The Stone Arch Bridges of Hillsborough
Once home to more than a dozen stone arch masonry bridges, Hillsborough now has seven of these gems, four of which are used everyday to support auto, bike and foot traffic. The finest Hillsborough stone arch bridge was built in 1866 by Reuben Loverin and can still be seen at the junction of Routes 9 and 202 where it has had its traffic diverted, and will soon be home to a small garden park for picnicking. The other four bridges, built in the 1850’s, are of unknown builders, but believed to have been the work of Scotch-Irish stone masons who emigrated to Hillsborough in the 19th century. Selectmen Hiram Monroe argued that the bridges be built of stone to last, and that they have. Each of these lovely examples of bridge building craft are still in place with original keystones and held together without the benefit of mortar.
A brief tour by car or bike can take you to all of them, or a walking tour along the scenic Beard’s Brook will show you three of them and in warm weather, you can finish your tour with a refreshing dip in the Old Swimming Hole. A public beach, bathhouses and barbecue grills are available, along with ample parking. The first is the magnificent double arch bridge over the Beard Brook at the meeting the Beard and Jones Roads. This mortar-free span graceful breaches the brook and is a popular fly fishing spot. North up the Beard road looms the mighty Gleason Galls bridge, which contains an impressive cascade of water. Located near the junction of Gleason Falls and Beards Brook Roads, this inviting spot offers picnicking, wading, and fishing. The “Falls” rush under a venerable stone bridge from the 1850’s, and are at their best in the spring. Another fine stone span stands to up the road and to the left onto the Gleason Falls Road at the site of one of the town’s first grist mills. Returning south down the Beard Road, and across Rt. 9/West Main Street to the Saw Mill Road we come on the quaint stone bridge south of the Lower Village. This grouping of early houses, surrounded by forests, is both rich in character and history. Many homes date to the early 19th century, and the Union Chapel is a noteworthy white clapboard church. Many a famous American has come from this small village, including a founder of American Express, the father of Vaudeville, a railway magnate, and a U.S. President. The 2nd NH Turnpike was once the main road from Claremont to the south, so important that an up-and-coming Benjamin Pierce built his fine new house and tavern on it. The very house he raised a son who would go one to become a U.S. President, Franklin Pierce.