Mail Call May/June 2016: Covered Bridges, Good Neighbors, Remembering Loved Ones and More

Share our readers’ experiences with old-fashioned wooden covered bridges, good neighbors, recollections of loved ones, and more.

  • Grit played an integral role in the construction of the 36-year-old wooden covered bridge, which is a photogenic attraction in the area.
    Photo courtesy Jim Engel; C.O.O. Bavarian Inn Lodge
  • After a change of plans, Elaine manages her late husband’s Holstein herd with some help.
    Photo courtesy Elaine A. Bellows
  • Subscriber Elaine Nordmeyer crafted this quilt which showcases the covered bridges of Vermont.
    Photo courtesy Elaine Nordmeyer
  • The Bavarian Inn Holz Brücke, or “Wooden Bridge,” in Frankenmuth, Michigan.
    Photo courtesy Jim Engel; C.O.O. Bavarian Inn Lodge

Grit’s Covered Bridge

I’m writing you because we receive Grit magazine, and for decades our founder, William “Tiny” Zehnder, read the Grit newspaper. In about 1977, he read an article about the “last” of the wooden covered bridge builders out of New Hampshire in your paper. Tiny, as we called him, wrote a letter to Milton Graton, who was featured in your article. Within a year, Mr. Graton (probably 65-plus years young) and his son came to our Bavarian-themed town of Frankenmuth, Michigan, to talk about building a wooden covered bridge. A contract was hand-written between the two men – I think we still have it – on lined paper, and the process began to build our 239-feet-long, 230-ton wooden covered bridge, known as the Bavarian Inn Holz Brücke, or Wooden Bridge.

Your March/April article “Rural Bridges of America’s Back Roads” invited readers to submit photos of their local old bridges. I thought sending this story of how the Grit newspaper played an integral part in making our bridge a reality was a bit more interesting than just sending the photographs themselves. The bridge just turned 36 years old – likely the youngest wooden covered bridge built in the United States. The first cedar shake roof lasted 35 years. It just received a significant renovation this last summer.

Unfortunately, Tiny Zehnder passed away about eight years ago, but we are a family-run business, and Judy Zehnder, his daughter and president of the Bavarian Inn Lodge, was intimately involved in the process.

Our 1,200-seat Bavarian Inn Restaurant is located on Main Street in “Michigan’s Little Bavaria,” in Frankenmuth, Michigan. Our German culture is celebrated with a Bavarian motif throughout the community.

We just appreciate how Grit magazine was an integral part of our history.

Bridge facts:

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