Audio Tour (Covered Bridges)
Covered Bridge Audio Tour
All tours start and end at the Bennington Center for the Arts, 44 Gypsy Lane, Bennington, Vermont.
● Silk Road Bridge
● Originally: Locust Grove Bridge or the Robinson Bridge. “Silk Road” came from residents nearby, not silk trade.
● Built: (presumably) by Benjamin Sears1840
● Stats: 88 ft. long ~12 high
● Parking: at north west corner of bridge
● Exploration: Small path leads from parking area to river below. Swimming is not suggested by this bridge. When we visited we could not find the treenail with the boys initials, however visitors had carved their own initials in more recent years. Please keep personal momentos of your visits to these bridges in the form of photographs and memories, and be careful to leave these artifacts in the condition in which you found them.
● Photography: Photos should be taken in the afternoon from the s/w corner of the bridge to avoid phone lines.
● Restorations & Damages: Restored 1991 Gilbert Newbury. Damaged in 2011 by Hurricane Irene (damaged and destroyed many other bridges) and repaired. Built in 1840 and still constructed of many of the original parts, the silk road bridge is the oldest remaining bridge in Bennington County.
● Other History: A boy watched the construction of the bridge with his grandfather, and the foreman helped him carve his initials into a trunnel and hammer it into place in the western trusses.
● Paper Mill Village Bridge
● Originally: Named for a 1790 paper mill in the area, one of the state’s first. Also called The Bridge at Bennington Falls
● Built: Charles F. Sears, Son of Benjamin Sears1889
● Stats: 125.5 ft. long ~14.25 high Longest bridge in bennington ct.
● Parking: Through bridge on left at s/e corner. Large lot and descriptive sign by parking.
● Exploration: As this bridge is near a power plant, exploration on site is limited. You are free to explore the bridge itself but much of the surrounding area is private property and restricted. A short walk down a forested path leads to a great view from the river on the bridges western side. Take your first right when exploring this path.
● Photography: Not a particularly photogenic bridge. View of western side with falls is available via path.
● Restorations: Repaired extensively in 1952. In 1986 the bridge was closed to to traffic due to weathering and structural instability, and a substitute bridge was built along the western side. Initial repair costs were estimated at $300,000. Repaired in 2000 and reopened. The substitute bridge no longer exists.
● Other History: The site was adjacent to one of the state’s first paper mills that used the falls for power until around 1958 and closed in the early 1990’s. This paper mill was one of two existing mills that might have made the paper on which the vermont constitution is written. During the later years of the mill’s operations, and the years after it closed, the area and the bridge began to fall to disrepair. The bridge was closed in 1986, and had to be repaired before reopening. In 2009 a clean up effort for the area was led by bill and Maria Scully, the owners of the Paper Mill.
● Henry Bridge
● Originally: Named after Elnathan Henry
● Built: circa 1840 and completely restructured in 1989 with entirely new timber, despite attempts to save the original structure.
● Stats: 117 ft long and _____ ft tall
● Parking: Parking on both sides of southern end, and small spot at n/e corner. Visitors could also pass through the bridge and park in the lot for the park to the right of the bridge, where a view of the bridge from the water is available.
● Exploration: The bridge is easily explored at road height, but this bridge has no paths to the water directly near the bridge. Visitors who pass through the bridge and turn right will see McWaters park on their immediate right. This is a great place to enjoy a picnic if one was brought, and has a nice view of the bridge from tables by the water. An educational sign addressing the history of the bridge is located near the south west corner of the bridge, and a sign denoting the history of the crossing is located upstream accessible through the park.
● Photography: Photos from the park are easy, but aside from power lines along its east side, the bridge and it’s surroundings are fairly photogenic from any angle.
