Covered Bridges

Have you ever walked across a covered bridge? there is something magical about it….if you have the opportunity to cross one, stop and just take in the history that surrounds you…..I have always loved them and hope the remaining bridges last long enough for our children and grandchildren to be able to feel the history too……Here in Northeast Pennsylvania we have several…and thankfully there are organizations that feel the importance of keeping a slice of history alive…..I thought you might enjoy a little “History Class” this morning!

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Why cover the bridges?

Today covered bridges are considered historical landmarks, romantic structures resembling the past, but what was the purpose of covering these bridges? There were thought to be many reasons why the bridges were covered although not all of these ideas were correct. There is a short answer. Wooden bridges with exposed superstructures are vulnerable to rot. Covering and roofing them protects them from the weather, and so they last longer. The following are more explanation for the covering of the bridges. The spans were built to resemble barns so farm animals would feel more at home and not stampede as they were driven across the streams and rivers. Other explanations were, to keep snow off the bridge, to keep the oiled planks of the roadbed from becoming dangerously slippery in the rain, to cover up unsightly trusses, to provide shelter to travelers caught in a storm, and to provide a place to court your lady and secretly give her a kiss (the name “Kissing Bridges originated). One real reason for covering bridges was to protect the trusses from the weather because the environment caused bridges to fail sooner. Bridge engineers pointed out that a housed timber truss span has a life expectancy at least three times greater than one unhoused. Another positive reason why bridges were covered was that the roof strengthened the entire structure.

…….The first known covered bridge in America was designed by the Massachusetts millwright, Timothy Palmer.  It crossed the Schuylkill River at Philadelphia with a length of 550 feet interestingly enough, the bridge was not originally intended to be a covered, but a suggestion from Judge Richard Peters, whose estate bordered the river at the bridge, was to handsomely roof, side and paint the structure.  The idea was well received and so the painted and covered timber bridge became a common sight on American roads from Maine to Florida to Oregon. These bridges were constructed in the half of the 20th century for carriage and later auto use.

After the Civil War came in the age of Iron. At once covered bridges were thought to be old fashioned.  Gradually and sadly they were replaced, even though most were perfectly sound.  Pennsylvania, oddly enough, bucked this trend.  The iron-smelting giant felt that its wrought iron and steel beams were fine for other states bridges =, but at home, Pennsylvanians took pride in the romance and character of the timber covered bridges and continued to build them.  At the height of the bridge building period, 1830-1880, estimates show that Pennsylvania had the most in the country, with at least 1500, representing all of the major truss designs. Thus, today the stated has the most remaining covered bridges in the US, with 212 in 37 counties.

http://pacoveredbridges.com/

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Comments

  1. Great pictures and history on covered bridges!! Love it!!

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