The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Covered bridge series

May 16, 2009

Olin Bridge county’s only extant covered bridge with family name

Olin family members take special pride in bridge, honor ancestor with covered bridge museum


“He would have been 23 at the time, and I can’t help but believe he would have been involved in building the foundation abutment,” Bottorf says.

The bridge itself is attributed to a carpenter named “Potter,” who allegedly built several of the reliable Town lattice bridges in the county. Historical record is frustratingly silent on who had the task of building our cherished bridges. In the minutes of the Ashtabula County commissioners for 1867 and 1868, there are several references to “letting of bridge” contracts, but the recipient of those contracts was not noted, excepted in the case of the Clyde Bridge abutments (County Line Road), which were to be built by John Donahue.

Regardless of who built these structures, their workmanship generally stood the test of time, floods and even the coming of the automobile with a little assistance. By 1958, the Olin Bridge was sagging and required the addition of a steel center support. Four years later, the same summer the Blaine (Green Hill) Road covered bridge was torched, someone tried to burn the Olin Bridge, as well.

“Someone set a fire in the bridge,” Bottorf recalls. “One of the neighbors came along and was able to put out the fire. If it had been another 15 minutes, the bridge would have been gone.”

By 1981, when Fred Bottorf died, the bridge’s exterior really was showing its age.

“A lot of the boards were missing, and the roof was leaking,” Bottorf says. “When my father died, my aunt said why don’t you take any (memorial) donations of money and fix up the bridge. We thought that was a real good idea, and we did it.”

The crew of nearly two dozen volunteers, many of them neighbors, whipped the bridge into shape in a matter of two weekends. They gave it a new roof, replaced siding boards, repaired gables, painted the ends and repaired/ painted guardrails. When the work was done, county engineer John Smolen presented them with a new sign for the bridge, one designating it as the Olin Bridge.

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