The day-to-day maintenance of the Bridge of Flowers is overseen by a committee of the Shelburne Falls Area Women’s Club (SFAWC), whose members meet monthly to plan a budget and carry out projects and events that support the Bridge, including the annual Plant Sale. Each member of this working group, all of whom are volunteers, assumes responsibility for a different aspect of the Bridge, including maintenance, publicity, budget, tours, and special events. Membership on the committee is by nomination and is voted on by the full committee. Monthly reports on its activities and expenditures are presented to its parent organization, the Shelburne Falls Area Women's Club.
Bridge of Flowers History
The bridge with its graceful arches was constructed in 1908 for trolleys to convey raw materials from the railroad yard in Buckland across the Deerfield River to the factories in nearby hill towns. As a concrete structure, it could bear heavy loads better than the iron bridge that it parallels. With the advent of motorized vehicles, however, by 1927 the trolley bridge became obsolete and the trolley company went out of business. Tearing down the bridge would have been prohibitively expensive. What’s more, it carried the pipe that furnishes water to the town of Buckland.
(See Construction Photos for early pictures)
What rescued the Bridge from becoming a decaying castoff in the heart of the village was the vision of a local couple, Antoinette and Walter Burnham, whose home overlooked the Bridge. Gazing on the weed-infested structure one day, as the story goes, Mrs. Burnham remarked to her husband that “if weeds can grow on that bridge, why not flowers?” Mr. Burnham, an invalid, is reputed to have typed out her idea and sent it to the local paper, asking for volunteers. The Shelburne Falls Women’s Club responded to the call by taking on the project and underwriting its costs with a grant of $1,000. In April 1929, club members and others in the community rolled up their sleeves and, inspired by the Burnham’s vision, moved 80 loads of loam and many yards of fertilizer to the bridge, replacing weeds with plants and flower seeds, many donated from their own gardens. Club members continued to nurture the plantings for many years thereafter. And that same spirit of volunteerism continues to sustain the Bridge of Flowers to this day.
Antoinette Burnham pictured as a young woman (directly above) and in later years, with husband, Walter Burnham.