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SPRING, 2002



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Because of busy schedules and the threat of bad weather, the Board of Directors voted to hold this year's meeting by e-mail. The meeting was held in two parts, the first on January 12, addressing a set of proposals, and requesting input and additional proposals from the Directors. The second part was held January 29 for a vote on new and amended proposals.
       It was proposed and approved that members who have volunteered to serve on the Membership Committee, the Events Committee, and as Bridge-watch be invited to take part in Director's meetings to advise and debate on issues. While they will not vote on the issues, they will be encouraged to participate in make plans and policy for the Society.
       It was proposed that the VCBS membership categories and dues be revamped, that the changes be made effective during the last quarter of the year 2002. Currently our memberships are: Individual, $10; Family, $15; Associate, $8; Junior, $5; Business, $25; Life, $100. The Board voted to discontinue Junior Membership and offer an Associate/Student Membership for $8, to offer a Societal Membership for $10 (for historical societies, towns, etc), continue to offer a Life Membership for one person for $100, and add a Life Membership, spouse included, for $115.
       The covered bridge memento collection of the late Irene Baily has been donated to the VCBS. It consists of covered bridge clippings from various publications, a few books, place mats, stationery, photos, back issues of National Society newsletters (1950s), and a lot of postcards. It was voted that, as a first step, an experienced person will be asked to evaluate the collection to determine which items are historical and should be preserved, and which items are salable mementos to be sold to help fund VCBS activities. Director Dick Roy, National Society Historian, has agreed to examine the collection as a first step in evaluating the collection. It was also voted that the Vermont Covered Bridge Museum in Bennington be selected to house the collection.
       VCBS bylaw Article 3, Part 1, Section 2 requires that at least one all-member meeting be held in addition to the Annual All-Member meeting. The Lyndon and Cambridge Bridge-watch areas have already hosted the event and new sites need to be found. It was voted that a committee be formed to find sites for the All-member meetings among the various Bridge-watch Areas, the committee to be commissioned to canvass the Bridge-watch Areas for new hosts, the committee to consist of the Events Committee, Bridge-watch volunteers and one or more members of the VCBS Board of Directors.
       The Board accepted a proposal by Director Bill McKone that the VCBS approach the Vermont State Legislature to propose that the State declare a Covered Bridge Week to coincide with National Preservation Week in Mid May, 2002. Bill McKone has volunteered to pursue this project.
       The Board accepted a proposal by Director Bill McKone that the VCBS approach the appropriate Vermont State authorities to propose that direction signs be placed on the State and Town roads to direct viewers to the covered bridges. Bill McKone has volunteered to pursue this project.
       The VCBS has been accepted at the Vermont Historical Society Expo-2002 to be held at the Tunbridge Fairgrounds on June 22 and 23. Irene Barna has volunteered to be contact person for the event. It was voted that Irene Barna as chairperson set a date to meet and form a committee to organize the VCBS exhibit inviting volunteers from the VCBS membership to participate.
       The Board accepted a proposal by Director Ed Barna that the VCBS organize a covered bridge visitation club similar to the 251 Club in which participants are recognized for visiting all 251 Vermont Towns. Ed Barna has volunteered to pursue this project.
       The Board accepted a proposal by Director Joe Nelson that the VCBS Constitution and Bylaws articles 2, section 1 and article 5, section 2 be amended, the first to redraft the types of membership, the second to remove the requirement to hold the Annual Meeting only in November, this requirement deemed too stringent due to weather and conflicts with competing meetings. Joe Nelson has volunteered to perform the redraft, the changes to be put up for approval at a later meeting.
       The chair asked that a motion be made to close the meeting to further proposals and that the meeting proceed to vote on the propositions already offered. The first e-mail response to this request was accepted as the motion. The second response was accepted as seconding the motion. A director opposing the motion was required to submit his proposal immediately for consideration. The body of the meeting was requested to vote yes or no for this proposal. No additional proposals were submitted. D. Porter made the motion, R. Roy seconded the motion. The votes on the proposals were counted and reported, and the meeting was adjourned.

