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Lebanon Council Names Route 4 Bridge

  • Members of the Heroes Are Human Capital-To-Capital Ride cross the Route 4 bridge from White River Junction, Vt. to West Lebanon, N.H. Tuesday, May 10, 2016. Riders completed a route from Burlington to West Lebanon Tuesday, the fourth in a 15 day ride from Ottawa, Canada to Washington, D.C., with the goal of raising awareness of PTSD and mental illness among emergency first responders. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News file photograph

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/3/2016 12:06:15 AM
Modified: 11/4/2016 12:17:01 PM

Lebanon — The City Council decided history should take precedent in naming a new bridge on Route 4 that connects White River Junction to Lebanon.

Councilors were unanimous on Wednesday when they recommended the structure be named the Lyman Bridge after a historic predecessor that once spanned the Connecticut River. A competing proposal to name the bridge in honor of a Korean War veteran was rejected.

“I think it’s significant to note that it’s been called the Lyman Bridge for over 100 years and there are still Lyman relatives in the Upper Valley,” Councilor Bruce Bronner said. “I think it’s a nice thing to continue the naming of the bridge after the family. It is not as though they’ve gone away and disappeared.”

Henry Dessert, a Korean War veteran from Lebanon, was dismayed by the council’s decision, however. He said the dedication could have been better used to bring recognition to fellow vets who are dying off.

“I’m sorry to hear it’s going to be that way because us Korean veterans are being forgotten,” said Dessert, who also served on the city’s Bridge Naming Task Force.

Several councilors recommended finding other ways to recognize veterans in absence of the bridge naming. Mayor Georgia Tuttle said the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post is exploring ways to memorialize Lebanon’s veterans, and the city has reached out to the state’s congressional delegation to rename a bridge on Interstate 89 after veterans of both the Vietnam and Korean wars. Councilor Karen Liot Hill also recommended Sachem Village as a good spot for a memorial, recalling returning veterans were housed there while attending Dartmouth College.

But the notion of a memorial elsewhere didn’t please Dessert, who hoped a dedication could be someplace more recognizable.

“People coming through there are not going to go to that village to see those signs,” he said.

Bridges crossing the Connecticut near the opening to the White River have traditionally been called Lyman Bridge since the first one was built in 1804. That’s when Elias Lyman connected Hartford and Lebanon with his toll bridge.

A merchant and manufacturer, Lyman’s homestead stood on the corner of Pine and Maple streets in White River Junction, according to research from Rebecca Book, who sits on the Lebanon Heritage Commission. Lyman also operated a cotton mill where the remains of the Hartford Woolen Mill now stand.

In 1835, the bridge was torn down and replaced by a covered bridge operated by the Lyman Bridge Co., and predecessors tolled the bridge until it washed away in 1896, according to the state Division of Historical Resources.

Subsequent bridges continued to be called the Lyman Bridge until the newest rendition of the bridge opened in 2015 at a build cost of $10.7 million. It carries about 13,000 vehicles a day and replaces a temporary bridge set up in 2009.

Naming of the new bridge has become a point of contention between city and state officials. The New Hampshire Korean War Veterans Association lobbied the state Legislature to name the bridge after Korean War veterans, arguing one of the Interstate 89 bridges honors Vietnam veterans.

Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, even put forward a bill until Lebanon legislators convinced the state Senate Transportation Committee to place it in “interim study,” effectively killing it this year.

Locally, City Council opted to create a committee to study the matter. Comprised of historians, city officials and veterans, the group held a public forum and found “there was strong support for the city to retain the name ‘Lyman Bridge,’ ” according to the group’s report to City Council. That group voted, 6-1, to support the historic name.

Rep. Susan Almy, D-Lebanon, said on Wednesday she expects the four-member Lebanon delegation to sponsor a new bill next year that would officially name the bridge after the Lyman family. The only questions that remain are whether the bill should be introduced in the Senate first, and in which committee.

“It makes sense to me to put the old name back,” she said.

City Council also voted to name a roughly 1.3-acre parcel of land near the bridge the Westboro Yard Park, after the nearby historic railroad yard.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.
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