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NHL approval for the Keystone Arch Bridges and Chester Village Depot

On September 3, 2020, the National Historic Landmarks Committee of the National Park System Advisory Board voted unanimously to recommend the Western Railroad Stone Arch Bridges and Chester Factory Village Depot in Becket, Middlefield, and Chester, Massachusetts, for designation as a National Historic Landmark (https://www.nps.gov/subjects/nationalhistoriclandmarks/upload/2020-fall-Western-Railroad-Executive-Summary-Form_508.pdf). The Public Archaeology Laboratory, Inc. (PAL) prepared the nomination for the property on behalf of the Friends of the Keystone Arches, Inc. (FKA), a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the bridges. The nomination was financed in part by the National Park Service through the Wild and Scenic Westfield River Committee. The two bridges, railroad segment, and depot are nationally significant as surviving components of the Western Railroad, which was completed in 1841 to connect Worcester, Massachusetts, and Albany, New York. One of the first four inter-regional railroads in the country, the Western Railroad was the first railroad in the United States—and perhaps the world—to demonstrate the feasibility of moving trains across a mountain range using only traction, or the friction between the train wheels and tracks, for propulsion and braking. The bridges and railroad segment are also the best surviving examples of the work of George Washington Whistler (1800–1849), one of the country’s leading civil engineers in the early nineteenth century and a pioneering designer of railroads.