Thursday, November 26, 2009

Covered Bridges in New Brunswick

Almost every year the number of wooden covered bridges declines, as weather, wear-and-tear, neglect, and wilful destruction take their toll. Despite the odds, preservationists persist in trying to save these old wooden truss bridges as they are a part of our built heritage. A few have been carefully dismantled and then reassembled in a new location for tourists to admire.

When the population and prosperity of an area increased, roads and bridges were built to connect communities to each other and to more distant markets. By the 1830s, covered bridges were appearing. During the heyday of covered-bridge building in Canada, several hundred were built in New Brunswick.

Only 64 are still remaining in the province, the most famous one passes over the Saint John River in the town of Hartland. Initially an open bridge in 1901, it later became, at 391 m (1,282 ft.), the longest covered bridge in the world.

John and Stephen Gillis, the authors of "No Faster than A Walk", believe that familiarity with the covered bridge and knowledge of the efficiency of the wooden truss may well have been
imported into New Brunswick with the arrival of the United Empire Loyalists in the 1780s.

Covered wooden truss bridges had been built in medieval Europe, and Italian architect Andrea Palladio had explained the mechanics of the truss—a structural frame that exploits the rigidity of the triangle—in his sixteenth-century "Treatise on Architecture". Nonetheless, covered-bridge building in New Brunswick became popular only until after they appeared in the United States.

As people believed that a wish, made while driving through a covered bridge would come true, covered bridges were referred to as “wishing bridges.” Because they offered a secluded spot for romance, they were also called “kissing bridges