The Stone Arch Bridge, near Kenoza Lake was built in the 1870s by Swiss-German settlers who had brought their skills in stone masonry with them from the old country. It was built to replace a wooden bridge that collapsed under a wagon load of hemlock on its way to a nearby tannery.
The construction of the Bridge by Philip Henry Hembdt was unique in that the temporary wood framework, known as centering, was used to support the stones used in the arches during construction; once all the stones were set, the forms were removed.
The Bridge is located on a route which was instrumental in the settlement of the central portion of Sullivan County. The route served the major means of transportation between the Newburgh-Cochecton Turnpike and the Callicoon Valley, it was important to the development of the area, tanneries, lumber and agricultural industry. A saw mill was operated just upstream of the Bridge in the late 1800's.
In 1882 one of the few Hex murders on record in the Upper Delaware Valley was committed on the Stone Arch Bridge. The victim, accused of bewitching cattle, was shot, clubbed and thrown into the flood swollen creek waters.
The Stone Arch Bridge was closed in 1945 after nearly 80 years of service. For 16 years the Bridge stood as a solitary and deteriorating remembrance of other times.
In 1970, after many years of work by the Sullivan county Park and Recreation Commission to preserve the Bridge and its surroundings their efforts were rewarded with the purchase of over four acres of land on the downstream of the Bridge.
By the summer of 1976, the Sullivan County Department of Planning and Economic Development had applied for and received a federal grant for additional land acquisition and development at the Bridge. The purchase of over four acres of land on the upstream side of the Bridge occurred during the same summer.
December of 1976 saw the Bridge honored as a Landmark by its inclusion to the National Registry of Historic Places, which made it eligible for federal restoration grants.
The County developed the Stone Arch Bridge Historical Park during 1978 and 1979 to provide picnicking, fishing, and historical interpretation for county residents and visitors alike.
Finally, in 1980 and 1981, the Sullivan County Department of Public Works, with the assistance of a Federal Historic Preservation grant restored the Bridge to its original late 1800's appearance and condition. The Stone Arch Bridge can now look forward to a bright future.
This information was taken verbatim from a display found in the Society's exhibit area on the first floor of the Museum. A photo of the Bridge, by the late Paul Gerry, is hung in the main office on the second floor.