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 the last bridge. In this series, I’ve photographed the longest covered bridge in the country (the Cornish-Windsor Bridge) and the longest bridge entirely in our state (the Bath Bridge). To end, I photographed the smallest bridge. It wasn’t planned that way, it’s just the way it happened.
The bridge is only 34 feet, six inches but what she lacks in size she more than makes up in beauty.
There has been a bridge at this location for a long time. We don’t know when the first one was built but the second was built in December 1791. That was during George Washington’s first term in office. It gets it name from being built on land settled by John Prentiss.
The Cheshire Turnpike Company took over the bridge in 1805. The turnpike was the route from Canada to Boston. In 1874, the town voted to raise $1,000 to replace the existing bridge with a covered bridge to be built by Albert S. Granger. The bridge was open to traffic until 1954 when it was bypassed. Now it’s for pedestrian use only. There is a nice little park area next to the bridge with the bench you see here.
Tomorrow, I’ll share with you which of these bridges is my favorite.
After photographing the three bridges in Newport and making a detour to take photographs of the Blow-Me-Down Mill in Cornish, I headed to Langdon, NH for the last two bridges of the project. Rather than take the highway south in Vermont, I took state routes along the Connecticut River to enjoy the scenery.
The McDermott Bridge is pretty old, having been built in 1869. There had been three open bridges at this site built in 1790, 1814, and 1840. Those bridges tended not to last very long because they relied on posts sunk into the wet ground.
The bridge was built by Albert S. Granger. He used a design his father had patented based on a modification of an existing bridge style. The father, Sandford Granger was a multi-talented man. In addition to designing and building bridges, he also ran a sawmill in what is now Fall Mountain State Forest.
Wright’s Bridge stands just a mile from the last bridge featured here. Like the other bridge, it is a covered railroad bridge that crosses the Sugar River.
Getting to this bridge takes a bit of walking. I parked at the intersection of the road and the multiuse trail and walked about a kilometer to reach the bridge.
I rode my bike on this multiuse trail several years ago. Motorized vehicles are allowed on the trial and several times, groups of dirt bikes and ATVs passed me. They were always respectful, and the lead rider always signaled the number of vehicles in his or her group so that I knew how many riders to expect.
One thing that I appreciate about this bridge is that the abutments look authentic. Often when the support structures need replacing or reworking, modern concrete is used. When that happens, the abutments look out of place. The people who maintained and restored this bridge went through the effort and expense to use a stone abutment.
Originally built in 1845, the bridge burned in a suspicious fire May 25, 1993. The town was described as being “devastated’ at the loss. Covered bridges are not the most practical means to cross a river in the modern age and the town and state made plans to replace it with a modern bridge made from concrete and steel.
The residents of Newport petitioned the town and state to replace the bridge with a wooden covered bridge, raising thousands of dollars to cover the difference in cost. A little more than a year later, on Columbus Day weekend, the new bridge was pulled into place by a team of oxen. I spent about an hour trying to locate a photo of the oxen pulling the bridge but was unsuccessful. I did however find this video of oxen pulling a different bridge into place.
This was the first bridge on my last covered bridges of New Hampshire outing. There are only three photos of this bridge because other than the one image inside the bridge, I did not venture to walk around inside. There was some moderate traffic, and it moves quickly through the bridge. Self-preservation kicked in.
Most of the bridges that I photographed were on side roads or out of the way places. There were usually only a few homes nearby, if any. The Mechanic Street Bridge is located in a busy residential neighborhood.
The bridge spans Israel’s River. The river provided water power for local mills. As the mills and the town grew, a bridge built in the 1780s quickly became inadequate.
This bridge was constructed in 1862 to replace the original bridge. An interpretive plaque on the bridge said that this bridge allowed horses and carriages to cross at a faster speed, but the State’s history said that in that same year, the citizens voted to put signs on the bridge prohibiting driving across the bridge at a pace faster than a walk. So did people get to go faster on the new bridge, or not?
Back in the 1860s or 1870s, this area needed a bridge to connect the two towns. An enterprising company called “The Union Bridge Company” built and operated it until 1908 when a log jam destroyed the bridge. A ferry then operated for three years until a new bridge could be built.
The towns on either side of the “new” bridge each contributed $2,500 for the cost. The state’s history says that another $1,678 was “raised by subscription”. I’m not sure if that means people contributed to the bridge and if there was any additional benefit to them beside not having to use a ferry service.
In 1969, a truck loaded with highway salt fell through the floor of the bridge. The rear of the truck rested on the ice and the front was caught on a piece of the bridge. Meanwhile, salt spilled out of the truck, weakening the ice below.
They had to raise the truck to disengage it from the bridge and then lower it carefully onto the now weakened ice. (How it avoided going to the bottom of the river, I’ll never know.) It was dragged off the weak part of the ice, turned upright and then taken off the ice.
In more recent times, it’s had difficulties (plural) when GPS directs truck drivers across it. I included this image from The Caledonian Record website.
Years ago, I took photos of most of the bridges in the southwestern corner of the state. Somehow this bridge had missed my attention before.
On a cold late September morning, I put on a winter jacket and gloves for the drive west. This bridge is only about an hour from our house. When I arrived the cold air was causing steam to come off the river and the leaves on the hill behind the river were just beginning to turn colors.
There was not a lot on the history of the bridge. It was named after the original builder and owner, Anthony Coombs. It’s difficult today to think of someone owning a bridge. The state history of these bridges said the bridge aided in the “social and commercial development of the area”. The historical record was written nearly thirty years ago and describes the bridge as needing major repairs and that there was talk of bypassing it. From the looks of it, I tend to think that it had been repaired at some point in the past twenty-five years.
This is the bridge I almost missed. When I planned these shoots, worked from a list in the state’s guide New Hampshire Covered Bridges. I obsessed over it and thought I had all of them but I missed this one. The ironic thing was that I obsessed over the list because I didn’t want to drive three hours to an area and later discover that I’d missed a bridge there. That was almost exactly my fate.
I was saved by the fact that this bridge is right next to the main route through the area, U.S. Route 3. I passed it on my way north to Pittsburg and then again on the way back. Something didn’t make sense, so I checked the list from my phone and found that this bridge was indeed on the list.
According to the state book on these bridges, “the bridge was built by Captain Charles Richardson and his son. When U.S. Route 3 was reconstructed in 1939, the Groveton covered bridge was bypassed.”
Groveton was one of the areas hard hit by the closing of paper mills in the North Country. Diamond International Papers was a long time employer in the area. The mill was sold in 2008 and then changed hands a number of times before closing. There was talk of an LNG plant being located there, as well as a biomass energy plant and selling the old mill for scrap. I’m not sure of the status of any of these plans.
The steam locomotive was used as a switch engine by another paper mill in the area, the Odell Manufacturing Company. It was last used in the mid-1960s. The community decorates it every year at Christmas.
During the 1940 and 50s, the bridge had some structural problems that required a lot of work. This is a fairly busy bridge and having it tied up with maintenance was not ideal. The townspeople voted to replace the bridge with a new steel bridge.
Well, this would not do. The bridge is a favorite of photographers and painters because of it’s positioning with the church next to it and the hills behind them. There was an outcry that resulted in the state coming in to help save the bridge.
The bridge was built in 1862. In the 1890s, flood waters washed out a pier in the center of the bridge and washed the entire bridge downstream. Teams of oxen were used to haul the bridge back and set it on new stone piers.