I'll wind up my series of posts about touring the interesting mix of vintage and new covered bridges in Ohio's Ashtabula County with four vintage spans that experienced extensive changes or renovations over the years.
The 228-foot-long Harpersfield Bridge was Ohio's longest covered bridge until the construction of the 613-foot-long Smolen-Gulf span. The state historical marker next to the site tells visitors that the bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places and still lists it as Ohio's longest covered bridge.
The original wooden portion of the bridge spanning the Grand River, built in 1868 to replace an earlier bridge carried away in a spring flood, uses a truss construction introduced by William Howe of Massachusetts in 1840. Howe's system added adjustable vertical iron rods to the "X" formation of the wooden Long truss system developed by government engineer Col. Stephen Long in 1830.
Flooding again caused problems at Harpersfield in 1913, when water washed the supporting bank away at the bridge's north end. The county added a 114-foot steel expansion to the bridge at that time.
A covered walkway along the bridge was part of a 1992 renovation.
The Harpersfield Bridge is a nice spot to spend a little time as it is in a county Metropark. The park offers activities like picnicking and fishing (we talked to a local couple settling in for an afternoon of fishing as we visited the bridge). The park also has restrooms, plus admission is free.
Mechanicsville Road Bridge
The 156-foot-long Mechanicsville Road Bridge is a Howe truss span over the Grand River. My covered bridge tour map says this bridge, built in 1867, may be the oldest existing covered bridge in Ashtabula County.
A 2003 renovation added a laminated arch, 15 layers of 2x8 lumber encased by the original Howe truss.
The town of Mechanicsville surrounded the bridge during the 1800s, when a couple of sawmills and a gristmill on the Grand River drew people to the area. The mills burned, and Mechanicsville became pretty much a ghost town by the early 1900s.
A tavern near the bridge called Grand River Manor is apparently a survivor from Mechanicsville's heyday. The sign I spotted on the front of the business told me dated from 1847. Had had it not been early in the morning when we visited this bridge, the sign's promise of "Good Food, Cold Beer, Lousy Service" might have enticed me to investigate! Again, something different left to do the next time I visit the area.
Riverdale Road Bridge
The Riverdale Road Bridge is a 114-foot-long Town lattice bridge spanning the Grand River built in 1874. Subsequent renovations include replacement of steel supports under the center of the bridge in 1945, addition of laminated girders in 1981, and addition of a concrete abutment in 1987 for added support after a washout of the road at the east end of the bridge.
Windsor Mills Bridge
The nearby village of Windsor Mills had a couple of sawmills and a gristmill during the mid- to late-1800s. The town had as many as 120 residents, a church, a high school, and businesses before disappearing with the demise of the mills (check out the Windsor Mills Historic Church site and Windsor Mills Flickr page for interesting historical photos of the community).
The main road bypassed Windsor Mills Bridge (also known as Wiswell Road Bridge or Warner Hollow Road Bridge) in the 1960s, and the county closed it to traffic in the 1980s due to safety concerns. The bridge reopened to traffic after a 2002-2003 renovation.
The bridge sets upon cut stone abutments. Its unique center supports include one of locally quarried sandstone and another of cut creek stone.
Note: There is some disagreement among sources for some bridge lengths and/or constructions dates. In those cases, I went with the lengths and dates from the covered bridge festival site.
The annual Ashtabula County Covered Bridge festival is the second weekend in October. Check the festival site for a schedule or to order a Covered Bridge Driving Tour Map so you can plan your own self-guided covered bridge tour.
Want to learn more about Ohio's covered bridges? Check out The Covered Bridges of Ohio: A Photo Guide-A Portfolio by Jack R. Perry. This book includes photos, answers questions about covered bridge construction, and gives readers tips for planning their own covered bridge tour.
I find the Delorme Gazetteers invaluable when it comes to planning my Midwest road trips. Plan your next Ohio road trip with the help of Delorme's Ohio Atlas & Gazetteer.
© Dominique King 2010 All rights reserved