May 18, 2024
Ohio’s Lost Covered Bridges

Ohio’s Lost Covered Bridges

Covered bridges have been around since ancient times. In Babylon, some 780 years before the birth of Christ, people have used the practicality of covered bridges in their lives by using roofs and ceilings to protect important bridges from the deteriorating effects of the weather. They also served a militaristic purpose as covered bridges are good spots to defend a palace from invading forces because stone walls and ceilings were obviously perfect in stopping arrows and spears.

America came to love this style of building bridges since the early nineteenth century when Theodore Burr built the first one in New York. People were fascinated by the practicality and durability these bridges offer. Two more were built in Oregon after the first one but unfortunately floods destroyed them a year after they were built. That did not deter the rest of America from adapting the style however, as the succeeding years since that time saw the building of thousands all over America which ushered the era of the covered bridges.

Covered bridges were the best and most practical solution in connecting towns and villages growing on both sides of a river. Ferries were the norm before bridges became common but they were not good for a developing economy. Owners of ferries could charge whatever they want because they had the monopoly in transportation. This led to a growing demand from local townspeople to build bridges.

The local governments at the time, seeing the importance of bridges, then started to put the construction as their top priority. Putting on roofs and walls made to protect the bridges was seen as protecting the taxpayer’s investment since covered bridges lasted up to three times longer than ordinary, exposed ones.

They also serve a myriad of purposes, from providing temporary shelters for travelers stuck because of bad weather to a rendezvous point for secret lovers. No matter what the purpose, the rest of the country fell in love with covered bridges that the ones left now are protected by law and seen as historic pieces worth preserving.

There were at least 12,000 covered bridges all over America at one time and there were around 3,500 of them found in Ohio. However these days, because of rapid commercialization, the availability of new construction materials, and the durability of cement-made bridges, wooden covered bridges are slowly disappearing and have become very hard to find. Some of the historic covered bridges were moved to private estates and parks, while others could no longer be found. Vandalism and arson have also played a role in the destruction of covered bridges in Ohio where at least 10 were destroyed in the last 20 years.

However these days great effort has been made in protecting and preserving these bridges. In Fairfield County, one can still see a covered bridge built in 1883. Though it was moved and partially reconstructed, the same materials and styles were used to preserve its historical integrity. College campuses, private lands, fairgrounds, public parks, and government-owned lands are a few places where you can still find a few of these bridges still being used.

Covered bridges in Ohio are treated as public property and therefore maintained and protected using public funds. Form 3500, only over a hundred covered bridges are left in Ohio where people are now taking on the fight to preserve them. Ohioans has enjoyed and benefited from covered bridges since they were first made, and now the great-grand children of the state are doing the best they can to stop the slow disappearance of these historic landmarks that has helped shape the economy and history of America.