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Historical landmark getting new facelift

By Staff | Apr 26, 2011

The Lairdsville covered bridge is one of 3 in Lycoming County and dates back to 1888. It is the only covered bridge with a window opening, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Shown above it has its original timbers. Last week the Lairdsville covered bridge was stripped of its foundation walls, and its timbers are being rebuilt piece by piece during a restoration process that is expected to be completed by October.

LAIRDSVILLE – Home to just one of three covered bridges in Lycoming County, Lairdsville is getting ready to present to tourists and local citizens a newly restored bridge by the time the prestigious fall foliage arrives.

Thanks to a secured PennDOT Act 26 grant, the Lairdsville Covered Bridge will retain its status on the National Register of Historic Places by the US Dept. of the Interior as announced by Mark Murawski Transportation Planner with Lycoming County.

During a presentation at the Thomas Taber Museum, Murawski revealed the historical significance of the 3 covered bridges in the county.“These bridges were an important piece of our history. In 1795 they were an economic driver,” he explained as the river was a main artery for transportation between the communities at the time. “The canal system was used to get from one place to another including bridges that covered 2,200 miles of streams to cross waterways.”

Efforts are made in the ability to preserve the roads and bridges that tell a story of who we are and who we will be,” Murawski said. There are 717 publicly owned bridges in Lycoming County and PennDOT owns 515 of them. The County owns 15 of them including the 3 covered bridges.

The bridges in Buttonwood and White Pine have already been restored, and the Lairdsville Bridge, the smallest of the 3 bridges, has now acquired the funding to begin its extensive restoration process.

“The federal and state government are willing to pay for 100% of the restoration costs because we are losing so many covered bridges in USA and PA due to neglect and cash strapped local government bridge owners.The county pays zero dollars for this project. If this [Lairdsville] bridge is not repaired now it will be lost due to its extremely poor condition,” Murawski said. He related that this is a typical scenario regarding covered bridges across the United States. They may have minimal traffic, but benefit with important historical and tourism value.

The first covered bridge was erected in 1804 over the Hudson River.It is also believed that the bridge built over the Schuylkill River outside of Philadelphia is the first one. Pennsylvania was known as the Covered Bridge Capital of the World but lost 1300 bridges over time. 750 remain. Act 26 state funds have been passed to preserve and restore the bridges that are owned by local municipalities and counties.

The Lairdsville Covered Bridge was originally built in 1888 to compete with ferry operators who were charging excessive fees for small communities, so they built their own. Some had tolls, and some had trusses built to protect from weather deterioration.

The Lairdsville Covered Bridge was the only covered bridge with a window opening. This was so one could see if there was another traveler on the one lane bridge from the sharp curved entrance leading to it. The bridge can be seen from Rt 118 heading east about 7 miles or so from Hughesville. It sits off Old Dairy Farm Road in an idyllic rural setting, and leads to a dead end cul-de-sac. “It sits there as a reminder of our history. If we lose it, it will be gone,” Murawski stated. The County relocated the Township Road (that this bridge once served) and constructed a new county concrete bridge upstream to serve the thru traffic in 1985. The last restoration to the bridge was done in 1940. This time many of the original pieces cannot be salvaged, and most of the covered bridge has to be rebuilt.

Another unique feature is its Burr Arch Timber Truss as the design was called using two long arches to support the trussses. “The bridge is in severe deterioration and would have been lost soon without the immediate repairs,” added Murawski. For a sum of $866,000 restoration work started April 11 by Lycoming Supply, and it will be completed by October, 2011. The bridge will get new abutments, siding, roof, and select truss supports.

There is a cul-de-sac turnaround for tourists and visitors which is more than adequate for tourist parking as well.