Jutting into the Sudbury River off of Old Stonebridge Road, historic Stone's Bridge remains one of the most picturesque spots in Wayland. It is also historically significant as a rare stone bridge still standing after more than 150 years despite being constructed from dry-laid stones without the use of mortar. Built in the 1850’s to replace wooden structures dating back to the mid-1600’s, Stone's Bridge is located at a river crossing that has accommodated horses, carts, cars, Revolutionary War soldiers and Henry David Thoreau. Even though the remaining structure no longer serves as a bridge, it is an impressive reminder of the history of this site.
The significance of this site as a river crossing dates back hundreds of years. As Alfred Hudson states in The Annals of Wayland, as early as 1674 there is reference to a 'horse bridge' near Daniel Stone's home at this site. Then in later years a 'cart bridge' was built here for which a toll was collected. Surprisingly, the name of the bridge does not derive from the building material of the bridge but rather from the Stone family which lived in the neighborhood from almost the earliest European settlement.
In her detailed research into the building of Stone's Bridge, Helen Emery found town meeting records dating back to October 1747 showing credit for "one quart of rum for raising ye new bridge" to replace an older structure at this site. As Helen Emery states, "'raising' is the term applied to the assembling of strong men (made stronger by rum or the like) to put up the main structural pieces of a wooden framed structure."
A bridge at this site played a role in the Revolutionary War. Hudson states that in March 1775, British spies crossed a bridge at this site when on a tour of observation in preparation to march British regulars into the country. There is also a plaque at the entrance to the bridge which states that "(t)hrough this place passed General Henry Knox in the winter of 1775 - 1776 to deliver to General George Washington at Cambridge the train of artillery from Fort Ticonderoga used to force the British Army to evacuate Boston."
The current stone bridge was mentioned by Henry David Thoreau in his journal. When discussing the flooding of the Sudbury River, a man showed Thoreau the height of the flooding on Stone's Bridge to indicate that the River rose five feet.
Rising waters were again an issue in 1955, when the bridge was damaged by Hurricane Diane. However, the bridge was not torn down. Instead, due to the efforts of the Wayland Historical Society and community support, a new bridge for car traffic was built farther up-stream and the washed-out portions of Stone’s Bridge were repaired. At that time, the Framingham approach was removed and replaced by an end support that now dead-ends in the river. The Sudbury River was re-routed to flow under the new bridge and to the west of the repaired Stone’s Bridge. As a result, the only current access to the bridge is from Old Stonebridge Road in Wayland.
In 2012, the Wayland Historical Commission had engineers examine the bridge and they determined that the bridge was made without mortar and is entirely dry-laid stone. To begin construction, the builders dry-laid footings within the riverbed using a combination of buried rubble and solid cap stones. Vertical piers were then dry-stacked atop the footings from which the arches would immediately spring up from each side. Arched wooden forms would then have been constructed between the piers to support the construction of rough cut stone arches that were chinked and dry laid on top of them. The spaces between the arches were partially filled in with stone rubble to help stabilize the arches, and after some initial filling, the wooden arch forms could then have been removed. Earth was then placed over the arch structure up to the tops of the parapet walls in order to create the level surface for a roadway.
According to the engineer's report, the bridge's parapet walls and edges of arches lean, and will continue to do so until they reach a point of instability. This has already started to occur at the south face of the bridge, where stones are buckling outward from the parapet and edges of the arches. The report recommends that all portions of the bridge that are approaching instability be dismantled and reconstructed in a way that is sympathetic to the bridge's original construction. A link to this report is below.
The Wayland Historical Commission sponsored a warrant article at the 2016 Town Meeting seeking Community Preservation Act funds to begin restoration work on Stone's Bridge. At that time, $480,000 in Community Preservation Funds were set aside to repair the first half of the bridge with plans to restore the other half of the bridge in the near future. The goal is to preserve historic Stone’s Bridge for both our enjoyment and that of future Wayland residents.
Click on the links below for more information about this important structure.
Old Town Bridge
The Old Town Bridge is a historic stone arch bridge also constructed in 1848 as a vital east-west crossing of the Sudbury River on a former alignment of what is now Old Sudbury Road. It is sited across what was formerly a channel of the Sudbury River, which now flows just west and north of the bridge. The four-arch bridge was built by Josiah Russell on a site where it is supposed that the first bridge in Middlesex County was built in the 1640s. It was for many years on the major east-west route connecting Boston to points west and south. Originally built of dry-laid stone, the bridge was rebuilt with mortar after being damaged by flooding in 1900. It is 60 feet long and has a roadbed 20 feet wide, with each arch spanning about 10 feet. The bridge was open to vehicular traffic until 1955. Click below for more information on this historic bridge.