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An Update on the Hamden Covered Bridge Celebration

by Trish Kane

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From all reports, the dedication of the newly restored Hamden Covered Bridge was a huge success. The weather was fantastic, the speeches were excellent (and brief) and many special presentations were made. Best guess estimate is there were around 500 people in attendance throughout the day. For their assistance in organizing the event, the Hamden Community and Historical Association presented members Bob and Trish Kane with a beautiful print of the Hamden Covered Bridge framed with original wood from the bridge.

For anyone interested, you can still purchase the special edition postcard of the Hamden Covered Bridge that was on sale during the event. They are .75 each or 2/$1.00. If you would like to have the special cancellation added to your card, just add the cost of a 21-cent stamp for each card you order and they will be happy to cancel it for you. But please note, this will only be through the month of August. For more information on how to purchase these beautiful cards, contact Ellie Klukkert, PO Box 9998, Hamden, NY 13782. The phone number of the Hamden Post Office is 607-746-6909.

Hamden Covered Bridge

A Short History

Nestled in the beautiful foothills of the Catskill Mountains, the Hamden Covered Bridge proudly stands as an artifact of a craftsmanship of the past, and a picturesque reminder of another way of life.

Built by Robert Murray in 1859, the 128-foot-long Hamden Covered Bridge is one of the last three covered crossings maintained by Delaware County that still carry traffic across branches of the Delaware River. A contract to construct the bridge was signed between Mr. Murray and the Town of Hamden on April 27, 1859, for the sum of $1,000. The 1830 Long truss design used by Murray was patented by Colonel Stephen H. Long of Hopkinton, N.H.

When originally constructed, the bridge was a single span, but in the 1940s, a center pier was installed for additional support. During the early '60s the timbers and overhead bracing displayed signs for Kendall's Spavin Cure, Herrick's Pills and Ayer's Cherry Pectrol.

The county repaired a lean in the bridge in 1966 by adding two large buttresses on each side. Two new windows cut into each side provided a safe place for young folks to fish and allowed more light into the dark interior. That same year, the bridge received its first coat of red paint. In 1967, the portals had a diagonal appearance, but some time during the late '70s or early '80s the portals were squared off.

Restoration of the Hamden Covered Bridge began in the summer of 2000, with contractor W. L. Kline, Inc. in charge. On July 19, while the bridge was being lifted off its abutments in preparation for the restoration project, an unanticipated mishap occurred. The top chord broke and approximately one-third of the bridge had to be lowered into the river. Fortunately, the damage was not significant.

Restoration went on to include replacement of the tin roof with a standing seam metal roof. Decayed bottom chords were replaced with a single 130-foot glue-laminated chord manufactured by Unadilla Laminated Products in Unadilla, NY. To keep as much of the original Long truss as possible, some truss post members were relocated to accommodate stress levels in different areas of the bridge.

Work continued through the fall, and on November 13, the bridge was moved back over the west branch of the Delaware River. Great care was taken during the process to restore the Hamden Covered Bridge to its original beauty. With the buttresses removed, and the diagonal appearance to the portals returned, she now stands straight, cambered, and proud - a single-span structure once more.

Hamdon Covered Bridge Photo by Dick Wilson
Hamden Covered Bridge
Photo by Dick Wilson
Hamden Covered Bridge Photo by Joe Nelson
Hamden Covered Bridge
Photo by Joe Nelson

Robert Murray

Covered Bridge Builder

Delaware County's most famous bridge builder was a precise and able Scot named Robert Murray. Mr. Murray was born in 1814 at Eskdahmuir, Scotland and immigrated with his parents at the tender age of nine. Murray tried store keeping and then took up heavy contracting.

Between 1854 and 1859 he built four Long truss bridges over the east and west branches of the Delaware River. As he worked down the west branch, he was careful to build each bridge ten feet longer than the one above to allow for the widening stream. This precaution has helped save two of his bridges-at Downsville and Hamden-down to the present day.

Later years found Robert Murray building Town Lattice bridges, and he even tried an experimental Haupt truss or two, which he'd read about in books on carpentry. Folklore has it that at the time the Hamden and DeLancey bridges were being built, Murray, who lived in the hill town of Andes, would walk to his bridge sites early Monday morning, board out during the week, and hike home again Saturday night. During these weekly trips, it is rumored he always went barefoot, carefully carrying his shoes in hand to save wear on them.

Margaretville was the next of the nine recorded Delaware County bridges to be built by Murray. Two of his four sons, James and Robert, carried the two-inch turned oak pins by wagon from Hamden to the Margaretville site.

Murray married Margaret Dowie from Andes and eventually settled in Hamden. He passed away in December 1898. His brother, William Murray, Jr. was a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1868 to 1886. His son Robert married Ida Mallory of Hamden. Robert Murray (the elder) certainly left his mark on Hamden, as well as Delaware County.

Photo of Robert Murray - builder of the Hamden Covered Bridge
Robert Murray
Photo courtesy of Richard Sanders Allen


[Acknowledgements: Text taken from Hamden Covered Bridge Dedication booklet - Ed.]

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