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VCBS members keep your calendars open for June 22 and 23! The VCBS will have a booth at the Vermont Historical Society's Expo-2002 to be held at the Tunbridge Fairgrounds. Volunteers who wish to sit with the exhibit are asked to email Joe Nelson at jcnelson@together.net or Irene Barna at ibarna@middlebury.edu

The North Troy SummerFest to be held August 10 and 11, 2002. The North Troy SummerFest will be held again this year with a special invitation to all of the covered bridge societies. Bridgers are invited to bring their covered bridge displays and memorabilia to the show. Check out the SummerFest website for details: www.jaypeakvermont.com/summerfest.html.

The official opening of Fitch's Covered Bridge to be July 20, 2002. The festivities to begin 10 a.m. on Saturday in Delhi, NY. Bridgers are invited to bring along CB materials for sale and swap. The date is tentative. Watch this space as details of the event are developed.

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January 26, 2002 - The workshop was held in Berlin, Vt. at the VAOT Laboratory Conference Room, led by John Weaver, P.E., VCBS Vice President and Bridge-watch Program Coordinator.
       The problems a Bridge-watch might encounter when inspecting a wooden bridge were discussed; typical scenarios, conditions to look for, and how to analyze the bridge's important components. Also discussed was how to organize a Bridge-watch, how to contact local authorities and how to develop partnerships for the preservation of covered bridges. The VCBS Bridge Watch Handbook was used as course reference.
Bridge-watch Workshop. Photo by Joe Nelson
January 26, 2002
Workshop attendees from left to right: John Weaver, Kathryn Ramsey, Bob Coburn, Neil Daniels, Bill McKone, Wilfred Thompson, Ron Bechard, and Betty Truman.
Photo © 2002 Joe Nelson
       A typical scenario would be a covered bridge on a town highway in Vermont. The town is doing minimal maintenance replacing siding, patching the roof. Bridge trusses and floor members are collecting layers of dirt, water is running onto the bridge from the approaches, approach railings are missing, the bridge is not insect, fungi or fire protected.
       The most important things to look for are deterioration to the basic bridge structural components the trusses, floor beams, top lateral bracing between trusses, etc. These same items are usually identified in the Vermont Agency of Transportation bridge inspection reports. Each town office should have copies of these on hand available for the cost of copying.
       To identify the truss type and other components refer to the Bridge Watch Handbook and the 1995 VAOT bridge inspection report diagrams. Remember that covered bridges were constructed with sacrificial elements that were intended to be replaced from time to time the roof, floor and siding components.
       The Bridge-watch needs to establish a historical record of the use of the bridge. Document and verify any changes to the bridge structure to accommodate original and later uses, such as the adding of floor beams, reconstructing floors with heavier wood decks, and adding arches to the trusses.
       Help in regard to establishing a record may come from contacts with local and state historians, long time town residents, and old photos. Help in regard to bridge component identification and analysis and tips for treating wood can be had by contacting the VCBS statewide covered bridge coordinator.
       How to organize and what to do depends on the size and abilities of your local Bridge Watch group. Groups may be as small as one member or as large as ten members. Members might be able to perform on-site cleaning or brush removal projects or simply provide observation and reporting functions.
       Members of the town's Selectboard should be contacted and consulted before attempting any significant local activities. This may be done through the town clerk or road foreman. Report any noted problems to the same authorities.        Offer to help local authorities develop strategies for use and maintenance of covered bridges in your area. Encourage town authorities to participate in the Historic Covered Bridge Preservation Plan and The Vermont Historic Bridge Program. This Plan and Program are products of an effort between the Vermont Agency of Transportation and the Vermont Dept. of Historic Preservation. Through the Program funds can be secured for continual maintenance and rehabilitation of Vermont covered bridges. VCBS participation in all of the above activities will help towns fulfill their portion of agreements between local governing bodies and state agencies.
       For more information about preserving Vermont's covered bridges refer to www.vermontbridges.com, Covered Bridge Preservation page.

