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How Many Covered Bridges Were There?

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November 17, 2000

Dear Mr. Nelson: I am writing a book for Yale University Press, "Architecture in the United States, 1800-1850." I want to draw attention to covered bridges as important parts of the American landscape in that day. Could I please ask you a few questions about them?

  • How many U. S. covered bridges might there have been originally, both in the entire nineteenth century and in the years 1800-1850?
  • Exactly how many covered bridges from the nineteenth century survive today? How many from 1800-1850?
  • Are you familiar with the Summit Bridge over the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, Delaware, 1820s, demolished 1860s? This must have been one of the most remarkable bridges of its day, yet I have found no information about it. If you could tell me the designer of the bridge, what type of truss it employed, and whether you know of any historian who could tell me about it in detail, I would be grateful.

W. B. M.,
Newark, DE

November 17, 2000

Mr. Maynard: My name is Dick Roy and I am historian for the National Society a job I inherited and enjoy very much. I can answer some of the questions posed by you.

First, on the subject of the Summit Bridge also called the Buck's Bridge. In the book "Covered Bridges of the Middle Atlantic States" By Richard Sanders Allen - Stephen Green Press, Brattleboro Vermont. 1959, Library of Congress Number 59-14038. This should be readily available in any large library.

There is a photo of this structure on page 42. The credit page list Ralph Townsend, I am not familiar with this person. The structure is of the arch Design and most probably of the Burr Arch design. The designer of the particular structure would have to be sought in local histories. The bridge was removed c.1870 with several workmen taking apart the bridge.

It is almost impossible to accurately depict how many were built in the 19th Century. and in the 1800's to 1950's. There were literally thousands of these structures. For instance about 200 covered bridges alone were lost in Vermont in the 1927 flood. I have a listing of about 600 of Vermont bridges that are or once existed. I have documented about 385 in New Hampshire alone and 55 of these exist today give or take one or two. It seems that every time one turns around another is added to the list. I am willing to say that there were over 5000 in the US at one time, However this is strictly a guess.

Many of these bridges were burned during the Civil War, especially railroad covered bridges.

I hope that this information has helped. If I can assist you any further feel free to contact me.

Dick Roy
Manchester, NH

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