Photo Essay: Stone and Wooden Covered Bridges of Early American Settlement

A tribute to covered bridges and other early American structures that made life easier and safer for our ancestors.

  • This covered bridge lies nestled in the White Mountain National Forest of New Hampshire.
    Photo by RM
  • The Goldbrook Covered Bridge in Stowe, Vermont during the winter.
    Photo by Sohm
  • Bedford County Bridge #15, built in 1880.
    Photo by Terry Wild Stock
  • This bridge has stood the test of time, to the tune of 1911.
    Photo by Sicolo
  • Gilkey Covered Bridge, Covered Bridge Country Tour, Linn County, Oregon.
    Photo by Ostertag
  • Covered bridge, Middle Bridge, Woodstock, Vermont, USA.
    Photo by Greim
  • Gapstow Bridge Pond, Central Park in Manhattan, New York City.
    Photo by Kord
  • A covered bridge in the northeast.
    Photo by Erika Mitchell

In the early days of American settlement, timber, stone and masonry were the most abundant resources our pioneer forefathers had for building bridges throughout the countryside. Thankfully, today a lot of these same bridges are still around and in use, just like grist mills and barns from days of yore.

In the old days, bridges made from wood were often covered for two reasons. First, because covering them reduced aging brought on by weather and sunlight, and secondly, because they more closely resembled a barn, which meant horses and livestock might find them less threatening to pass through compared to an open bridge with water or rock underneath.

As time wore on, timber and stone gave way to steel and other metals, and the era of the old wooden and stone bridges became a thing of the past. To appreciate their longevity and beauty is to pay homage to our ancestors’ pioneer engineering efforts, and today they are still a sight to behold, on some of America’s rural roads less traveled.  

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