Historic Covered Bridges
There are no records of the men who built Maine's covered bridges. Available town documents show that the chief concern of the thrifty citizens at town meetings was the amount of money their new bridge was to cost - which was entered to the last odd cent - and a brief line or two about its manner of construction. In the case of the Lovejoy Bridge, it was recorded that it is "... to be built of square-sawn spruce, and of the Paddleford plan, at about a cost of $743.47".
Typically, covered bridges were put together by local builders, and like Maine-built ships, the skillful construction that went into them was more a matter of instinctive craftsmanship than engineering training. The designs used were those of professional bridge builders - Palmer, Burr, Town, Long and Howe - who held patents on different types of trusses. Their ideas went back to ancient principles.
- The first bridge across the Kennebec River at Augusta was a Palmer design; an open structure put up by a private company when Maine was still a district of Massachusetts. The covered bridge, which replaced it in 1819, is thought to be the first of its kind in the state. The last-built covered bridge which still survives is the Watson Settlement Bridge, built in 1911 in Littleton.
- The two longest covered bridges in Maine, no longer in existence, were the Bangor-Brewer Bridge, a 792 foot structure across the Penobscot River built in 1846 at a cost of $60,000.; and the bridge at Norridgewock, a 600 foot structure across the Kennebec River.
- According to one historian of covered bridges, the double-barreled Stillwater Bridge near Orono was the last two-lane Town lattice truss covered bridge in the United States. (It was replaced in 1951.)
- In 1956 the Little Black River Covered Bridge in Allagash Plantation was the last wooden covered bridge to be deliberately removed to make room for a modern steel and concrete bridge.
- Two of the remaining covered bridges in Maine use a Long truss - Lowes Bridge and Robyville Bridge. Two use a Howe truss - Watson Settlement and Babbs. The other five are of Paddleford construction (a modified Long truss) - Lovejoy, Hemlock, Bennett, Sunday River and Porter-Parsonsfield. Two of these, Hemlock and Porter-Parsonsfield, are strengthened with laminated wooden arches.
- In several cases, modern steel and concrete structures have been built nearby to serve the traffic formerly carried by the covered bridges. These by-passed wooden structures have been "retired" to pass their final days as picturesque symbols of the Yankee ingenuity and skill of the early bridge builders of Maine. Several other bridges have been ingeniously reinforced to allow continued use by vehicles, thereby maintaining the authentic character of the bridge's environment. This reinforcement has required only minor alterations to the floor systems and is obvious only to the most avid bridge enthusiast.
- In 1985 the 112th Maine legislature took its latest steps providing authority to the Department of Transportation to maintain and preserve historic bridges having a unique design.
Current Covered Bridges