These days, covered bridges are considered great historical pieces or architecture that are protected and preserved under the United States Law. There are at least 200 covered bridges across America. Most of them, especially the ones under the management and protection of the National Registry of Historic Places, were built in the early nineteenth century.
During that time, there was a huge movement of people from coastal cities towards the interior of the country where there were a lot of creeks, streams and rivers. Towns and villages soon rose near these waterways since they were the practical places for thriving communities. The waterways also provided power for their mills and a ready source of potable water, which are very important for growing towns.
As these towns grew on both sides of the river, there was an apparent need for bridges to connect the townspeople together and provide access to important infrastructures like schools, churches, and hospices. Covered bridges then became the most practical solution for connecting both sides of the river, thus paving the way for growth and development.
But why cover these bridges? Was there a need? Apparently yes, and there were lots of proposed reasons why covered bridges became the norm during the time. It is widely said that necessity is the mother of innovation, and the walls and roofs of these bridges did serve a very practical purpose far from the aesthetics that most people appreciate nowadays. The first reason for covering these bridges were to make them appear like barns.
In the old days, crossing horses and farm animals on bridges were more dangerous than it would seem. Stampedes were common when horses and livestock were forced to cross bridges and see the running waters of the river. To avoid this, covering bridges made it easier for farmers and animals to cross rivers and get to the greener grass on the other side.
Another reason for building these bridges were to keep snow off them during winter. Heavy snow fall could spell disaster for small bridges with weaker support. Another practical reason for making covered bridges was to help accommodate travelers during bad weather. Old covered bridges can shelter a small group stuck in town because of a storm. It also made it easier for townspeople to accommodate strangers during such times.
A romantic reason proposed by an old poet said the covered bridges also made it possible for young lovers to steal a kiss from each other without getting caught – rather unlikely but ironically, covered bridges nowadays do serve a romantic purpose because it has become quite fashionable to hold wedding ceremonies on them. But the most widely popular reason for building covered bridges is to expand the lifespan of the bridge itself.
Wood, which is commonly used for these bridges, can easily deteriorate if exposed to harsh weather conditions all year round – heat in the summer and extreme cold in the winter. Covered bridges lasted three times longer than ordinary bridges because of the protection the roof and walls provided. Insulation was also good for wood and covered bridges allowed the interior to maintain a uniform temperature providing shade from the sun and rain – which made the bridge last longer and practically safer for people to use.
No matter what the reason, covered bridges are considered by many as romantic, historical pieces that should be preserved and protected. They are part of America’s history and protecting them should be a priority for towns and counties where they can still be found.