The men and women of Bricklayers Local 5 have taken on the job of a lifetime – rehabilitating the oldest bridge in the state of New Jersey. The 82-foot-long Stony Brook Bridge was completed in 1792 when George Washington was president. It played a key role in the Battle of Princeton when Washington and his troops almost destroyed it in an effort to keep the British from crossing.
Happily, that did not happen. The historic landmark had been in continuous use until 2016 when part of the bridge collapsed. Some temporary repairs were made but today, the bridge is finally undergoing a major rehabilitation.
“It’s not a restoration,” said Leon Jones, field representative of Local 5. “It’s a complete rehabilitation and historical archaeologists are overseeing the entire process.”
Jones explained that all the old stone taken off the bridge has been numbered and categorized so it can be put back in the same place. The goal of the project is to achieve historical integrity along with structural integrity.
“We’re replacing all of the power pits and guardrail sides,” explains Jones. “We’re rehabbing the arches and there’s an old cannon ball going back to the 1700s that’s being stabilized.
“There are at least 16 inspectors on the project on any given day to make sure everything is historically accurate There were five or six mock-ups done even before the project was started. It’s been very intense,” he said.
“Although the process is more complicated than most jobs,” said Jones, “figuring out the minute details and making sure everything is in place for the reopening of the bridge is something the bricklayers take immense pride in. When it’s reopened, they’ll have an even bigger sense of pride knowing they were the ones who rehabilitated one of the state’s most historic places.”