The covered bridge is a unique structure in America due to the combination of architectural ingenuity, economic necessity, and romantic idealism.
Today, there are just over 100 authentic covered bridges in the state of Vermont, giving it the highest number of covered bridges per square mile in the United States. And just over the border in Bennington County, you’ll find five of these quintessential New England landmarks.
Producer Dave Fraser paid a visit to the Green Mountain State to find out more.
Read the full transcript:
Brian Sullivan, Connecting Point: Few structures in America combine architectural ingenuity, economic necessity, and romantic idealism better than the covered bridge. Today, there are just over 100 authentic covered bridges in the state of Vermont, giving it the highest number of covered bridges per square mile in the United States. Just over the border in Bennington County, you’ll find five of these quintessential New England landmarks. Producer Dave Fraser paid a visit to the Green Mountain State to find out more.
Bruce Laumeister, Founder Covered Bridge Museum: I think the fact that they’re still in use, they’re not monuments. The historic covered bridges here in most cases have outlasted steel bridges. The steel bridge’s rust. You look at the bridges and the interstates that have fallen down concrete.
I don’t think there’s ever been an accident caused by a covered bridge failing. The purpose was to preserve the bridge surface. One of the great myths is that they — was to keep the snow off the bridge. It was the opposite. You had to snow the bridge in the winter so the sleds could go through. And that was just called snowing the bridge. And the fact that they were built without any heavy equipment.
I mean, nobody had a backhoe then, No – Nobody had a front end loader or cranes or anything. And somehow they worked with teams of horses how to pull up those trusses and get them built. In Vermont, there once was over 600. We now think the number is 103 and one half. The three and one half are the ones that go across the river to New Hampshire. So that’s what we only claim half of those.
The original trust design in the old barns was the same thing they used to build the first covered bridges, and then as they wanted to build longer and longer covered bridges, they had to go to these different kinds of trusses. We find when people come here that are just absolutely fascinated with the way this all came about, our late Senator Jim Jeffords got a $10 million bill put through Congress for the preservation of covered bridges. And that’s one reason why even the ones that have got damaged always get restored.
They are top priority. And I think the fact that you can now drive through them, you can walk through them. A lot of people will petition their town to shut down the covered bridge for an afternoon so they can have a wedding and the covered bridge. And I think people that are used to the modern world and don’t think about what was built 150 or 200 years ago, when they see what was built, how it was built and how well it stood up, are fascinated by it.