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Fairfax, February 15, 2002 - With the repairs completed the Maple Street Bridge stands straight and square.
Maple Street Bridge. Photo by Joe Nelson
February 15, 2002
Maple Street Bridge, Fairfax, VT
Photo © 2002 Joe Nelson
       Actually, the bridge stands straighter than it has for years. Town historians recall that when the bridge was returned to its abutments after being washed away during the 1927 flood, ". . . it was replaced with its east end facing west. Because of the error, they say, the bridge seems to be leaning." This, the historian wrote, "is disputed by some."
       The north corner of the bridge no longer leans comfortably westward because as part of the repairs to the upper bracing system, the system designed to keep the bridge trusses straight and true against wind and water, the "racking," or lean, was taken out.
       Kayoed when a local truck driver drove into it, the bridge underwent major surgery. Most of the roof and siding had been removed to gain access to the damaged frame. The fifty-seven foot span was built in 1865 using the Town-lattice Truss.
       Said Jan Lewandoski, who contracted to do the work, "The tie beams are the bottom chords of kingpost trusses that support the roof. When the truck took out the tie beams it also destroyed the kingposts, some of the mortised ridgepole, and some rafters.. Also, when destroying the tie beams it destroyed several chord and lattice sections adjacent to the ties. To even replace one tie beam authentically it is necessary to remove the roof over it. Chord and lattice replacement requires the siding to be removed."

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by Steve Miyamoto, Asst. Staff Writer

The Town of Rutland has started a project to bring the remaining Twin Covered Bridge back into public use.
Twin Bridge. Photo by Joe Nelson
July 1996
Twin Bridge, Rutland, VT 45-11-10
Photo © 1996 Joe Nelson
       This half of the Twin bridge pair has been out of service since the late 1940's following a flood which claimed the other twin. According to Byron Hathaway, Town of Rutland Engineering, the initial plan is to restore and move the bridge to a nearby town of Rutland recreation park. The restored Town Lattice construction covered bridge would then be enjoyed again as part of the recreational bike path. The initial location choice is Northwood Park in the Town of Rutland.
       The project is estimated to take 2 years to complete. Mr. Hathaway has secured a $10,000 grant and $8,000 of local money for the project to date. The final cost of the project is not known at this time. Initial bids are scheduled to go out in January 2002. He is looking to have the restoration completed and the bridge moved into place sometime in 2003.
       Since the 1947 the bridge has been used for a number of purposes. The town has used it for storage. It has stored road salt and backhoes. Currently it is being used to store hay. Located off of East Pittsford Road in the Town of Rutland, it has been resting on temporary abutments to keep the bridge off the ground.

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Townshend, February 26 - VCBS Bridge-watch volunteer Wilfred Thompson reported that the 290-foot Scott Bridge, WGN 45-13-13, had suffered wind damage.
       Bridge-watch coordinator John Weaver, who received the report, passed it on to Eric Gilbertson, Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer: "A 105' x 12' section of the roof covering is missing and several kneebraces are simply dangling loose. Upper chords are showing signs of failure and floors are sagging on the kingpost spans. This was all verified by on site inspection Sunday, by our VCBS volunteer. I will send you a copy of the written report, when I receive the same."
       Gilbertson had already reacted, said Weaver. "The Department of Historic Preservation (DHP) already has a contract with the Daniels Construction Company of Ascutney to fix the roof. Eric will have him fix the kneebraces as well. Also, to enhance maintenance activities, DHP is in the process of conveying care of the bridge to VAOT.
       Wilfred Thomson, a retired engineer and covered bridge enthusiast is a resident of East Lyme, Connecticut. He regularly tours Vermont's southernmost bridges and serves as Windham County Area Bridge-watch.

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by John Dostal

Bennington, February 12, 2002 - The Covered Bridge Museum wing is now fully enclosed together with the connector to the Bennington Arts Center Building on West Road.
       The 120-foot wing, a replica of a covered bridge, is being added to the Center owned and operated by Bruce Laumeister. The grand opening is planned for April, 2002.
       Work is underway to subdivide a portion at one end of the new wing as an office for the coordinator for the Museum, the Arts Center and the Oldcastle Theater.
       I will be communicating with Richard Sanders Allen (celebrated writer of several books on covered bridges) creating displays which will follow the concepts in his book Covered Bridges of the Northeast--why they were built, how they were built, what tools were used, who built them, and types of construction.
       All exhibits will feature many photographs from the Allen archives in Westminster. The south wall will have ten spaces about ten feet wide photographically depicting the eight most used trusses in the Bridges in Vermont together with a photo display of tools in use and the actual tools if we can obtain them.
       Additionally in the east end of the Museum wing there will be a small theater, about 25 seats facing a large TV screen on which will be an orientation display depicting the processes of building a bridge. Somewhere in the overall space it is planned to have a model railroad traveling through several model covered bridges. There will also be several small model covered bridges built to scale, depicting types of construction possibly in cutaway versions.
       A gift shop will be squeezed in somewhere. A reference area will contain material from national and international covered bridge associations and societies with data and visualizations. There is also a room in the Arts Center for archival materials. The entire space will be temperature controlled.

