Delhi, N.Y., December 20 - A small but hardy band of individuals devoted to area covered bridges braved the raw and windy weather last Thursday in order to be on hand to witness the re-opening of Fitch's Covered Bridge in Delhi.
Following a restoration done totally within the Delaware County Department of Public Works, the bridge was reopened to vehicular traffic (technically on Friday, following the posting of required signs) with a small ceremony which included words from people key to the project.
Clearly delighted by the occasion, Delhi Town Supervisor Gary Manning spoke briefly and cheerfully of the salvation of the famous landmark which crosses the West Branch of the Delaware River, joining County Route 18 with State Route 10 north of the village of Delhi. Manning lauded the combined efforts of county DPW officials in their successful securing of funds for the project, and in doing the actual rebuilding completely within that department, rather than contracting out.
Delaware County Board of Supervisors Chairman James Eisel reinforced the acknowledgement of the hard work and dedication put into the unique project by the DPW crew, and DPW Commissioner Wayne Reynolds stated that his department, in doing the work themselves, brought the cost of the project down from the 1996 bid price of $530,000 to $377,000---and did a stellar job the entire way.
Reynolds then introduced DPW Deputy Commissioner Phil Pierce, whose specialty is covered bridges, and whose engineering designs have resulted in the restorations, in this county, of the Hamden Covered Bridge as well as the Fitch's Covered Bridge within the last two years.
Pierce touched on some of the technical aspects involved in the salvation of the historic bridge, including tackling the discovery of much more hidden deterioration than had been expected. He could not say enough of the enthusiasm shown by his crew of dedicated workmen who pursued the project with diligence and pride. Those men were on hand for the day's event and Pierce's words were reflected by the expressions on their faces.
Pierce explained the reasoning behind the choice of a shingled roof as opposed to the metal roof of the Hamden covered bridge, pointing out that the different construction of the two bridges allowed for different roofing materials. He defended the installation of the six diamond-shaped windows for which there have been mixed reactions; many people have expressed pleasure at the sight, some have disapproved, arguing that the are not "original."
Also part of the brief, upbeat ceremony was a ribbon-cutting by Manning, Pierce, Eisel and Reynolds, with pieces of the ribbon handed out to whomever wanted them as keepsakes. The bridge officially opened to traffic Friday with signs added to the one already posted on the Route 10 end of the bridge which warns that traffic be no "faster than a Walk on this Bridge."
Fitch's Covered Bridge - The newly restored Fitch's Covered Bridge, described by some as a "gem," is the third Delaware County covered bridge to be given new life.
Fitch's Covered Bridge - Phil Pierce and Wayne Reynolds.
Pride is evident on the faces of the four men cutting the ribbon at the brief ceremony signaling the re-opening of the restored Fitch's Covered Bridge in Delhi. (L to R): Delhi Town Supervisor Gary Manning, Delaware County DPW Deputy Commissioner/Bridge Engineer Phil Pierce, Delaware County Board of Supervisors Chairman James Eisel, and Delaware County DPW Commissioner Wayne Reynolds. A larger ceremony is anticipated for sometime in the spring.
[Our many thanks to Gabrielle Buel for the contribution of her article and photographs to this web site. Ms. Buel is reporter for Catskill Mountain News and the Delaware County Times]
1. Article and photos copyright ©2001, Gabrielle Buel