Lamoille’s Covered Bridges
Covered bridges are among our most treasured landmarks.
Stretching across streams and rivers, spanning decades and generations, these simple, straightforward structures are historical sites that give recognition to the men whose construction techniques changed the science of engineering.
There is, to this day, an on-going debate as to why they are covered. The discussion is as broad as it is diverse, embracing romantic notions and practical applications. The most widely accepted answer, however, is perhaps the most obvious—to protect the roadbed and trusses that are integral to the integrity of the bridge. The distinctive coverings did not, and do not add to its structural strength. It is what they did do that has captured our imagination. The caps served to protect wagonloads of hay and weary travelers from sudden storms. They also provided clubhouses for local children, hosted meetings, served as boxing rings, afforded a quiet place for lovers and offered advertisement space.
Once privately owned, with tolls being charged and admonishments to go no faster than a walk when crossing given, these lovely testaments to our culture are now maintained by state and local municipalities.
Lamoille County once laid claim to over a hundred of these wonderful structures. Some of that original number have fallen by the wayside. Others, like the double-track Cambridge Bridge, which now sits on the grounds of the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, VT, were replaced with more modern structures. Still others, like the Fisher Bridge in Wolcott have managed to weather the proverbial storm. Lamoille County is currently home to 14 covered bridges—more than any other county in the Green Mountain State.
Route 15, Wolcott, VT 05680
Built of Southern yellow pine with oak treenails in what is referred to as the Town-Pratt double lattice design, the Fisher Bridge is nothing, if not impressive. From its full-length cupola created to carry away smoke, to the initials engraved in its northeast corner, this railroad covered bridge is truly one of a kind. Built in 1908 by the St. Johnsbury and Lake Champlain Railroad, the 130-foot span is currently owned by the State of Vermont. Saved from potential demolition in 1968, it no longer has any load- bearing function, except for holding itself up. Although two steel overlays with the center ends resting on new piles driven into the riverbed were installed at that time, the Fisher Bridge still stands proudly on its original site.
Gates Farm, or Little Bridge
Route 15, Cambridge, VT
Built in 1897 by George Washington Holmes of Jeffersonville, this Burr Truss arch bridge has, as they say, been around. Originally spanning the Seymour River on the eastern edge of the village, the one-hundred-sixty-foot broad-sided wooden structure was displaced during the historic flood of 1927. It remained 20 feet from its foundation for over two decades. The bridge was moved in 1950 when the Cambridge Bridge was replaced with a concrete and steel structure. The Little Bridge, as it was known back then, was moved to the Gates Farm to allow access to those fields impacted by the diversion. Flood waters again left a mark on the structure in 1995. The bridge has since undergone a comprehensive restoration. Missing today, however, is the pedestrian walkway that had been part of Mr. Holmes primary design. The Gates Farm Bridge sits on private property, so please enjoy it from the roadside.
Montgomery Bridge Road, Waterville, VT 05492
Taking its name from the farm to which it leads, the sixty-three-foot long span is a standard Queenpost Truss design. Built in 1877, it crosses the North Branch of the Lamoille River.
Lumber Mill Bridge
Back Road, Belvidere Center, VT 05442
The name Lumber Mill Bridge is derived from the mills that at one time flanked the banks of the Kelley River, and “sandwiched” the structure itself. A tub factory existed upstream from this site, and a sawmill downstream. In 1971, someone attempted to drive a snowplow through the c. 1890 bridge. The result was disastrous. Not only did the vehicle go through the floor, but the tailgate got hung up on one of the beams.
Morgan Bridge Road, Belvidere Center, VT 05442
Some believe that this 1887 modified Queenpost Truss bridge, built by Lewis Robinson, was reconstructed 21 years later. At 62 feet, the structure over the Kelley River takes its name from the family that at one time lived across the road.
Power House Bridge
School Street, Johnson, VT 05656
Built in 1870 to allow School Street to extend across the Gihon River and thereby connect with the road to North Hyde Park, this Queenpost Truss structure is named for the electric station that sits just upstream. The bridge is known to have been a popular spot for the students of the Johnson Normal School to indulge in forbidden pleasures. And what might those be, you may well ask? According to both oral tradition and written documentation, it was the preferred location for smoking cigarettes and kissing sweethearts.
Rocky Road, East Johnson, VT 05656
Said to have been built as a pony bridge, without sidewalls or a roof, this charming edifice crosses the Gihon River. Thought to have been constructed c. 1920, the structure is of an unusual flattened Queenpost Truss design, which gives credence to the pony bridge theory. Named for one or more local residents, this is the shortest covered bridge in the county.
Emily’s, Gold Brook, or Stowe Hollow Bridge
Gold Brook Road, Stowe, VT 05672
This fifty-foot long unpainted Howe Truss bridge crossing the Gold Brook bears two celebrated marks of distinction. The first is that it is believed to be the oldest covered bridge in Lamoille County, having been built in 1844. The second, and by some standards the more intriguing of the two, is that folks swear it is haunted. There are several versions of Emily’s sad tale to be told. Although the specific details vary, the vast majority of the stories have her meeting her untimely end by either hanging from, or somehow going off the bridge. So you might want to hold on to your hats, as you could be in for a bumpy ride!
Village, or Church Street Bridge
Church Street, Waterville, VT 05492
One of the most charming things about this bridge is to be found in its interior—stencils, and advertisements for liniments and other veterinary medicines. Built c. 1877, it is of Queenpost Truss design, and spans the North Branch of the Lamoille River, also referred to as the Kelley River.
Grist Mill, Grand Canyon, or Brewster River Bridge
Canyon Road, Jeffersonville, VT 05464
Located on Canyon Road, and spanning the Brewster River, this 85-foot wooden structure was dismantled, fortified and put back in place during the spring and summer of 2004. The original date of the Burr Truss arch bridge is unknown. The name Grist Mill reflects the early function of a near-by building.
Cambridge Junction, or Poland Bridge
Poland Bridge Road, Cambridge Junction, VT 05444
Built in 1887 by George W. Holmes, this Burr Truss arch bridge once connected Route 109 with Route 15. The 150-foot span, which crosses the Lamoille River, rests on laid-up stone and concrete abutments. The builder was charged by the town to erect a structure that, among other things, would be of “…sufficient width to withstand the wind.” Said to be the second longest clear-span bridge in the state, it bears the name of Luke P. Poland, a prominent citizen of Waterville during the second half of the nineteenth century.
Jaynes, or Kissin’ Bridge
Codding Hollow Road, Waterville, VT 05492
Just about a half of a mile up the road from the Montgomery Bridge, you will discover another span of similar design. What truly distinguishes this 1877 bridge from its neighbor is a simple sign. Tacked onto the northwest end by a visitor sometime during the 1950s it reads, “KISSING BRIDGE.”
Red, Chaffee, or Sterling Bridge
Sterling Valley Road, Morristown, VT, 05661
The bridge over Sterling Brook takes its name from the vibrant color that envelopes it. Known for its unique truss system, this
1896 structure can accommodate loads of up to six tons. The latter is due to the two steel beams and reinforced concrete roadbed the Vermont Department of Highways added in 1971.