For a few months now, people have been asking if I have a favorite covered bridge from those I photographed this year. I told people I wanted to see all of them before deciding. I had one in mind but felt like I needed to be fair. My favorite is a little bridge that you can’t even see from the main road. It is called the Blacksmith Shop Bridge. I returned to photograph it a few weeks ago. I’d hoped there would still be a lot of colorful leaves all around it, but it’s a little too far north and the trees were mostly bare.
It’s located in Cornish, NH and was built in 1881 to serve a single family who lived down this road. It was constructed by James Tasker who built several covered bridges in the area. It was restored in 1963 and then again in 1983. Tasker’s grandnephew attended the rededication in 1983.
With so many pretty bridges, why is this my favorite? Those who follow my blog carefully know that I love all things rusty and rustic. In my life, I’ve always favored the underdog. I fell in love with the bridge this summer as I made my way down the weed-lined path and saw the chain and “pass at your own risk” sign. The wood is all weathered and natural. My love for it deepened when I returned in the fall because without the vegetation, I would see that upstream there are a beautiful cascade and the foundation of what must have been either the blacksmith shop or perhaps a mill of some sort.
There are so many wonderful covered bridges in New Hampshire with creative features and interesting stories but this one is my favorite.
This is an interesting little bridge up near the Canadian border. As you can see it’s been bypassed by another bridge that is wooden but not covered. Note the extra layer of boards where the rubber meets the road so to speak on the uncovered bridge. That will help the wooden deck hold up over time.
According to the state’s catalog of the bridges “Little is known about this bridge and nothing has been recorded in the town records. It has now been bypassed. The bridge is closed to all but pedestrian traffic.” There is however a record that it was built in 1858.
Perry Stream which runs below the bridge is popular for fishing. I imagine this bridge is a good place to hang out when your done fishing or to stop while traveling around on an ATV.
While many of the bridges are maintained by the state or the town, volunteers take care of the cleaning and maintenance of the River Road Bridge.
Also known as the Kissin’ Bridge, this is one long bridge. A plaque says it is the longest in New Hampshire at 375 feet. That’s technically true but the bridge between Cornish, NH and Windsor VT (at 449 feet) is the longest in the US but not truly all in New Hampshire.
There has been a bridge here since 1794 when you could build a bridge for $366.66. The first three bridges were destroyed by floods. The fourth was destroyed by a fire. (Note: That’s the third bridge I’ve toured that has been destroyed by fire.) This bridge was built in 1831-1832 and included stone abutments and piers.
When you enter the bridge and look at the construction, it has arches upon arches. I don’t really quite understand the engineering but in 1920 the bridge was raised to pass over the railroad and a second set of overlapping arches were added.
This was the first bridge that I’ve visited that was at the site of a hydroelectric dam. The state gets about 4% of it’s power from hydroelectric plants but I never see many dams. At the base of the White Mountains, this is the perfect place to build a dam and power plant.
The State’s historical record on covered bridges reports that, “at one time, there was a sign posted at the bridge which prohibited riding horses across the bridge at a trot. It was believed that the impact of trotting horses could cause the structure to fall apart.” *
This bridge is named “Swiftwater” and it crosses the Wild Ammonoosuc River, but with this year’s drought, the water seems neither swift nor wild.
While the water is low now, logs were once floated down this river to the sawmill. Periodically, a log jam would develop which would threaten to destroy the bridge. The State’s historical record on covered bridges reports states, “In one case, dynamite was used to break up a log jam and although the blast was successful, logs had to be removed from the roof of the bridge.”*
In the 19th century, four bridges were built at this location beginning in 1810. The first two succumbed to floods. The third lasted twenty years. It was dismantled and rebuilt in 1849.
The next record of the bridge being rebuilt was in 1977, though I’m sure work was required on the bridge during those 128 years.
Before there was a bridge here, there was a ford, a shallow place in the river that allowed people or animals to walk across. Fording a river can be dangerous and typically means getting at least your boots wet. Floods can prevent rivers from being crossed and riverbeds are not typically very smooth for driving wagons across. A bridge was a benefit to the community.