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NOTICE! New Covered Bridge Manual!

Society member and covered bridge engineering consultant, Phil Pierce, P.E., is leading a team to prepare a new Covered Bridge Manual. Although its major focus is on the engineering and construction of covered bridges, it will include diverse information and should be a good reference for anyone interested in covered bridges.
       The Manual will hopefully be available in mid to late 2003. It is being prepared for the Federal Highway Administration with funding provided by the National Historic Covered Bridge Preservation Program. Accordingly, the initial printing will be available for free. Subsequent printings will not be free. BUT, YOUR HELP IS NEEDED. To determine a sufficient number of copies of the Manual for the initial printing, please contact Mr. Pierce if you will be interested in ordering it. THIS IS NOT AN ORDER. Information about its availability will be provided in future editions of this newsletter/website, when details are known.
       To express your interest in obtaining this Manual when available, write to: Phil Pierce, 57807 State Highway 10, South Kortright, NY 13842.

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Snow Breaking
The "Snow-breaking" Ceremony at the Power House Bridge, Johnson, Vt. Left to right: Mark Woodward, State Representative for Johnson/Eden; Eric Osgood, Selectboard chair; Brad Reed, Selectman; Chris Parker, Trustee chair; Franklin Hooper, Selectman; Blain Deslisle, Selectman/Road Commissioner.
Photo © 2002 Joe Nelson
February 19, 2002 - At eight-o-clock Tuesday morning with the thermometer showing minus one degree Fahrenheit, several Johnson residents assembled for a ground-breaking ceremony anticipating the construction of the new Power House Bridge.
       However, the ground being as hard as it is in February, a "Snow Breaking" had to serve.
       The Power House Covered Bridge Committee had planned that volunteers from the town were to construct the bridge under the direction of the building contractor, however this was found to be impractical due to the restraints of the contractor's insurance, said Johnson resident Mark Patch.
       Except for the Southern Yellow Pine that will be used for the trusses, the community has provided local hemlock and spruce timber for the rest of the project, Patch said. Volunteers from the community will be able to do some token work on the bridge, he said.
       The Johnson Select Board accepted the recommendations of the town's Power House Bridge Committee, to accept the bid of Blow & Cote to rebuild the covered bridge at a bid of $139,855 and a completion date of July 1, 2002.        Construction will begin when the weather moderates.

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by Irene Barna

Middlebury, February 7 - I happened to read the in Middlebury Selectboard published agenda in the paper Tuesday evening that the roof on the bridge was to be discussed. I grabbed my coat and attended the meeting. The roof will be replaced this summer sometime and it will be a standing seam metal roof black. The town manager did mention that that type does shed snow best. Good they know that!
       The good news is that it looks like fire retardant will be applied. Research has been started and prices are being acquired. The seven-member board (5 in attendance Tuesday) seem to be very much in favor of the spending the dollars for the retardant application.
       Jan Lewandoski will apparently be doing the roofing. It was not said who will apply the retardant. Perhaps that is a separate contract/contractor, but it is anticipated to be done at the same time.


As some of you may already know, 88 of Vermont's 101 Historic Covered Bridges are listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places. After reviewing the statistics on the remaining bridges, we discovered there might possibly be six more bridges that qualify for this prestigious listing. So, we went to work asking for assistance on this project from a few of our members. Joe and Ruth Nelson, along with Bob and Trish Kane have offered to take on this challenge and the preliminary work has already begun. Some of you may remember how instrumental Bob and Trish were in getting the covered bridges that qualified in New York, on these registers. We welcome their assistance and enthusiasm on this project.

