You met me at the bridge today!
Last week, I announced my intention of taking Mama’s Empty Nest readers on another excursion of sorts via a few of my photographs.
Last year, we traveled on my Tuesday Tour of lighthouses I’ve photographed. Today begins our new tour of historical covered bridges.
I’ve often viewed covered bridges, particularly because we live in a state where we have a plethora of them still existing. But I didn’t capture photos of them until July 2012. Back then, one of our chicks, our eldest, had flown back into this empty nest while planning her upcoming wedding.
On a whim, the three of us hit the highway on July 4th for a day-long road trip to Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Our main stop was to visit the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville (site of the third plane downed on that fateful September 11, 2001 day), since our daughter had never seen the site and we hadn’t viewed new landmarks added there since our previous visit several years before.
After our somber viewing of the memorial grounds, we climbed back in the car to meander around some country roads. Less than two miles from the memorial, we found the Glessner Covered Bridge, north of Shanksville in Stonycreek Township.
This historic two-span structure is one of 10 remaining covered bridges in Somerset County. Originally constructed in 1881 by Tobias Glessner, the 90-foot-long and 12-foot-wide bridge crosses over the Stonycreek River, a tributary of the Conemaugh River.
When Glessner built the bridge at a reported cost of $412, multiple kingpost and burr arch style trusses were utilized in its design. Now that didn’t mean a thing to me so I had to research what those terms meant.
I found that a kingpost style, considered to be a simple truss form, is often used for short-span bridges and roof trusses. It consists of two diagonal lengths of wood meeting at the apex of the truss, one horizontal beam tying the bottom end of the diagonals together, and a king post connecting the apex to the horizontal beam below.
For a bridge, the builder would need to use two kingpost trusses with the driving surface between them. Covering the bridge with a roof would require side by side trusses where the diagonals are rafters, and the horizontal serves as a ceiling joist.
A burr arch truss is a combination of an arch and multiple kingpost trusses. Burr arch trusses were devised by Theodore Burr in 1804 and used especially in covered bridges. If I understand it correctly, the arch truss along with a kingpost truss makes the bridge more stable and capable of supporting a greater weight.
If you’re architectural/construction deficient like me, that is as clear as mud, so I needed a visual to understand that. You can see the trusses on the inside of the bridge, which is covered with a tin gable roof, in the photos below. Two-thirds of the bridge’s exterior is covered with vertical wood planks and one-third of the interior is also planked.
Years took their toll on the Glessner Covered Bridge by 1969, so a concrete pier was added and abutments were reinforced with concrete. However, by 1995, the structure had deteriorated so much, it was closed to traffic.
A major rehabilitation project consisting of a new concrete pier and abutments, replacement of some of the wooden components, and the addition of steel beams underneath the deck were accomplished by 1998.
Currently, Glessner Covered Bridge is in good condition, open to vehicular traffic, and owned and maintained by Somerset County. In 1980, the bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
One of the aspects of this particular covered bridge striking me most is the amount of know-how and hard work the builder must have put into constructing it. Maybe these old covered bridges can teach us a lesson – a lesson from those days of yore that we should utilize now during our uncertain times and into the future.
When we exert a good deal of effort and we work hard at the task before us, our dreams can become reality.
“Effort and hard work construct the bridge that connects your dreams to reality.” ~Daisaku Ikeda