11 Most Endangered Historic Places

Memorial Bridge

Year Listed: 2009
Location: Kittery, Maine & Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Threat: Demolition


For more than 85 years, Memorial Bridge, the first major "vertical lift" bridge in the eastern US, has been a sturdy and dramatic landmark, spanning the Piscataqua River and connecting the historic coastal towns of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Kittery, Maine.  At its 1923 dedication as the official state memorial to World War I servicemen, the bridge had the longest lift span in the country (297 feet), making it the prototype for later metal truss bridges.  Unlike a drawbridge, which swings open and upward like a gate, a vertical-lift bridge hoists a single section straight up, allowing boats to pass underneath.  For generations, the bridge has carried automobiles along coastal Route 1, and its wood-floored walkways still provide the only pedestrian and cycling link between two communities steeped in history.

With its dramatic 200-foot twin towers, Memorial Bridge is one of three highway bridges spanning the Piscataqua River between New Hampshire and Maine.  The bridge plays a critical role in the local economy linking historic downtown Portsmouth and the recently revitalized Kittery Foreside neighborhood.

Our nation's historic bridges are being destroyed at the alarming rate of one every two or three days. Lack of maintenance and a knee-jerk preference for replacement often counters the directive of Congress that historic bridges be preserved whenever possible. Bridges that cross state lines are especially vulnerable.