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A covered bridge is a bridge, often single-lane, with enclosed sides and a roof. They have typically been wooden, although some newer ones are concrete or metal with glass sides. Mainly associated with the nineteenth century, covered bridges often serve as prominent local landmarks and have long attracted the attention of historic preservationists.

Construction details

Early bridges were often made of wood, especially where it was a plentiful resource. Wooden bridges tended to deteriorate rapidly from exposure to the elements, having a useful lifespan of only nine years. Covering them protected their structural members, thus extending their life to 80 years or more.

Most wooden covered bridges employ trusses as their key structural design element. A popular design was the Brown truss, known for its simplicity, but others were also used.

Given the ready availability of steel, concrete, and other modern construction materials, most modern covered bridges are built either for the convenience of the user, rather than to protect the structure itself, or as a statement of style or design.

Covered bridges in Europe

The Western tradition of covered bridges originated in Europe.

Surviving or reconstructed European covered bridges include:

Famous stone covered bridges include the Rialto Bridgemarker in Venicemarker, Italymarker which for long was one of only three over the Grand Canalmarker and a popular tourist attraction.

The Bridges of Sighs in Venicemarker, Cambridgemarker and Oxfordmarker are also covered bridges.

Covered bridges in North America



Such bridges are found in rural areas throughout the United Statesmarker and Canadamarker, but are often threatened by arsonists, vandals, and flooding. In the United States, Pennsylvania has more covered bridges (over 200) than any other state, many of which can be seen in Washingtonmarker, Chestermarker and Lancaster Countiesmarker. The U.S. state of Vermontmarker has more covered bridges per square mile than any other place in the world, with 107 bridges located throughout the state. Oregon has the largest number of historical covered bridges in the western United States. They are also common in places such as Elizabethton, Tennesseemarker; Lane County, Oregonmarker; Madison County, Iowamarker; Parke County, Indianamarker; and Blount County, Alabamamarker. Parts of Californiamarker, Indianamarker, Ohiomarker, Michiganmarker, Kentuckymarker, Marylandmarker, Minnesotamarker, Virginiamarker, West Virginiamarker, Wisconsinmarker, and the New Englandmarker states have surviving covered bridges.

There are various structural designs used for covered bridges, such as the Burr Truss.

Opened on July 4, 1901, the Hartland Bridgemarker, crossing the Saint John Rivermarker at Hartland, New Brunswickmarker, is the longest covered bridge in the world. It is a national historic site. In 1900, New Brunswickmarker had an estimated 400 covered bridges, and Quebecmarker more than 1,000, while Ontariomarker had only five. , there were 94 covered bridges still standing in Quebec, 65 in New Brunswick, and one in Ontario, the West Montrose Covered Bridge.

A much longer covered bridge ( ) between Columbiamarker and Wrightsville, Pennsylvaniamarker once spanned the mile-wide Susquehanna River, making it the longest and most versatile covered bridge in the world during its existence. It featured railroad tracks, a towpath for canal boats crossing the river between two canals on either bank, and a carriage/wagon/pedestrian road. The popular toll bridge was burned June 28, 1863, by Union militia during the American Civil War to prevent its usage by the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the Gettysburg Campaign. A replacement wooden covered bridge was destroyed by a windstorm a few years later. It was rebuilt as an open-air steel bridgemarker.

As of 2008, the longest covered bridge in the United Statesmarker is the Smolen-Gulf Bridgemarker spanning the Ashtabula Rivermarker near Ashtabula, Ohiomarker.

The town of Blenheim, New Yorkmarker has the longest single-span covered bridge in the world ( ), built in 1855. The bridge crosses the Schoharie Creekmarker in the northern Catskills. It is one of only six "double-barreled" covered bridges in North America; that is, a bridge with two traffic lanes separated by a supporting truss. There are other double-barreled bridges in Vermont (2), Ohio (1), Indiana (1), and West Virginia (1).

Covered bridges are generally considered old-fashioned and appeal to tourists, but the enclosure acts as weather protection over the working part of the structure. A bridge built entirely out of wood, without any protective coating, may last 10 to 15 years. Builders discovered that if the bridge's underpinnings were protected with a roof, the bridge could stand for 70 or even 80 years. The existing covered bridges have been renovated using concrete footings and steel trusses to hold additional weight and to replace the original support timbers. Some covered bridges, such as the ones in Newton Falls, Ohiomarker and Elizabethton, Tennesseemarker, also feature an integrated covered walkway.

Covered bridges in Asia

Dong Minority Bridge, Chenyang, Guizhou, China


In Asia, covered bridges are most prevalent in Chinamarker, where they are called lángqiáo (廊桥). There are many covered bridges, called "wind and rain bridges" in the Chinese province of Guizhoumarker. These were traditionally built by the Dong minority people. There are also many covered bridges in the Fujianmarker province of southern China.

Taishun County, in southern Zhejiangmarker province near the border of Fujianmarker, has more than 900 covered bridges, many of them hundreds of years old, as well as a covered bridge museum. There are also a number in nearby Qingyuan Countymarker, as well as in Shouning County, in northern Fujian province.

There is a well known covered bridge in Hoi Anmarker, Vietnammarker (in the Quang Nam Provincemarker of Vietnam's South Central Coast), called Chùa Cầu—the Japanese Bridge.

Modern covered bridges



Modern covered bridges are usually for pedestrians, for example to walk from one part of an office building to another part, to cross railway tracks at a station, or in a shopping center on an elevated level, crossing a road. See also skyway.

Glass-walled covered bridges are rather common at American airports, and some of those bridges can be found at John F. Kennedy Airportmarker in New York Citymarker.

Also, some highway bridges, such as the George Washington Bridgemarker, have lower decks for additional capacity, and those decks, while generally open on the sides, can be enclosed with plastic from time to time during construction, thus rendering the lower decks as partially covered bridges.

The Bloor-Danforth subway in Torontomarker,Ontariomarker, crosses the Rosedale Ravine on a covered bridge made of concrete.

Covered bridges in fiction

North American covered bridges received much recognition as a result of the success of the novel, The Bridges of Madison County written by Robert James Waller and made into a Hollywoodmarker motion picture starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood.

The fictional rural town portrayed in the 1988 film Beetlejuice features a covered bridge. It provides the early scene in which the protagonists (played by Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) are killed when their car crashes through the wall of the bridge and plunges into the river below.

A covered bridge is featured in the 1999 film Sleepy Hollow in a scene depicting an encounter between main character Ichabod Crane (played by Johnny Depp) and the main villain, The Headless Horseman (played by Ray Park).

See also

Lists of extant historic covered bridges by U.S. state


References

  1. Covered Bridge Society of Oregon
  2. Fujian Bridges!
  3. Museum of Ancient Bridges, Taishun County
  4. langqiao.net
  5. A History of Subways on Bloor and Queen Streets


External links




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