For the last 100 years, the Mystic River Bascule Bridge has connected Groton and Stonington. Now, for a centennial celebration, the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce is using the historic bridge to connect the community.
The chamber, alongside community partners, planned a months-long celebration of the bridge. The festivities kicked off in April and will last through October, culminating with a fireworks show.
“It is so exciting. It is really great that we can tie the community together with the tourism, the history, and have this year-long celebration," said Bruce Flax, who leads the chamber.
100th Anniversary Celebrations
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The hub for bridge celebrations is the Bascule Bridge Visitors Center. Located at the foot of the drawbridge, The Whaler's Inn recently bought the property and donated it to the chamber to use as a pop-up visitors center.
Inside, people can learn about the history of the bridge and answer trivia questions. Historic images are on display, along with local artwork of the bridge for sale.
Various anniversary items are also for sale at the visitors center including a beer brewed by Groton's Outer Light Brewing Company, pint glasses, greeting cards, and chocolate bars - all made with a drawbridge design.
There will soon be a children's book for sale, written by a local author. Local businesses are also involved.
Dozens, including North Swell, are selling bridge anniversary items. Proceeds will benefit a scholarship fund that will offer local scholarships for years to come. The bridge trail is open through Oct. 15.
The bridge will officially celebrate 100 years in July, but the celebration will last through October. To learn more, visit this website.
'It's Been an Honor': Bridge Operator Retires
While the bridge has been operating in Mystic for 100 years, Roderick Coleman has been operating it for 33 years. After three decades, the longtime bridge operator retired Thursday.
"It went so fast. It is hard to sum it up," Roderick Coleman said.
Coleman said he first fell in love with the bridge, like so many, when he was just a kid. At age seven or eight, he remembers getting stopped at the bridge as it was lifting and watching in awe.
"And I said, 'I want that job one day,'" Coleman said.
Over the years, and when he eventually got the job of bridge operator, his love for the bridge did not fade. A Philadelphia native, Coleman calls the drawbridge the "Liberty Bell of Mystic."
For three decades, Coleman has been perched in the bridge house five days a week. He has seen millions of people pass by, including celebrities and even a president.
Coleman said he always made sure that the bridge operated on time and safely.
“If you do it safely, you do it right," Coleman said.
Coleman did not plan his retirement for the bridge's 100th year, it just happened that way, but he said it means a lot to him that it turned out that way.
The Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce hosted a celebration for Coleman Thursday to thank him for his service.
“He is as iconic as the bridge is," Flax said.
As Coleman lifted the bridge for the last time, he said it has been an honor.
"It is more than just a job," Coleman said.