The Covered Bridges of Bucks County, PA
Covered bridges found their way into Europe, during the Middle Ages, from travelers who had seen highly ornate, covered structures in the far East. Some of these structures from the 1400’s can still be found in Europe.
The first covered bridge in the United States appeared around 1805. This bridge, was called the Permanent Bridge; located on Market Street, it crossed the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. Timothy Palmer, a bridge builder from New England, was hired to erect the lengthy structure. Judge Richard Peters, chairman of the bridge committee insisted that it be covered to protect the two essential features: trusses, which support the entire structure and the deck or floor that carries the live load. His insistence paid off, because covering the bridge extended its life. Unfortunately, the bridge was destroyed by fire in 1875.
There have been at least twenty different truss systems used by covered bridge builders across the United States. The one truss system that was used in twelve of the remaining Bucks County Bridges was common in the northeastern states. The Town’s Lattice Truss was created and patented by an American architect, Ithiel Town from New England. An exception is the unusual Boxed Pony Truss Bridge, in Ralph Stover State Park, it was built using the Howe Truss design.
At one time, over fifty of these covered bridges stood in Bucks County, many of them spanning the Delaware River crossing into New Jersey. Bucks County can boast thirteen of these lovely, authentic, historic spans still in existence today. Ten of the covered bridges still carry vehicles.