One of the uniquely New England features is the covered bridge. The State of New Hampshire has over 50 covered bridges still standing and you are within a two-hour drive of 8 of those bridges. Coming into Percy Lodge from the west on Rt.110, you passed by two of the bridges, one in Groveton Center and the other in Stark Center. In the town of Lancaster, 10 miles south of Groveton there are two more covered bridges. In the town of Columbia, 27 miles north of Groveton, there is a covered bridge across the Connecticut River between New Hampshire and Vermont. In the town of Pittsburg, 40 miles north of Groveton, there are 3 more covered bridges.
You may be interested to know that bridges across the Connecticut River are only listed in New Hampshire. This is due to the fact that the New Hampshire border with Vermont is at the low water on the western bank of the Connecticut River. Therefore even though the Connecticut River is considered to be the border with Vermont, the Connecticut River actually flows through New Hampshire. (This was based on a 1934 United States Supreme Court decision.) Since the river is in New Hampshire, the bridges are also considered to be in New Hampshire as well.
The old rumor about covered bridges is that they were built for discretely kissing your favorite girl on the buggy ride home from church. Of course the reasons are far more practical.
When winter came during the 1800’s, the main modes of transportation (wheeled buggies and wagons) were stored for the winter and they were replaced with sleighs. The road agents of the day used large barrel-like devices drawn by horses to roll the snow flat and hard. Of course, this caused a problem for the bridges because they were built of wooden timbers and could not support the weight of a long winter's snow.
Covered bridges were actually invented in Europe to solve the same snow problem and some enterprising colonists adapted the European designs for bridges in Connecticut. These early colonists named and patented their truss designs, so that is why you see truss names associated with covered bridges.
Once the viability of large wooden bridges was proven, towns, toll-bridge companies and railroads began building them. By the early 1800's, several contractors were competing for a piece of the bridge building market all around New England.
We are fortunate to have several covered bridges close by to Percy Lodge. Below is a list of those bridges along with directions. If you can’t find a bridge, just ask a local resident. Everyone in town knows where the covered bridges are located.
Built: 1862. Two-span, 134'-1" in length over the Upper Ammonoosuc River using Paddleford truss construction.
Location: Rt. 110 in the center of Stark Village, 8 miles east of Groveton.
Historical Notes: The Bridge was originally a simple Paddleford truss with a center Pier. During the 1890's, high water removed the center pier and the bridge was washed downstream. It was brought back by men and oxen and set on new stone piers. Arches were added to strengthen the span and the center pier was removed. The bridge failed again in the 1940's and in 1954 it was rehabilitated by removing the arch, adding some steel girders and building a center pier.
During the 1950's, the people of Stark voted to replace the bridge with a new steel bridge. The outcry from artists and covered bridge enthusiasts was so great that instead, with aid of the state, the covered bridge was restored. The site is scenic and a popular location for photographers, and it was the second most photographed place in New Hampshire behind Old Man in the Mountain. Since the Old Man fell down in 2003, we suspect this bridge and the surrounding area is now in first place.
The Stark Bridge was featured on the town of Stark's Bicentennial Medal in 1974. A new roof was built in the summer/fall of 1982 at a cost of $18,750. The state repaired the underside of the bridge in 1983 at a cost of $35,500. The Stark Bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The bridge was closed in 2014 for a full restoration at a cost of $1.1 million dollars and it was reopened with a well-attended bridge dance in 2015.
In 2017, a dump truck with his dump bed raised ran into the bridge. The repairs were made by none other than master carpenter Kevin Spencer, co-owner of Percy Lodge and Campground.
Built: 1852. 126 ft. in length over the Upper Ammonoosuc River using Paddleford truss with added arches.
Location: At the intersection of Rt. 3 and Rt. 110 in Groveton, NH.
Historical Notes: Built by Capt. Richardson & Son and ow used for foot, snowmobile and ATV traffic. When U.S. Route 3 was reconstructed in 1939, the Groveton Covered Bridge was bypassed. Milton Graton and his son Arnold repaired it in 1964-1965. A water supply line was suspended beneath the bridge but it was later learned that vibrations from the water line were affecting the bridge.
In 2018 the water line was rerouted under the Upper Ammonoosuc river using an underground boring machine and the old water line was removed from the bridge.
Further repairs took place in 2020, after a $10,000 Moose Plate Grant was approved on December 18, 2019. The repairs included removing and replacing the clapboards on the north end of the bridge, removing and replacing at least half of the boards on south end gable, removing and replacing at least one strut on the bridge’s downstream side, along with giving the bridge a nice, fresh coat of paint.
Built: 1911. Two-span, 266'-3" in length over the Connecticut River. Howe truss.
Location: West of Rt.135, 5 miles west of Lancaster Village between Lancaster, NH and Lunenburg, VT.
Historical Notes: The first bridge at this site was constructed in the 1860's or 70's to connect the towns of Lancaster and Lunenburg. The owner, Union Bridge Company, operated it as a toll bridge until a log jam destroyed it in 1908.
Ferry service connected the two communities until a new bridge was built in 1911. Each town contributed $2,500. The remaining $1,678 was raised by subscription. The timber for the bridge was precut and assembled at the site.
