Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: The Bridges of Somerset County

Each time I view photos of the covered bridges I highlight today in this Tuesday Tour, a certain title of a book and movie come to my mind.

You see, these structures are three out of 10 remaining covered bridges in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. And each time I think “the bridges of Somerset County,” my mind leaps to a book written in the 90’s, one that became a popular movie in the same decade, The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller.

“First you must have the images, then come the words.” ~ Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County

The story involves star-crossed lovers: a professional photographer, who travels to Madison County, Iowa to take photos of famous covered bridges there for National Geographic, and a lonely farmer’s wife. I can honestly say I didn’t care much for either the book or the movie (which starred Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep), but for some reason, that title sticks in my mind.

So here are some of the bridges – not of Madison County, but of southern Somerset County – which we visited by happenstance last summer. In the midst of the you know what, Papa and I needed a get-away, so one Saturday we embarked on a day trip out into nature, one where we wouldn’t encounter a lot of people.

After arriving at the 20,500-acre Ohiopyle State Park, which serves as a gateway into the Laurel Highlands, we hoped to enjoy a view of Ohiopyle Falls, a 20-foot waterfall on the Youghiogheny (pronounced YOK-i-gay-nee) River.

But the place was crazy busy with people who had the same idea, so we nixed that,  shelving it for a week-day another time when it might be less crowded. After finding a quiet spot for a picnic lunch, we meandered down country roads and wound up in Somerset County in search of three covered bridges that all cross the same ribbon of water, Laurel Hill Creek.

The first one we encountered was the Lower Humbert Covered Bridge, near Confluence, PA, about a 25-minute drive from Ohiopyle. Also called the Faidley Covered Bridge, it’s located at an intersection of Humbert and Covered Bridge Roads in Lower Turkeyfoot Township.

At 126. 5 feet in length, 12.3 feet in width, and 8 feet high, the double span bridge was constructed in 1891, using Burr arch truss and King-post design. Maintained by the county, Lower Humbert was rehabilitated 100 years later in 1991 when two steel beams were added in order to support vehicular traffic and a concrete pier, encased in stone, near the bridge’s mid-way point was also included.

Today, this covered bridge, is in good condition and we enjoyed driving through it. Research revealed that it was not the only covered bridge that existed in that area in the past. One called the Upper Humbert Bridge, which also had a King-post design, once stood about one mile upstream from the Lower Humbert. Unfortunately, an arsonist destroyed that bridge in 1969 and it was not rebuilt. 

We next found King’s Covered Bridge, also located in Middlecreek Township just off Route 653 about 12 miles southwest of Somerset.  We appreciated the fact that there were ample parking spaces in a park-like setting so sightseers can walk through the bridge, which is not open to vehicular traffic, and that a picnic pavilion is adjacent to it. The site is owned and maintained by the township.

The date this 127-foot long and 12-foot-wide bridge was constructed is not certain. At one time, King’s Bridge was believed to have been built in 1802, but that conflicts with the fact that covered bridges were not erected in that area until the late 1800’s. Research on covered bridges indicates that the first confirmed American covered bridge was bult in 1805 in Philadelphia, PA across the Schuylkill River.

So more than likely, a bridge (not covered) may have been erected there in 1802 but was replaced by King’s Covered Bridge using multiple King-post trusses. Then in 1906, the bridge was rebuilt using Burr arch trusses.

After being bypassed in the 1930’s by a modern, steel bridge, King’s Covered Bridge fell into disrepair and actually was used as a livestock barn for several decades, Thankfully, it was rehabilitated in 2008.

It is beautiful from the outside. However, what disturbed me most about this link to the past was, after waiting for a couple of bicyclers to pass through the bridge (photo at beginning of this post), we walked inside to find its interior walls covered in spray-painted graffiti. What a shame.

King’s Covered Bridge is not far from the ski resort areas of Seven Springs and Hidden Valley. It’s also a short distance from Cole Run Falls, which is a popular set of waterfalls.

Just a few minutes away from King’s Bridge, we located another covered bridge, which I think is my favorite of the three.  (Maybe because there were old-fashioned roses and daisies in bloom beside it.) Barronvale Covered Bridge, the longest of the 10 remaining covered bridges of Somerset County at 162 feet in length, is also known as Barron’s Mill Bridge.

This nearly 14-foot wide, two-span Burr truss structure is not open to vehicular traffic and can be found in Middlecreek Township in a beautiful setting. It is in very good condition, but it is privately owned so visitors need to be respectful of that. Sightseers can park and walk through the bridge though.

A placard at the bridge details its history, stating that a miller named Peter Kooser petitioned county commissioners in 1828 to build a bridge near his gristmill for his patrons. By 1830, Barronvale’s construction was completed by builder Cassimer Cramer at a cost of $300.

In 1845, the two-span bridge needed repairs to strengthen it so heavy Burr arches were installed, which allegedly cost the county $750. Repaired again in 1907, stone supports, which came from a nearby quarry, were installed.

All three of these historic covered bridges were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. They serve as reminders to the past and are worthwhile remembering and visiting.

“The heart never forgets, never gives up, the territory marked off for those who came before.” ~ Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in Life, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: a bridge to serve

Located in many communities, throughout not just America but internationally as well, are groups of people whose motto is “We Serve.”

I’m referring to a non-political, service organization known as the Lions Club. I have a bit of knowledge about the good and beneficial projects these clubs perform because Papa once belonged to a Lions Club and even served as King Lion (President) of a local chapter.

So how does the Lions Club pertain in any way to my Tuesday Tour of covered bridges? Read on please.

Venturing around some country roads in Pennsylvania’s Somerset County back in the summer of 2012, Papa, our oldest daughter, and I discovered the Trostletown Covered Bridge, one of only two surviving multiple kingpost bridges in that county.

The three-span structure features three pairs of kingpost trusses with queenposts and is covered with half-height plank siding and an asbestos shingled gable roof.  Located in Quemahoning Township near Stoystown, this historic bridge was built over Stonycreek River near property that once was owned by Daniel Trostle’s mill. 

Conflicting dates appear concerning the year of its construction. Some indicate Trostletown Bridge, also known as Kantner Bridge, was erected in 1845 by an unknown builder. Other research shows the bridge being built later in 1873.

However old it is, this 104-foot long and 12-foot, 8-inch wide covered bridge is one of 10 in Somerset County, still stands in its original location on original cut stone abutments and stone and mortar piers, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. 

By the 20th century, the bridge had become time-worn and deteriorated, but in 1965, the Stoystown Lions Club stepped up to the plate to restore and preserve it. The bridge now stands in the Stoystown Lions Club Park and is privately owned by the club. 

Because of the ongoing preservation of the bridge, Trostletown Covered Bridge, which was re-dedicated in 1993, is in good condition but is now only used for pedestrian traffic.

Since our visit back in 2012, a new attraction has been added to the bridge. Visitors can view a restored conestoga (covered) wagon parked inside this interesting piece of history.

Thanks to the Lions Club extending their hands of service, Trostletown Covered Bridge remains a link to Pennsylvania’s past.

We could all take a lesson from the Lions Club by building our own bridges, lending a hand to others in service, and providing a link from one person to another for a better world.

“Build a bridge by extending your hand.” ~ Ken Poirot

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021

Posted in photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: hard work and effort

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

©mamasemptynest.wordpress.com 2021