A lot of people might wonder what covered bridges are and what makes them different from ordinary bridges. Pictures might say it all but to put it plainly; a covered bridge is a bridge that has enclosures on the sides and has a roof. They are usually single-lane and can only accommodate a light load.
Far from being prominent landmarks and architectural candies, they were originally made for a more practical reason – to connect a town that is developing on two sides of a river. Early nineteenth century America saw the first covered bridges and they were very useful in connecting communities together.
Towns and villages that sprung up in the interior parts of the countries where rivers, streams and creeks were a plenty, needed bridges to prevent the division of the towns people and helped them get connected to basic infrastructures and services. These unique bridges have since grown into prominence as bigger cities rose in coastal areas, and towns where they can be found became suburbs and country estates. Recently, covered bridges are catching the attention of historic preservationists who are taking on the cause of maintaining covered bridges for their historical value.
The Technical Aspect of Covered Bridges
Early covered bridges were usually made of wood since there was a surplus of lumber at the time they were first made. Modern covered bridges though are commonly made of steel or glass and have become more intricate and flamboyant in its design. Earlier bridges were made to look more like a barn so it can blend in with the background of the country while modern ones are usually made to stand out. Ordinary bridges made of wood are always exposed to the elements, so covering them was a very ingenious way to extend its lifespan, save more tax money in maintenance, and in the old days, as a shelter for travelers during storms and unfriendly weather.
A majority of covered bridges use trusses as a key structural element in its design. The most popular was the Brown truss used for its simplicity and practicality but other trusses were also used. In the modern times, steel and concrete has become more available and structurally speaking, safer. These days, covered bridges are used either used for convenience rather than protection, or as means to make a design statement.
Whether for style or convenience, covered bridges have become part of the history of American towns that grew and prospered with them. These days a lot of historical conservationists are fighting for the preservation of old covered bridges as part of American heritage. Most of the bridges are found in rural America and thus more susceptible to the threats of arsonist, vandals, and flooding. Over two hundred (200) covered bridges have been identified all over America and the towns where they can be found are initiating the fight to preserve them.
Covered bridges have played an important part of America’s history and growth. Most historians agree that they are significant historical pieces that should be protected and maintained in order to preserve the history of old towns where they have become landmarks. Though modern bridges have become the ideal, wooden covered bridges are still able to maintain its rustic charm – something that most people are looking for when they go to the country side to enjoy the scenery. Towns are even renovating dilapidated covered bridges for the same reason, and hopefully, America’s great grandchildren can still enjoy these historical pieces of American engineering for many years to come.