We have fallen in love with our covered bridges and we go to great lengths and expense to preserve and restore them. There are those that say we love them because they take us back to a “simpler time”. I say it’s because we are all in love with love. Picturing a lady and her beau stopping their horse drawn carriage on the bridge to steal a kiss before they trot off into the starry night is a Currier and Ives moment. There was a time they were called “Kissing Bridges” and today couples are still stealing those kisses in the privacy of the covered bridges.
At one time there were approximately 14,000 covered bridges in the United States. That number has been reduced to less than 900 today. Turbulent waters washed some of them away and others were torn down to make way for the expanding highway system. Many fell into disrepair and were not restored. To show the extent we will go to save our covered bridges — there are bridges that have been dismantled board by board and those boards wait in barns across the country until the funds can be raised to rebuild the bridge.
Pennsylvania holds the record with the most covered bridges – almost 200, and Vermont comes in second with 106. We are going to explore Vermont’s covered bridges. Vermont has the highest density of covered bridges.
Montgomery, Vermont, with six covered bridges, is one of the towns with a high concentration of bridges and it is called Vermont’s Covered Bridge Capital.
The bridges that remain were all built by the Jewett brothers, Sheldon and Savanard. They owned a sawmill and were able to cut their own wood to their specifications. Their lattice truss made of hemlock was designed to accommodate the weight of the heavy wagons and logging vehicles.
Originally there were 13 covered bridges in the Montgomery/Enosburg area. Montgomery is a small Vermont town located at the bottom of Jay Peak, a popular ski resort. In 2005 Montgomery celebrated its 225th anniversary.
Comstock Covered Bridge (#4 on the map) crosses the Trout River and is almost 69 ft 10 inches in length and 16 feet wide. The bridge is of Town Lattice. The bridge was completed in 1883 and there is no record of reconstruction so it no doubt is currently in its original state.
The Fuller Covered Bridge (#1) also known as the Blackfalls Covered Bridge, is a wooden covered bridge that crosses Black Falls Brook in Montgomery on Fuller Bridge Road. Its carrying capacity is 3 tons. The total length 49 ft 6 in (15.09 m) with a width of 16 ft 4.75 in (4.9975 m). Again there is no indication of renovation so we are apparently seeing the original bridge which seems to be in very good condition.
The Hopkins Covered Bridge (#7) is another wooden lattice design covered bridge that spans the Trout River in Montgomery/Enosburg Falls, on Hopkins Bridge Road. It was completed in 1875 but was closed in 1993 due to safety issues. It was renovated and reopened in 1999 and spans a total length of 90 ft 5 in (27.56 m) with width 15 ft 8.75 in (4.7943 m).
The Hutchins Covered Bridge was built in 1883 crossed the South Branch of the Trout River in Montgomery. It was primarily used by the largest manufacturer of spruce wood butter tubs in the United States. They turned out 300 to 600 tubs daily. Under management of junior partner Charles Taylor Hall, W.H. Stiles & Co, owned 8,000 acres of timber lands and cut and manufactured 2,500,000 feet of lumber annually and sold more than a million and a half butter tubs and packages. In 1904 the company incorporated as Nelson & Hall Co. They employed over a hundred men and to their credit the men were paid every Wednesday and the company never had a strike. In my cursory search I could not find the date that the plant closed but with its closure came the beginning of the end for the Hutchins Covered Bridge and it fell into disrepair due to lack of use. The bridge was closed in the early 1970s and it wasn’t until 2009 after extensive renovation that it was re-opened. The bridge is approximately 76 feet in length and 16 feet in width.
The Longley Covered Bridge (#6) also known as the Harnois Covered Bridge is located on Longley Road and spans the Trout River. Its length is 84 ft 7 inches and its width is 16 ft 25 inches. Made of wood with one span it began to lean to one side and the trusses were bowed in the middle. It was completely restored in 1992, but apparently that didn’t work out so well because the bridge has been closed and bypassed by a temporary bridge that appears to be permanent.
The West Hill Covered Bridge (#2) crosses West Hill Brook in Montgomery. It is also known as Crystal Springs Covered Bridge and locally it is known as the Creamery Covered Bridge because in the beginning there was a creamery located adjacent to the bridge site. No reason could be found why it was ever called Crystal Springs Covered Bridge. The bridge is located on Creamery Bridge Road. We missed it, but apparently the creamery ruins can still be seen in the woods next to the bridge. This was once a very busy area but it was slowly abandoned and the road and the bridge fell into disrepair. The bridge was closed in 1994 and completely renovated in 2009. Unfortunately the road leading to the bridge is nothing more than a one-lane loose gravel path. It is one of the smaller bridges with a length of 58.9 feet and it is 16.6 wide.
THE SEVENTH BRIDGE: Montgomery is hoping to raise funding to restore the Hectorville Covered Bridge. The Hectorville bridge (#3) was disassembled and is waiting for restoration when ample funds have been raised. The estimated cost of restoration is $300,000.
To see a picture of the bridge and read about its history please visit Scott Perry’s site:
There are more covered bridges to visit including Emily’s Bridge. But that’s another blog!