“It officially became the first covered bridge in Ashtabula County to be named after a family,” Bottorf said.
Four years later, the center steel support was washed out, and a concrete-wall support was built. The concrete structures do a better job of diverting the water and keeping driftwood from accumulating. Concurrently, adding a center support quadruples the lattice’s load-carrying ability.
Six years after that, John Smolen worked his renovation magic on the bridge. The bridge was closed to traffic, and lower and intermediate chords were replaced. It received new floor beams, planks and siding, as well.
When the bridge was rededicated at the Covered Bridge Festival in 1993, it bore little resemblance to the tired but quaint structure Bottorf traveled through and swam under as a lad.
“I liked it better the old way,” Bottorf says, with a hint of nostalgia.
For Bottorf and Grandbouche, one of the big issues with the renovation was that it made the bridge’s interior much darker, thanks to louvers that were placed in the windows. In the fall of last year, a few of those slats were removed, adding an extra dash of light to the dim interior.
“It was scary in there, spooky,” Grandbouche recalls.
As much as they don’t like to talk about it, Bottorf and Grandbouche admit the museum itself is spooky at times, thanks to what would seem to be a resident spirit or two.
“Weird things happen in this house,” he admits. “There is a constant creaking above (the first floor) on one side.”
Bottorf recalls an incident of coming into the house with his arms full of chairs and having to walk up the staircase. His eyes witnessed something on the other side of the door turn the knob and open the door for him.