Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Keeping Us Covered

Magnet # 412:  New Hampshire Covered Bridges


Material:  Rubber


Purchased By:  Me

I know I've shared my dislike and outright fear of bridges on here before, but I'm not sure if that really extends to covered bridges.  Somehow these structures strike me as less threatening than the larger varieties that can span for miles, rise up higher than skyscrapers, and are open to seemingly endless vistas.  In my mind, at least, these shorter bridges that are enclosed and go for shorter distances are less likely to be the sites of accidents and tragedies.  I don't tend to get so tense on the rare occasions that I drive over them.  Plus, they're just lovely to look at and add to nearly any scenic view.  So when I found this really interesting magnet during my trip to New England earlier this year, I had to add it to my collection.

While New Hampshire is home to over 54 covered bridges, there are only five featured on this magnet.  I suppose they might have tried to choose some of the neatest ones the state has to offer.  At the top, the Cornish-Windsor Bridge is the longest covered bridge in the state, at around 450 feet long, and the second longest in the nation as of 2008, when Ohio's Smolen-Gulf Bridge took the title.  It spans over the Connecticut River, joining Cornish, New Hampshire with Windsor, Vermont and was constructed by hand back in 1866.  It's certainly the longest historic bridge in the United States and it has undergone extensive renovations through the years.  During its most thorough restoration, it was closed to traffic for over two years and the state spent over four million dollars to save the structure.  The bridge reopened to traffic on this day in 1989.  And these actions have ensured that this unique structure should be around for many years to come.  Moving down and to the left, there's the Jackson Bridge in the town of Jackson, New Hampshire which is apparently also known as the Honeymoon Bridge.  It dates back to 1876 and was built by a father and son who owned a dairy farm on the east side of the Saco River, but this bridge actually crosses the Ellis River.  A sidewalk has since been added to it and the trusses have been better covered.  And to its right is the Bath Covered Bridge, which is, appropriately enough, in the town of Bath.  It stands over the Ammonoosuc River and was built in 1832.  It's the fifth structure to have been built on the site - its predecessors were all wiped out by either flood or fire.  But it certainly seems as though this one has held up nicely over the years.  Again heading down and left, we find the town of Albany's Albany Bridge.  This one was constructed back in 1858 after its predecessor was demolished during a windstorm.  The cost of the original bridge was taken out of the builders' payment for the second and the Forest Service has maintained it by replacing its wooden floor timbers with steel in the 1980's.  And finally, at the bottom, there's the Flume Covered Bridge in the town of Lincoln.  It's believed to have been built in 1871, but no one is quite certain if it's an original or whether it was previously used elsewhere.  It's mainly used by maintenance vehicles and buses bringing tourists to the Flume, an 800 foot gorge that's a very popular attraction that's part of Franconia Notch State Park.  Another noteworthy New Hampshire covered bridge not featured here is the Haverhill-Bath Covered Bridge.  Built in 1829, it's one of the oldest still standing in the country and the oldest in the state, despite the fact that an arsonist tried to burn it down on September 11 of 1983.  It has been extensively restored and is no longer open to traffic.  Even though this particularly interesting one has been omitted, I still think this magnet has a pretty good sample of the covered bridges that can be found in the Granite State.

Of all the states, Pennsylvania actually has the most covered bridges and has had them the longest amount of time.  In 1804, Timothy Palmer was constructing a bridge over the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia when a local judge suggested he turn it into a covered bridge to help it last longer.  Reluctant, Palmer nonetheless relented and the first covered bridge in the United States was created at High Street, which has since become Market Street.  At one point, the Keystone State had as many as 1,500 covered bridges, but with time that's dwindled down to over 200, which is still the most of any state.  But New Hampshire and Vermont still have the distinction of having more covered bridges per square mile than anywhere else in the world.  Even when combined, they're less than half the size of Pennsylvania, but they have 160 of the structures between them.  I don't remember coming across any covered bridges when I was in New Hampshire, but perhaps I'll get another chance sometime.  It's always nice to come upon one of these lovely structures and have a look around, even if you're hesitant to cross, as I am.

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