● Restorations: Additional trusses were added to the bridge in an attempt to strengthen it for the passage of loads of iron ore from the local Burden Iron Company mine. In reality, the additional “supports” only added their own weight to the load the bridge was already carrying, and did nothing to strengthen the bridge. These were removed in 1943. “Repairs” by the Cote brothers at Blow & Cote Inc. resulted in a complete overhaul of the bridge in 1989 with entirely new timbers. Miscommunications between state agencies led to a complete disassembly of the old bridge. Though the bridge is identical to the original, none of the original timbers remain. Instead of the traditional Vermont Oak and Spruce, the new bridge is built of Southern pine. The destruction of the old bridge led to new strategies and policies concerning the remaining covered bridges and their repairs and rehabilitation.
● Other History: An older bridge in this location was said to have been built by William Henry Jr. Before this bridge was constructed, this historically crossing saw generals marching to victory at the battle of bennington, and was the location of the original standoff between what would become the green mountain boys and the posse of new yorkers led by a sheriff to take back the land as the property of new york. The resistance that started here and at James Breckenridge’s farm grew until vermont declared it’s independence in 1777.
● West Arlington Bridge or Arlington Green Bridge
● Historically: Bridge at the Green
● Built: 1852
● Stats: 80 ft. long.
● Parking: Through bridge on right by the ramp to the swimming hole or before passing through the bridge on your left
● Exploration: Spanning local swimming hole and a river popular for kayaking and other sports, the bridge is easily accessible from the water. A ramp leads down to a small beach at the southwest corner of the bridge, and parking is available in this same area. A wide portion of the concrete abutment offers a dry place to sit under the bridge and listen to cars driving over the wood supports above, but remember to be careful when exploring the potentially slippery rocks in the area, and make sure you can swim well when going near deep water.
● Photography: One of the most photographed bridges in the county, near Rockwell’s home and a picturesque church.
● Restorations: Susceptible to strong winds in the area, the bridge was blown off it’s foundations in the 1850’s, but it’s construction was so strong that locals were able to use the bridge temporarily even while it was turned on its side. It was taken apart and reassembled on its original foundations, and secured in place with iron rods. When the bridge was hit hard enough by a river swept log to bow the bridge during hurricane Irene, the extra supports added to help the bridge withstand the wind kept it from being knocked downstream. It was closed temporarily for repairs and reopened in 2012. A damaged piece of the bridge is on display in the museum.
● Other History: Built close to Norman Rockwell’s home, which was later turned into a bed and breakfast.
● Chiselville Bridge
● Originally: Historically called the High Bridge (due to it’s height) or the roaring branch bridge after the name of the waterway it spans.
● Built: 1870.
● Stats: 117 ft long. Highest bridge in ct.
● Parking: N/E corner of the bridge, once through on the right.
● Exploration: Once parked near the N/E corner, head back toward the bridge and take the path to your left into the woods. Three smaller paths will diverge toward the river to your right. The first two of these divergences are difficult to explore if you are not prepared to use both hands to balance and pull yourself along. They are more of a climb than a hike or walk. The third path, however, allows visitors to traverse the shallow decline towards the bank of the river and view the bridge from below. This is the best place to photograph this bridge.
● Photography: The best photographs of this bridge are to be taken from the river, where the full effect of its height can be appreciated.
● Restorations: The original Log Stringer crossing in the area proved unsafe when local doctor attempted to cross to go to the aid of revolutionary soldiers and fell into the river during a flood. Inspiration for the original bridge’s replacement was drawn from nearby bridges and a Town Lattice design was chosen. This first replacement was destroyed in a flood in 1869 and Daniel Oatman built his replacement high on the cliffs 40 feet above the river in 1870 to avoid future damage of the same kind. His plan was successful, as his bridge survived the catastrophic flood of 1927 that destroyed many other covered bridges. Two heavy trucks crossing simultaneously damaged the bridge in 1971 and steel girders were added in 1973. These steel beams and the concrete pier supporting the center of the bridge make the trusses superfluous, and now they only support themselves and the roof. Today the bed of the bridge is paved continuously into the road, rather than the traditional wooden bed.
● Other History: Original cost to build the bridge was $2,307.31