The first bridge was built a quarter mile downstream from the ford at this location in 1820. Unfortunately, floods from heavy snow melt and rain carried away that bridge and its two successors. The third bridge was destroyed in 1869 when the floods were so violent as to snap the two-inch-thick bolts holding the bridge to a center pier.
This bridge was built in 1869 by Jacob Berry of North Conway. According to Berry, he designed the bridge to be so strong that one could fill it with wood and it would not collapse or otherwise fail. There is no record of this claim ever having been tested though.
The bridge is named after James Holmes Durgin a local resident who ran a grist mill. The bridge was also a link in the underground slave railroad from Sandwich to North Conway.
This bridge has had quite the life. In 1850, Jacob Berry and Peter Paddleford built the first covered bridge on this site to replace a crudely framed log bridge that had collapsed. The original cost was $4,000.
That bridge stood for nineteen years until flooding rains lifted the Swift River Covered Bridge off its foundation and sent it crashing into the bridge located here, destroying it.
The Saco River Covered Bridge was rebuilt by Allen and Warren of Conway but was destroyed again by a tannery fire in 1890. The current bridge was built by Charles Broughton and his son Frank.
Just upstream of the bridge is the confluence of the Swift and Saco Rivers.
The first bridge on this site was constructed in 1857 and was destroyed by a windstorm the next year. The builders, Amzi Russell and Leandre Morton, then contracted with the town to build a new bridge for $1,300 minus the amount they were previously paid for the original bridge.
An interpretive sign next to the bridge explains that covered bridges were built by judgment rather than exact engineering design. The builders tried to make them large enough in both height and width for a farm wagon filled with hay to pass.
This bridge has its own parking lot because it’s located adjacent to a popular parkway in White Mountain National Forest. Visitors can park and explore the river and the bridge.
A common problem with these old wooden bridges is that they will float away if the river rises sufficiently during floods. I noticed this set of connecting metal rods at either end of the bridge on the upstream side. They were clearly designed to anchor the bridge so that if the river does flood and lift the bridge, it can’t carry it off.
Because the bridge serves both the town and the tourists visiting White Mountain National Forest, the town and U.S. Forest Service have collaborated on its maintenance.
This is another fairly modern and relatively large bridge built on a site that has had a bridge since the 1780s. I’d made a photograph of this bridge before but was in the area and my skills are better now than they were back then.
Between 1780 and 1790 an open timber bridge (no cover) was built at this location for Ichabod Packard. Mr. Packard had a house on the north side of the river and a combined saw and gristmill on the other side.
The records aren’t clear, but it looks like the first covered bridge was installed here in 1804. It was replaced in 1878 with a Howe truss covered bridge built that cost $456.02. The current design with the large diagonal supports is a Howe truss bridge.
It was removed in 1952 and replaced with a Bailey Bridge, a temporary bridge designed and commonly used in WWII. The Bailey bridge was replaced by the current bridge in 1991. It was built by Arnold Graton Associates for $316,500. They built the Packard Bridge in a manner which replicates the traditional style of covered bridges.
The Edgell Bridge was built in 1885 for a cost of $1,825.27
The builder, Walter Piper, was only eighteen years old when he constructed this bridge. While times were certainly different back then, I still think this is a remarkable feat for such a young man.
It was assembled on the town common and then moved by oxcart to the planned location. If I recall the location of the bridge correctly, this was a considerable distance.
In 1936, flood waters washed it off its northern abutment. It was moved back, and tied down with cables. This seems to be a common problem, especially in the mountains where snow melt causes the rivers to rise substantially.
The Meriden Bridge is in Plainfield, New Hampshire. Like the bridges in neighboring Cornish, NH, this was also built by James Tasker. He constructed it in 1880 for $465. Another man, Levi Sanderson, received a separate payment of $220 for building the abutments on which the bridge rests.
I found this bridge to be very picturesque and welcoming. A plaque on the bridge says that the area beneath the bridge is a popular swimming hole for local youth.
The Meriden Bridge has its share of difficulties. The bridge was damaged by Hurricane Carol in 1954 and was later rebuilt using steel beams. In the spring of 1977, heavy snows caused the roof to cave in.