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'Iconic' Slatersville Stone Arch Bridge reopens after extensive repairs

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The historic Slatersville Stone Arch Bridge in North Smithfield, which officially reopened Thursday, is the oldest of its kind in the Ocean State.

The bridge was built in 1856 and became part of the first American mill village during the Industrial Revolution.

Over the years, it became part of the heart of the village, a centerpiece for parades and gatherings, a lifeline straddling the outflow of the reservoirs that powered the mill in its heyday.

Plans to fix it, which date back to the 1980s, went nowhere.

Listed as “structurally deficient” in 2007, it took until 2017 to start work on the project.

Peter Alviti, who is the director of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, said it was more than just fixing another of the more than 600 deficient bridges across the state.

“The historic value and the historic nature of this bridge is iconic,” he said. “It's part of Rhode Island's heritage.”

Christian de Rezendes, a filmmaker who is creating a documentary about the village, captured the restoration.

“To have anything lesser than that in its place would be to take a major part of the village out,” he said.

What’s fascinating about the project is how labor-intensive it was, to take it apart stone by stone, and then put it all back together again.

“Each of the stones had to be disassembled (and) numbered. Pictures were taken of the bridge the way it was, and then when it was reassembled, every stone was put back in exactly the same place,” Alviti said with amazement.

At a cost of $13.5 million, it's now officially reopened to traffic, with the addition of a pedestrian walkway to be completed this spring.

“Underneath the stone, there's an entirely new bridge using new technology,” added Alviti.

For De Rezendes, who lives in Slatersville, it's another new chapter in the long history, remembering the hopes and dreams of residents, some long gone, those who call this place home, and those yet to come.

“They rebuilt it and they saved it,” said De Rezendes.

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