The First Reconstruction: 1983-1984
Bridges, like roads and other infrastructure, need upkeep from time to time. The first time major repairs were made to the arched stone structure was in the mid 1980s, after a series of photographs taken by Hampshire College students called attention to its deteriorating condition. Because the owner of the bridge, the Shelburne Falls Fire District, was not at that time a recognized municipal entity, it could not raise the funds required for the repairs. Instead, a committee was formed in 1981, calling itself The Bridge of Flowers Preservation, Inc. Its primary mission was fundraising. The members included representatives of the newly- established Shelburne Falls Area Business Association and the towns of Buckland and Shelburne as well as the Shelburne Falls Fire District. The engineering study they commissioned in 1981 estimated that it would cost $580,000 to carry out the work.
By December, 1982, over 500 individuals, businesses and organizations had contributed to the committee’s campaign to repair the bridge. The Shelburne Falls Fire District, appropriated $100,000 from its budget; a Massachusetts Small Cities Community Development Block Grant of $290,000, awarded in August 1982, brought them closer to their goal, and savings of $100,000 was realized by lowering the water level during pier reconstruction. Thanks to a community -wide effort, every plant, tree, and shrub was removed from the Bridge by an army of local volunteers -- many of them members of the Shelburne Falls Area Women’s Club -- and cared for in private gardens as the repairs were carried out.
Restoration of the bridge began in May 1983 and was completed by August 1984.
The Bridge of Flowers Preservation, Inc. was legally dissolved in the spring of 2023. Fittingly, as a final contribution, it paid for an engineering study that recommended another major restoration of the bridge, slated to get underway in 2024.
The Bridge of Flowers Committee, which has non-profit status under the auspices of the Shelburne Falls Area Women’s Club, remains solely responsible for the day to day maintenance of the gardens on the Bridge of Flowers, which attracts up to 100,000 visitors each year.