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Building Razed to Make Way for Bridge Project

A Nott's Excavating excavator pulls a wall out of an abandoned apartment building at the corner of Prospect Street and Route 4 in White River Junction, Vt., on August 1, 2013. Demolition of the building allows construction of a new bridge over the Connecticut River. (Valley News — Sarah Priestap)

A Nott's Excavating excavator pulls a wall out of an abandoned apartment building at the corner of Prospect Street and Route 4 in White River Junction, Vt., on August 1, 2013. Demolition of the building allows construction of a new bridge over the Connecticut River. (Valley News — Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

White River Junction — A vacant apartment building at the corner of Route 4 and Prospect Street was mostly torn down Thursday to make way for construction of a new permanent bridge between White River Junction and West Lebanon.

The bidding period for companies interested in the bridge project closed yesterday afternoon, and once New Hampshire awards the contract, work is expected to be completed by October 2015 at an estimated cost of $10 million.

A temporary bridge was installed in 2009 after the existing span built in 1936 was closed due to unsafe levels of corrosion.

A dust cloud rose Thursday while workers from Nott’s Excavating, of White River Junction, used a backhoe to raze the vacant three-story, 3,400-square-foot former apartment building that was built in 1920.

Old mattresses, Star Trek posters, dated appliances and building materials accumulated into an unsightly pile of rubble. All that stood last night was the corner of the building nearest the closed bridge.

The town owns the lot, Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg said. The state bought the building and accompanying land for $200,000 from Prospect Street Properties II Inc. last year, according to assessing records, and deeded the property over to the town, Rieseberg said.

Prospect Street Properties II owns the similar vacant apartment building, 19 Prospect St., next door to Thursday’s demolition site. Altogether, Propsect Street Properties II owns six acres along the Connecticut River, land that is currently under consideration for an $8 million, 38,600-square-foot office complex development that would be home to a number of federal and state offices.

Rieseberg noted Thursday’s demolition “had everything to do with the bridge and nothing to do with the Prospect Street project.”

Two investigators with Monadnock Archaeological Consulting LLC., of Portsmouth, N.H., Alexandra Chan and Matt Labbe, were on hand during Thursday’s demolition.

Chan, the principal investigator, said she and Labbe, a project archaeologist, were hired by the New Hampshire Department of Transportation to perform tests around and beneath the demolished structure and along the bank of the Connecticut River to search for significant artifacts. Federal law requires archeology studies to be completed under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

Chan said the firm first explored the site nearly a decade ago, and ceramics and building materials — including hand-painted pearlwear dating back to the early 1800s — were found.

“It was evidence of daily life,” she said.

The firm also found part of the foundation of the historic Lyman toll house. Town Historic Preservation Commission Vice Chairman Pat Stark wrote in an email Thursday that Elias Lyman built the first span at that spot, a toll bridge, in 1804.

Chan said the bridge project could pose a threat to additional artifacts that could be as far as 30 feet below the ground.

“Because of the impact of the construction of the bridge, the bridge footings are going to go deep, so they need to know whether or not they are going to end up destroying something historically significant,” Chan said.

Chan and Labbe said they plan to return to the site this fall.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.