ONE LANE BRIDGE
- Grant Recipient
- 608 County Rd 42, Massena, NY 13662, USA
- 44.9600067, -74.831078
Town of Massena
The Massena Center Bridge, now closed, was constructed to relieve congestion in the vicinity of a former aluminum company plant. At the time of its construction, the Town of Massena could only afford $40,000 for a bridge. Holton “Holt” D. Robinson, a native of Massena, was a senior partner in the engineering firm of Robinson & Steinman in New York City. Unable to find a contractor to take a job for less than $60,000, Robinson returned to Massena to serve as contractor for the project.
Holton Robinson was born Massena and graduated in 1886 from St. Lawrence University, in Canton, NY, with a Bachelor of Science degree. He started his career after college as a chain man and rod man until July 1887, when he began working for Buck & McNulty in Rochester, NY. He worked for Leffert L. Buck in 1889 and soon became assistant engineer for construction of the Rochester Driving Park Avenue Bridge over the Genesee River. He continued his focus on bridges when he took charge of repairs to the Niagara Railway Suspension Bridge at Niagara Falls, and in 1891 he performed track work and surveying for the Broadway and Seventh Avenue cable railway. He served as a draughtsman and assistant engineer for the Bridge Department of the Chief Engineer’s Office of the New York Central, as well as gaining the title of chief draftsman under the chief engineer of the East River Bridge Commission. In 1899 he was appointed assistant engineer for cable construction on the Williamsburgh Bridge, and in 1903 was made the engineer in charge of all construction work by the Commissioner of Bridges in New York City. (New York Times, 1945)
All of this experience in the engineering of bridges and railways, led Holton Robinson to play a key role in the construction of many prominent bridges in the USA as well as in a number of other countries. Between 1904 and 1907, he led the design and construction of the Manhattan Bridge. He became the chief engineer of the contractor for the Manhattan Bridge, Glyndon Contracting, a subsidiary of Carbon Steel Company, in 1907. (New York Times, 1945)
In 1910 Robinson’s hometown of Massena decided to commission a new bridge over the Grasse River which runs through the town and into the St. Lawrence River. A wooden bridge had been built in 1830 but it was washed away the next year by high waters, and from then until 1910, a ferry operated on the river instead. Holton Robinson who was consulted for the project, insisted it could be completed on a budget of $40,000. When no contractor would accept the project for less than $60,000, Robinson took on the project himself and successfully built it within the $40,000 limit. (Historical Survey of Extant County Bridges, 1993-1994)
Holton Robinson would go on to form his own firm in 1922 called Robinson & Steinman. This company was involved in numerous bridge and infrastructure projects around the USA and the globe. Some of these projects include: the George Washington and Triborough Bridges of New York City, the Thousand Islands Bridge, the International Bridge in Detroit, the Transbay Bridge in San Francisco, the Florianopolis Bridge in Brazil, and many others. Holton Robinson died on May 7, 1945 at his home in the Bronx at the age of 82. He had continued to work right up until his final illness. (New York Times, 1945) According to his obituary, Robinson held a number of cable invention patents. It was said he enjoyed walking the high girders of the steel bridges he designed in order to inspect the cables.
As of 1994, the bridge had been closed to both foot and vehicle traffic for over a decade, and it was in a state of disrepair. (Historical Survey of Extant County Bridges, 1993-1994) As of 2018, the Massena Center Historical Society was developing plans to restore and preserve the bridge.