The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Covered bridge series

February 1, 2009

Paying homage to our ancestors’ forgotten crossings

A CARL E. FEATHER column

Long before Ashtabula County was selected as the site for the nation’s longest covered bridge, the area had already established itself as an enclave for wooden crossings, several of them unique among Ohio’s covered-bridge population.

That inventory included two of the unique double-barrel or two-lane covered bridges, a Conneaut crossing with twin bridges, two Ashtabula Gulf spans that predated the Smolen-Gulf bridge by more than a century and a romantic little gal that stood along the Lake Erie shoreline.

The county’s population of legacy bridges – those constructed when covered bridges were the accepted practice among highway builders – is only one quarter of what once stood here. It is to be assumed, therefore, that there are many Ashtabula County residents alive today who never had the experience of driving through the Crooked Gulf covered bridge, taking refuge in one of the several extinct Pierpont or Monroe Township spans during a rainstorm or sliding under the Fobes Road bridge in a canoe.

During the next several months, the front of this section will feature these “Forgotten Crossings” with profiles of the county’s extinct covered bridges that spanned rivers and creeks, centuries and generations, and vastly different economies and modes of transportation.

The latter two, in many instances, doomed their being. A newspaper article dating from the late 1940s and written by Carl C. Plain predicted “inevitably, all of the county’s covered bridges must be cleared some day from the path of progress. They are quaint and picturesque and have linked two centuries with different modes of travel, but they were never intended to withstand the speed, volume or weight of modern-day traffic.”

Later in that article, Plain declared “Engineers of today would consider it a fine example of efficiency if modern bridges could be constructed to serve with equal effectiveness and low cost over such an extended period of time.”

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