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VCBS Letters Logo

Dear Joseph,
Montbouvon Bridge, Switzerland. Photo by C.M. Nagengast
Montbouvon Bridge, Switzerland - 1667 S-07- 03
Photo by C.M. Nagengast
       I have "chased" covered bridges in some 35 states and 7 countries. Since I am a member of 18 covered bridge societies/organizations, I have written articles for most of them.
       My wife and I have met some very interesting and strange people. We found it's never too old or smart to learn.
       We have found, while looking for covered bridges; a deaf and dumb man who let me know where the bridge was, in fact he led me to it; kids; old folks; mentally handicapped people; those who didn't speak English but let me know what I wanted, as has happened in each of the countries visited.
       Most of the time when the bridge was on their private land, they were only too proud to enlighten us. In Europe, while I was getting a better camera angle, one old farmer got off from his tractor and led me to one portal and down on his knees he showed me, after shoving the dirt aside, a hand carved date of construction, 1667.
       I'm enclosing a photo of the bridge. The sill of the NW corner where the three are standing is the area of the portal in point.
       I have over 60 albums of covered bridge photos.        Sincerely,       Conrad (Connie)M. Nagengast

Send your letter to: Bridger Editor, 2 Sugar Hill Rd., Underhill, VT 05489, or jcnelson@together.net]

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We have been presenting a series of articles taken from a paper titled "Wood Truss Highway Bridges in North America: Repair & Strengtening" given by Jan Lewandoski at the proceedings of the fifth National conference on structural faults and repair, held June 29, 1993 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. The entire paper, including footnotes can now be viewed on www.vermontbridges.com "Bridge Talk."


Happy Birthday to us! As of February 2, the Vermont Covered Bridge Society is two years old. In February, 2000 we were granted our certificate as a Vermont domestic non-profit corporation. Somehow it seems we have been striving longer than that.
       Last fall I noted that it was a good time to think about what we have accomplished in this short time. This spring season is also a good time to mark our progress.
       VCBS members have made a mark in Vermont and elsewhere in their efforts to promote the preservation of our historic covered bridges; they have helped spread the word through the Bridger Newsletter which is distributed not only to our membership, but to other covered bridge societies, historical societies, the Vermont Agency of Transportation, and members of the state legislature, the governor, and to congress. Our web page promotes historic bridge preservation nationwide and internationally.
       Your interest in our covered bridges has gained us a place at the meetings of VAOT's Historic Covered Bridge Committee, the State of Vermont's commitment to preserve covered bridges where our opinions are invited.
       With all of that, much more still needs to be done. We continue to need a participating membership, active in society activities a membership that will grow with the VCBS and ensure that the society will be active in the years ahead.
       A handful of people are making the VCBS work, just enough of us to do the minimum part of our mission. Welcome, Steve Miyamoto who has joined the Bridger as Assistant Staff Writer, and welcome Trish Kane who has volunteered to serve on the Membership Committee and has picked up the challenge of getting the rest of Vermont's historic covered bridges on the National Register of Historic Sites (there are six candidates that haven't made the list.).
       An all-member meeting is currently being planned, hopefully for the first week in June. The plans are in the earliest stages, too soon to announce the time and place. The Events Committee, unfortunately, is severely understaffed. Please give committee member Marge Converse a hand. Volunteers are urged contact me at (802)899-2093 or jcnelson@together.net.
       The Events Committee is key in organizing All- member Meetings, picnics, dinners, covered bridge excursions, shows and presentations that will attract and educate the public on covered bridge preservation.
       And our efforts to keep the VCBS on its mission require funding. Please look at the mailing label on this newsletter. If there is a (01) after your name, your membership has expired. The VCBS has 144 memberships, of these 68 memberships are in arrears. Please, while you are thinking about it, write a check and use the handy renewal form in this issue. Help keep us on our mission.
             Yours in bridging, Joe Nelson



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Joe Nelson, P.O Box 267, Jericho, VT 05465-0267, jcnelson@together.net

No part of this web site may be reproduced without the written permission of Joseph C. Nelson
Text Copyright © 2001, Joseph C. Nelson
Photographs Copyright ©, 2001, Joseph C. Nelson
This file posted March 8, 2002, revised March 14, 2002