The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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Covered bridge series

March 12, 2009

Suspicious fire claimed county’s ‘best covered bridge’

Old Plank Road bridge stood near Trumbull County line

The Old Plank Road, made of lumber, ran between Lake Erie and Pittsburgh, an incredible accomplishment as well testimony to the abundance of timber in the Western Reserve two centuries ago.

Although the namesake planks rotted away more than a century ago, the road’s name remains in some sections of the region. In Windsor, it is also known as South Windsor Road, and was home to a Forgotten Crossing of recent departure.

The bridge crossed a branch of the Grand River near the Trumbull County line and three miles southwest of Orwell. In the pioneer road’s heyday, a toll booth once stood near the site of the bridge.

It was built around 1870, when the a notice for bids was first advertised in the Geneva Times. The span was 87 feet, the length 103 feet and the roadway 14.5 feet wide. It was a Town lattice structure, set on abutments without a center pier. On one side of this bridge was a small steel span with arched sides that crossed a smaller channel.

This swampy area, just east of Fortney Road, was nicknamed “Frog Alley,” and became a landing zone for African-American families from the Cleveland area seeking cheap land on which to farm and build a homestead.

Despite the frequent flooding that affects this are to this day, the old covered bridge’s demise came from other sources.

In 1957 a newspaper article told of how large trucks were still squeezing through the low clearance of the bridge, just 10 feet and 11 inches, the lowest of any covered bridge in the county. On at least one occasion, a motorist reported finding roof timbers in the road, evidently torn loose by a truck too large for the passage. The highway department repaired the bridge, but its days were numbered, not by traffic, but arsonists.

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