The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Covered bridge series

May 9, 2009

Spring Street bridge tackled Gulf divide

Motorists and pedestrians alike cross the Ashtabula River with ease, giving little thought to the structures that facilitate our travel.

However, in the first century of the community’s history, the Ashtabula Gulf provided a formidable challenge to transportation and development.

The chasm’s first crossings were simple wooden bridges elevated only slightly above the water and requiring a long, perilous descent and ascent along the bank to reach. There were two such crossings.

The first was at Tannery Hill. The type of bridge that once stood here has not been documented by history; however, local historian Walter Jack, in a 1951 Erie, Pa., Times article, stated that a covered bridge once stood at Tannery Hill. The crossing evidently required some private financial investment, as there was a toll for traveling the steep roads leading to the bridge. The toll gate was on the east side, known as Harmon’s Hill. In the valley near the crossing was Harmon’s Mill, a stone structure. On the west side, the road connected to North Main Avenue in the city.

The other crossing was near Spring Street (East 46th). Historian Alice Bliss, in a 1968 story about the covered bridge that made that crossing possible, described the route.

“On the river’s west bank, the approach from Ashtabula Village was down Fuller’s Hill, and (the bridge) carried foot and wagon traffic to the East Side near the present (East) 46th St.”

The last covered bridge to stand at this site has been dated to 1876. A notice in the Sentinel newspaper of Jan. 6, 1849, advertised for bids for a new bridge because the original covered bridge in the valley had been washed away by a flood. The new bridge was to be of the same plan as the old one and that of the Conneaut Mill bridge. That advertisement would suggest at least two predecessors to the 1876 bridge, which has been assigned the number 35-04-50. It was also known as the “Main River Crossing.”

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