hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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March 20, 2013

Resurrecting a piece of history

Students build replica of mid-1800s bridge toll house

Carpentry students at Whittier Regional High are putting an iconic piece of history back in place at the Rocks Village Bridge.

A team of juniors and seniors is building an exact replica of the quaint wooden toll house that stood next to the drawbridge from 1828 to 1911.

The one-room building, which also served as a cobbler’s shop, is an impressive artifact from Haverhill’s bygone days. It’s also tied to the school’s namesake John Greenleaf Whittier, who tells of the toll keeper in his poem “The Countess.”

“It’s an important connection,” said Christine Kwitchoff, a member of the Rocks Village Memorial Association who is coordinating the project with fellow association member Cindy Dauksewicz and Whittier carpentry Instructor Earl Corr. “We were so delighted when we got the call that Whittier would accept the project.”

Students were recently nailing the frame and roof beams of the 10-by-12-foot house together in the school’s carpentry shop. They expect to be finished by May 1.

“We’re using the historically accurate blueprints and putting it together the exact way it was then,” said Amber Mercier of Methuen, a Whittier senior. “It’s interesting because we learn about these people in history and then we actually get to relate to it in real life.”

The toll house is being built at the school based on design specifications the Rocks Village group obtained from the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. When the building is completed, it will be trucked to the site.

Senior Tiffany Soucy of Haverhill said she is happy she will have a landmark in her city she can point to and say, “I built that.”

“I’ve gone over that bridge many times and thought, oh, that’s just a shack,’’ she said. “But it’s a big part of history.”

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