Thank you for visiting Townshend, Vermont’s historic bridges. To learn more about our six Follett stone arch bridges or Scott Covered Bridge, please explore the resources below.
Townshend’s Historic Bridges
- West Townshend Stone Arch Bridge
- Fair Brook Stone Arch Bridge
- Stone Arch Way Bridge
- Buck Hill Stone Arch Bridge
- State Forest Road Stone Arch Bridge
- Simpsonville Stone Arch Bridge
- Scott Covered Bridge
Learn About the Bridges
West Townshend Stone Arch Bridge
West Townshend Stone Arch Bridge carries Back Windham Road across Tannery Brook at the east edge of West Townshend village. Local farmer James Otis Follett constructed the bridge in 1910 at a cost of about $900. This bridge, with its span of 37 feet, holds the distinction of being the longest dry stone arch bridge built by Follett in Townshend and the last bridge that he built before his death in 1911. The arch remains structurally sound and continues to carry local traffic.
Fair Brook Stone Arch Bridge
Fair Brook Bridge was built by local farmer James Otis Follett around the turn of the twentieth century and formerly carried West Hill Road across Fair Brook. The Fair Brook Bridge holds particular distinction as the only surviving Follett bridge in Townshend whose arch is built of thin fieldstone slabs.
Stone Arch Way Bridge
Stone Arch Way Bridge is a dry stone arch bridge that was built by local farmer James Otis Follett at the turn of the twentieth century. It consists of a single span supported by a stone segmental arch. At its base, the arch extends 10 feet; it rises 5 feet above the bed of the flood channel and the overall width of the arch is 16 feet. The arch is built of roughly cut granite fieldstone (schistose gneiss) slabs that are set in irregular courses.
Buck Hill Stone Arch Bridge
Buck Hill Bridge is a dry stone arch bridge that was built without mortar by local farmer James Otis Follett at the turn of the twentieth century. The smallest of the Follett bridges in Townshend, this bridge was named after brothers Oscar B. and Walter W. Buck who owned land and timber rights on the hill during the years 1890-1924.
State Forest Road Stone Arch Bridge
State Forest Road Bridge is a stone arch bridge built by local farmer James Otis Follett at the turn of the twentieth century. The bridge remained in good condition until its roadway and northwest spandrel wall were damaged by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. The bridge was fully restored in 2020 by master stonemason Michael Weitzner.
Simpsonville Stone Arch Bridge
Simpsonville Stone Arch Bridge carries VT Rt. 35 across Simpson Brook in the hamlet of Simpsonville, about 2 miles north of Townshend Village. Local farmer James Otis Follett constructed the bridge circa 1909 and it seems to have been the next-to-last bridge that he built. Out of all his bridges in Townshend, the Simpsonville Bridge is in the best condition and possesses what may be the best craftsmanship.
Scott Covered Bridge
Scott Covered Bridge was built over the West River by Harrison H. Chamberlin in 1870, after the flood of 1869 destroyed an earlier bridge just downstream from here. The Scott Covered Bridge is significant for its uncommon combination of two structural systems — Town lattice truss and kingpost through-truss. Measuring a total of 277 feet, Scott Covered Bridge is the longest extant covered highway bridge wholly within the State of Vermont.
Learn About the Builders
James Otis Follett (1843-1911)
James Otis Follett was one of Townshend’s extraordinary citizens; a farmer-turned-stonemason, skilled craftsman, and intuitive engineer. Born in 1843, Follett lived and worked all of his adult life on his farm in Townshend. An active community member, he was a town road commissioner and a deacon of the Congregational Church. He also served during the Civil War at the Battle of Gettysburg.
Follett built his first stone arch bridge in Townshend in 1894 and built about twelve more in the town before his death in 1911. According to family members, he may have built as many as 40 bridges in Vermont and New Hampshire; only nine confirmed bridges exist today. Six are in Townshend and three are in Putney, VT. A tenth bridge that may have been built by Follett still stands in Brookline, VT.
Follett had no formal education in engineering or masonry, yet he knew his craft well, for his bridges are both handsome and durable. Although several bridges have been washed out by floods or torn down, none have been known to fail structurally. Some of the bridges in use today carry heavy truck traffic never imagined in Follett’s day.
Harrison H. Chamberlin (1840-1924)
Harrison “Tip” Chamberlin was born in Townshend in 1840 and served in the Civil War, including the Battle of Gettysburg, along with James Otis Follett, builder of Townshend’s stone arch bridges. Upon his return, he became the owner of a lumber mill on West Hill that was also used for cutting soapstone. He was best known, however, as a builder and a fine furniture maker. He built at least three houses in Townshend, plus the large 1894 Leland and Gray Seminary building.
His most important structures were the four covered bridges in Townshend — Scott Bridge, being the first, in 1870; then Depot Bridge in 1872; Holland Bridge in 1875; and Harmonyville Bridge in 1879. Scott Covered Bridge was his largest bridge project, spanning 277 feet and the only one that still remains in Townshend today. Chamberlin’s construction of these bridges demonstrates his remarkable ingenuity and was quite an admirable feat for a 30-year-old carpenter and joiner.
Harrison Chamberlin died in 1924 at the age of 84, the last of the Civil War veterans in Townshend. He is remembered as “a man of thrift, energy, and creative faculty, whose days were filled with the pleasure of toil and the satisfaction of work well done” (Brattleboro Phoenix, 12/4/1924).