The covered bridges of Vermont are often found on postcards, in stories about the state and on social media sites. They’re the settings for scenic drives, weddings and ghost tales.
Vermont is home to more than a hundred of these historic structures and boasts more covered bridges per square mile than any other state in the country.
The bridges date from 1820, with the majority built during the mid and late 19th century. They were constructed to keep snow off the bridge roadway during winter and provide shelter for travelers during storms. Additionally, the coverings protected the bridges themselves.
The bridges are undeniably romantic, complete with bucolic backdrops and charming hamlets. These weathered beauties are magnets to visitors, who avidly photograph them. They are iconic symbols of our heritage and evoke the spirit of the past to a simpler way of life.
Each bridge is unique, from size and span to its history, color and backdrop. Cambridge Junction Bridge, for example, was created to access a railroad junction and the surrounding village of Cambridge Junction. It has a whopping span of 135 feet, making it one of the longest spans of its type in the U.S. Gates Farm Bridge, on the other hand, only reaches sixty feet and sits in a cornfield on a farm.
Then there’s Red Covered Bridge, which crosses a picturesque gorge. It possesses a queen post truss design and red metal roof and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Jaynes Covered Bridge has several names. When it was built in 1877, the Jaynes family lived nearby. It’s also known by Upper Bridge and Codding Hollow due to its location. And then some people call it the Kissing Bridge, which is a common moniker for many covered bridges.
Bridges with multiple names are not unusual in Vermont. Grist Mill Bridge got its obvious name because it’s by an old grist mill building. But, you might also hear it referred to as Bryant Bridge (someone named Bryant lives in the area), Canyon Bridge (it’s situated on Canyon Road) and Scott Bridge (this could be the name of the man who built it). In truth, the builder’s actual identity is unknown, making the bridge a bit of a mystery.
A favorite among visitors is Gold Brook, or Emily’s Bridge. This 48-foot bridge spans the Gold Brook and is famous for being Vermont’s only haunted covered bridge. The most prevalent story tells of a farmer’s daughter, Emily, who was jilted by her intended groom on the day of their marriage. Despondent, she took her life at the bridge. Some believe that Emily’s spirit continues to haunt the bridge, especially on moonlit nights, when she waits for her man to return.
Other folks remember a version where Emily, deserted by her fiancé, rides back across the bridge in a state of uncontrolled fury. Unfortunately, her horses panicked and she was thrown from the wagon to her death.
Wooden covered bridges are beloved sentinels in rural America. Hopefully they can continue to be preserved to withstand the test of time.