The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Covered bridge series

May 16, 2009

‘First Covered Bridge’ fondly recalled

Construction of Smolen-Gulf continued tradition of covered bridge at site

It was known as “The First Covered Bridge.”

Not because it was first to be built in the county — as for documented bridges, that honor would go to the twin-span Morgan Township bridge, dated to 1832 — but because the Crooked Gulf covered bridge was the first in a series of bridges along the Ashtabula River.

The bridge, number 35-04-01, was located at the foot of State Road, the spot where the low-level bridge stood before the Smolen-Gulf covered bridge was constructed. The bridge was built in 1867 and was 120 feet long. It spanned 100 feet and had an east abutment of stone with concrete wings; the west one was concrete.

The bridge appears to have been a Town lattice type. It was high above the river and, therefore, did not suffer the injustices of periodic flooding its upstream cousin had to suffer.

Crooked Gulf lived up to its name, situated on a sharp turn in the curvy road as it descended into the valley from the east side. Historian Alice Bliss described it as a “tunnel” that seemed to terminate at the perpendicular wall of shale. After crossing the bridge, the road dipped once more and leveled out for a short distance along Indian Trails Park at a popular spot for picnics.

Indeed, the bridge was for decades the focal point of a recreation area that included a popular swimming hole and a broad rocky area along the river where campfires could be built and picnics enjoyed. It was an ideal location for a covered bridge.

In 1945, the structure was reinforced with a support at midpoint to purchase a few more years of service from its old timbers. The bridge was slated for replacement, a process that began in 1948.

The new bridge was built adjacent to the covered bridge, with the new bridge’s west abutment farther upstream. The approach angle thus was altered and the blind spot and sharp curve eliminated. The center pier was built first, followed by the new west abutment.

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