In 1969, a truck loaded with highway salt dropped through the deck and landed on the ice below. The front of the truck hooked on a steel rod in the bridge while the rear rested on the ice below. The truck was raised, disengaged from the bridge, and lowered to the ice. It was quickly dragged from the salt weakened area, turned upright and loaded on to a flatbed on the Vermont side of the river.
The bridge was closed on July 5, 1983 for twelve weeks to allow rehabilitation by the state of New Hampshire at a cost of $133,000. Funding came from the towns of Lancaster and Lunenburg, the states of New Hampshire and Vermont, and a federal Historic Preservation Fund matching grant from the National Park Service. The re-dedication of the bridge took place on November 23, 1983. The Mt. Orne Bridge is listed on the National Register of Historical Places.
Built: 1862. 94'-3" in length over the Israel River. Paddleford truss.
Location: East of the intersection of Rt. 2 and Rt. 3 in Lancaster Village.
Historical Notes: At a meeting on July 10, 1862, shortly after the construction of the bridge, the citizens of Lancaster voted to instruct the selectmen to put a signboard at each end of the bridge that prohibited driving across the bridge at a pace faster than a walk.
In 1962, Lancaster requested the state to provide an estimate for rehabilitation of the Mechanic Street covered bridge. The total cost was estimated to be $18,000 of which $10,800 was to be the responsibility of the town with the remainder to be furnished by the state. The town took no action this estimate at their annual town meeting, however, the abutments were repaired in 1967 by the state. Subsequent repair work was done in 2004.
This bridge is also known as the Israel River Bridge. The Mechanic Street Bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Built: 1912. 145'-9" in length over the Connecticut River. Howe truss.
Location: West of Rt.153 in Columbia Village. Bridge runs from Columbia, NH to Lemington, VT
Historical Notes: Built by Charles Babbitt, the Columbia Bridge was built in 1912 to replace an earlier bridge, which had been destroyed by fire the previous year. It was rehabilitated by the state in 1981 at a cost of $143,000. It is the most northerly Connecticut River Bridge connecting Vermont and New Hampshire. The Columbia Bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Columbia Covered Bridge and the Mount Orne Bridge in Lancaster are the only highway bridges remaining in the state of New Hampshire which are supported by Howe trusses. Both bridges, which were completed in successive years (1911-12), are also the last covered bridges built on public highways during the historic period of covered bridge construction in New Hampshire and Vermont, which began about 1820.
The Howe truss, which was introduced about 1840 with its combination of wood and iron structural members, represents the transition from wood to iron bridges. The lower initial cost of the Howe structure compared with that of wholly iron or steel construction undoubtedly accounts for its extraordinarily late use at the two lightly traveled crossings served by the Columbia and Mount Orne bridges.
Built: 1876. 88'-6" in length over the Connecticut River. Paddleford truss with added arch.
Location: South of Rt. 3, 1 mile west of Pittsburg Village.
Historical Notes: Of the remaining covered bridges in New Hampshire, the Pittsburg-Clarksville bridge is located the furthest north over the Connecticut River. The actual date of construction is unknown, but there is a reference in town records that states, "In 1876, money was raised to build a bridge at Fletcher 's Mill." It is assumed, by town officials, that this is the date of the present bridge. (Ebenezer Fletcher owned a sawmill that was built in 1825 near this bridge.)
In 1878, the Town of Clarksville was approached by Pittsburg officials to see what the town would do about paying Pittsburg for building two-thirds of the bridge near the Fletcher Mill. The Town of Clarksville voted not to pay the Town of Pittsburg anything.
This structure is one of seven covered bridges built in Pittsburg and one of three that remain standing. The bridge is also known as the Bacon Road Bridge. It was rehabilitated in 1974 at a cost of $6,700. The residents of Clarksville were more accommodating in this century and agreed to share the costs of rehabilitation with Pittsburg and the state. It was closed to traffic in 1981.
Built: Mid-1800's. 60'-6" in length over Perry Stream. Paddleford truss with added arch.
Location: One mile south of Rt. 3 and 6 miles northeast of Pittsburg Village.
Historical Notes: Happy Corner was a bustling neighborhood in the late 1800's. At the Perry Stream crossing there was a sawmill, a starch mill, a store with a post office, a barbershop, and the Temperance Hall. Nearby was the Danforth School. It has been stated by the Pittsburg Historical Society that before the building of the bridge, people used to ford the stream just upstream, where the water was shallow.
The following story is one of several that tell how the bridge got its name. There was an elderly gentleman who lived in a house, which is still standing on the northeast corner of the crossroads. This gentleman liked to sing and dance he owned a Victrola which he played frequently. People congregated at his house and generally had a "happy" time singing and dancing. That's why the crossroads was called Happy Corner.
Happy Corner Bridge is one of the oldest covered bridges in northern New Hampshire. In the mid 1960s, it was repaired by the state at a cost of $12,000. The cost of the repairs was shared by the town of Pittsburg and the state.
Built: 1858. 50'-6" in length over Perry Stream. Queen-post truss.
Location: South of Rt. 3 and Rt. 51, 2 miles northeast of Pittsburg Village.
Historical Notes: Little is known about this bridge and nothing has been recorded in the town records. It crosses the Perry Stream near it's connection to the Connecticut River. The bridge has now been bypassed with a new road bridge built alongside the covered bridge.
The bridge is closed to all but pedestrian traffic. Periodically, volunteers have undertaken the cleaning of the bridge and minor repairs.