of Raised Wing Sculpture
Drivers approaching the James Farm Road Bridge from either direction can see a detailed wing sculpture sitting atop the middle pillar.
Metro North Railroad Bridge
Metro North Railroad Bridge is a railroad bridge in New Canaan, CT. It was previously known as the New York, New Haven & Harford Railroad Bridge. The New Canaan line of Metro North utilizes the rails on top of this bridge. The closest stop is the Talmadge Hill Station.
Approaching Lapham Avenue Bridge
The Lapham Avenue Bridge spans the Merritt Parkway at State Route 165 in New Canaan, CT. The original bridge was built in 1937 and replaced in 1989. This is a picture of the original bridge.
Lapham Avenue Bridge
The original Lapham Avenue Bridge with cast panels floral motifs. Comparing this picture (which was taken in the 1960’s), to the picture above, you can see how the open design of the land surrounding the bridge has been changed by development and the overgrowth of trees and shrubbery.
Sport Hill Road Bridge
When this bridge was created it was called the “Sport Hill Road Bridge”. Today it is called the Easton Turnpike/Route 59 Bridge. The original bridge was reconstructed in 1995. It spans the Merritt Parkway at Route 59 in Fairfield, CT.
Rocky Hill Road Bridge
The Rocky Hill Road Rail-Bed Bridge spans the Merritt Parkway at the 32.54 mile mark in Trumbull, CT. The bridge has Art Deco architectural elements.
According to “The Bridge Hunter“, the bridge would have carried the Bridgeport-Botsford portion of the New York, New Haven, & Hartford Berkshire Train Line (originally the Housatonic Railroad).
However, immediately after the bridge’s construction, the project was abandoned, and the only train to ever cross the bridge was the scrap train. The bridge remains intact but it is badly discolored.
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