BREWSTER — In November, conversation on the Facebook page "Orleans, Ma. Community Space" speculated about the future of what locals have colloquially come to call "the Pink Bridge."
A post on the page, which also included video of a vehicle approaching the overpass along Freemans Way in Brewster running over Route 6, said the bridge would lose its identifiable pink colored steel as a result of an ongoing state project overseen by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
From there, a number of other group members jumped into the conversation to share their memories and recollections of the bridge. Some said as children, they would look for the bridge as an indicator that they were nearing Orleans. Others chimed in with recollections about the bridge's history, which coincided with the expansion of Route 6 further down Cape in 1959.
Fans of the Pink Bridge can rest easy, however. While maintenance along the Freemans Way span is still ongoing, its iconic pink undercarriage will remain.
"It will be painted pink," Brewster DPW Superintendent Griffin Ryder said. "It will probably be brighter than it was before, just because the color has faded over time."
Ryder said he confirmed that the coloring will be kept during a conversation with MassDOT officials about the project in December.
"Honestly, I never even knew, and I grew up in Brewster driving along Freemans Way a lot," Ryder said. "I didn't realize it had any significance."
Judith Readon Riley, a spokesperson for the state agency, said Freemans Way is one of four bridges along Route 6 in Brewster and Orleans that are being repainted. The bridge's beams were repainted before work stopped for the winter on Dec. 15.
So what's the story behind the pink coloring? No one we spoke to for this story knows for sure, but Steve Jones, a board member with the Brewster Historical Society, said "it has been that way from the beginning."
"What I recall from stories that circulated from the time it was built was that it was not in the original design," he said.
According to Jones, the bridge along Freemans Way was the brainchild of Brewster resident George "Fobe" Foster. With the expansion of Route 6 out to the Orleans-Eastham rotary, Foster, a local business owner and former selectman in town, proposed the idea out of concern that the highway would divide the town in two.
Paul Daley, another board member of the Brewster Historical Society, said before the bridge was developed, the dirt road was affectionately known by locals as "the road to nowhere."
"Back in the day it was used by us kids as a quarter mile drag strip for racing our cars and hot rods," he said. "You had to travel on a narrow wooded road to get there."
But Foster, who owned land in the area of what is now Freemans Way, had visions for linking his property to Route 39, according to Jim Coogan, a Brewster native and Cape Cod historian. The thought was that a connection to a main roadway would make the land more developable.
"I was told that he had some influence in the statehouse and got the bridge built, where it stayed unused for probably 10 years," he said. "People called the bridge 'Fobe's Folly' because they never thought it would be developed."
Even after the bridge was built, the road remained largely undeveloped for many years, according to Jones.
"When it was first built and for years after one could drive down the dirt road that was Freemans Way, come to an opening that was paved, cross the bridge for another short stretch of pavement, and back onto a dirt road," Jones said.
"Some called it Freemans Way, but it was nothing but a track," Coogan said. "You would scratch the sides of your car driving out there. As kids we would drive to where there was maybe 100 yards of nice pavement over the bridge. We'd squeal our tires, maybe do a donut or two. Nobody cared because no one lived out there."
Foster lived long enough to see "Fobe's Folly" paved permanently, Coogan said, but not much longer.
"Ironically, the bridge has been dedicated to another contemporary of Foster, long time selectman Lawrence Doyle," he said. "It should have been named after Foster."
Reardon said work will resume in March with repairs to the bridge's beams, painting of the beam columns, milling and resurfacing of the bridge's deck pavement and cleaning and sealing of the bridge substructure. Work is expected to be done in May, she said.
"I don't know how long it will take to finish it out, but I'd imagine it would be done before summer hits, before Memorial Day," Ryder said.
Email Ryan Bray at firstname.lastname@example.org