The Frog Bridge, Willimantic

November, 2008 by Ray Bendici

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The Frog Bridge, Willimantic
Photo by Ray Bendici

The Damned Story: One of the more intentionally unusual structures in Connecticut is The Frog Bridge of Willimantic, also known as the Thread City Crossing. Spanning the Willimantic River, the nearly 500-foot bridge was completed in 2000 at a cost of $13 million and connects routes 66 and 32, and would be fairly unremarkable if not for the four 11-foot frogs sitting atop giant spools of thread.

Why frogs, you ask? (And why wouldn't you?)

Well, rather than the birthplace of Kermit or an area with a high French population, Willimantic is known as being home of the infamous "Battle of the Frogs" in 1754. To paraphrase the legend: One hot summer night, the good people of Windham (which Willimantic is now part of) were roused from their sleep by "a shrieking, clattering thunderous roar" unlike anything they had ever heard before. Fearing that it was either an Indian attack or Judgement Day, the townsfolk freaked out and began to panic -- some ran through the streets brandishing muskets, others fell to their knees in frantic prayer. Some cooler heads finally prevailed and went in search of the ungodly noises, but to no avail. Only the next morning when the sun came up, did they find the source of the horrendous cacaphony -- a nearby pond, down to no more than a puddle thanks to the dry summer, was ringed with scores of dead bullfrogs. Apparently, some sort of frog turf war had broken out and the carnage was excessive . . . but not as excessive as the embarrassment the citizens of Windham were to endure over the next few decades.

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The Frog Bridge, Willimantic
Photo by Ray Bendici

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But as the years passed, the denizens of Windham/Willimantic embraced the frog legend -- a frog now appears on the official town seal. So when it came time to build the new bridge, the town leaders decided to get hoppy with it and put the town's unique stamp on it. Hence, the frogs.

Oh, and the spools? Less interesting history there as the town was home to a thriving mill industry and became known as "Thread City." (You can learn more about it at the Windham Textile & History Museum, if, uh, string is your thing.) Still, makes for your out-of-ordinary bridge.

Our Damned Experience: When I visited the bridge and took these photos, I didn't see any actual frogs -- muppet or otherwise -- nor did I hear anything horrific or otherworldly, unless you count the sounds of noonday traffic.

If You Go: The bridge is just outside downtown Willimantic where routes 66 and 32 come together, and obviously open to the public at all times. It can get busy during certain times of the day, so be wary of traffic.
View Connecticut 32 & Connecticut 66 in a larger map

Comments

The Frog Bridge was designed by the Maguire Group of New Britain and constructed by O&G Industries, based in Torrington.

Heh, I lived near Willi when they were building the bridge. Some guy came to my high school (EO Smith) and told us the story of 'The Great Frog Battle".

I also remember there being a creepy little town East of there that looked abandoned, so you may be able to check out two cool places in one trip!

Submitted by Ted Diehl (not verified) on

I was alerted the other day to a rather suggestive perspective on the frogs....I thought it was just a joke, but I drive by there everyday, and I must tell you, after much contemplation, I just cannot see how the alternate interpretation of the frog forms can be anything but an intentional illusion. You must look at the frogs from all sides and ponder, but it's there, on every frog. You can't un-see it. Kudo's to the artist if he (or she) did this on purpose and got it by everyone. Very nice.

This bridge was designed by a women named Liz Slivinski and it was built by the William Jonhston Industries and Co. I'm sorry but the information above was incorrect.

Suzie -- Where did you get your information? I directly contacted the Willimantic town engineer after reading your comment and he confirmed that it was designed by the Maguire Group and constructed by O & G. Did Liz work for Maguire? Is William Johnston a subcontractor for O & G?

Submitted by William H. Grover (not verified) on

The bridge was designed by Maguire Engineers, with Centerbrook Architects of Centerbrook, CT, as the design consultant. Leo Jensen of Ivoryton, CT was the sculptor who designed the frogs and supervised the bronze castings. A bronze plaque on the bridge gives these names.

Submitted by joshua (not verified) on

ted Diehl...i also drive past that every day, what was suggested to you? i would like to know myself, would you please fill me in?

Submitted by Greg Solomon (not verified) on

I directly contacted the town engineer also and he said that Liz Slivinski had a huge part in making the bridge. Also, he said that Ryan Slivinski was the subcontractor for O & G. The siblings had a magnificent success on this bridge.

Submitted by Heidi (not verified) on

Ended up visiting yesterday. Pretty cool bridge. I too, did not see any actual frogs. Heh.

coooooooooooooollllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Submitted by Heidi (not verified) on

Submitted by Annie Clark (not verified) on

While the cost of the bridge is quoted, please note that the cost of the frog sculptures was above & beyond that & was PRIVATELY raised. The Frog sculptures were NOT paid for with taxpayers money.
As for the "alternative view" of the frogs... well, they all face AWAY from the bridge, leaving the traffic ON the bridge to get a view of their rather heart-shaped butts! Which is kinda in keeping with the town's OTHER nick-name: "Romantic Willimantic". (I have NO idea if this was a part of "The Plan", or not.) :D

The frogs were originally designed and created by Leo Jensen of Ivoryton, Ct. He is
the artist that no-one seems to give enough credit to. He followed the frog project from its earliest conception to its casting and installation. He is a well known artist who has a following and reputation. His work is in the collection of the Mattatuck Museum and Historical Society. I wish the mass media would give credit to artists as well as the construction companies. It is a major Connecticut attraction and should be given due credit on all Connecticut tourist publications

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