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Irasburg's Covered Bridge Lost to Arson*

Saturday night, November 1, 1997, Vermonters lost an irreplaceable treasure; vandals destroyed the state's last working Paddleford truss covered bridge.
      The eighty-six-foot span was one of three Paddleford truss bridges surviving in Vermont and the only one supporting regular daily traffic. This bridge and the Lord's Creek Bridge off Dump Road (now Covered Bridge Road) north of the Village of Irasburg are believed to have been built by John D. Colton of Irasburg. A third Paddleford structure, the Sanborn Bridge, built in 1869 by unknown craftsmen, is located in Lyndonville.

The Irasburg Covered Bridge Before Nov. 1997
      The Black River Bridge, built in 1881, served Coventry Road just south of Coventry Village. Also known as the Coventry Bridge or Lower Bridge, it spanned the Black River at a bend near a swampy shore, crossing the Irasburg town line.
      The Black River Bridge stood high on original stone abutments later cased and capped in concrete. The interior was well lighted with full-length venting. The town periodically renewed the nicely rounded and scrolled portals, but to little avail; trucks passing through quickly demolished the work.
      When the Vermont Agency of Transportation inspected all of the state's covered bridges in the early 1990's the inspectors recommended that the bridge be closed to all trucks, bypassed, or rehabilitated to take all traffic. The cost was estimated then to be between $34,000 and $340,000 depending upon which option was selected. The town's portion of the cost of a new concrete bridge would have been approximately $30,000 with the state funding the rest.

The Lords Creek Bridge in Irasburg

The Lord's Creek Bridge, also built in 1881, spanned Lord's Creek until it was replaced in the late 1950s. The old bridge was acquired by the LaBonds and moved to the family farm where it crosses the Black River. Still known as the Lord's Creek Bridge, it provides access to the farmer's fields. Unfortunately, the forty-eight-foot bridge is in very poor condition. The siding and gable end sheathing is stripped off, and some of the bracing on the south side is pulled loose. In this open-sided condition, the structure is ideal for studying the mechanics of Peter Paddleford's truss.
      Lyndonville's Sanborn Bridge now spans the West Branch of the Passumpsic River a few yards west of Route 5 near the junction of Route 114, moved there in 1960 by covered bridge restorer Milton Graton. Owned by the motel beside it and no longer serving as a highway bridge, it has housed a series of businesses.
      The Town of Irasburg has posted a $2000 reward for information leading to the apprehension of the vandals. When the selectmen called a meeting to discuss replacing the Orne, the towns people overwhelmingly asked for a new covered bridge.

*As published by The Mountain Villager, 11/3/97, by Joe Nelson, MV Correspondent.

6/27/98 - The Burlington Free Press
"Pair arrested in bridge arson; prank felled Irasburg Landmark" Two 21- year-olds, Adam Brunelle of Brownington and Samuel Willson of Barton, have been charged with second-degree arson in the Halloween night blaze that destroyed the Irasburg Covered Bridge.

3/11/99 - The Burlington Free Press
St.Johnsbury - Adam Brunelle, 21, of Browington, and Samuel Willson, 21, of Barton, were convicted of burning the Irasburg covered bridge on Halloween night, 1997, and were sentenced January 26 in Vermont District Court to pay $23,000, Irasburg's share of the $434,000 cost of rebuilding the bridge. The state will pay the rest. The two men were also sentenced to probation and 60 days of community work in Irasburg. They have been ordered to meet with Irasburg residents and write apologies to newspapers.

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Joe Nelson, P.O Box 267, Jericho, VT 05465-0267,

Text this page Copyright © 1999, Joseph C. Nelson
Drawing this page Copyright ©, 1999, Joseph C. Nelson
Photographs this page Copyright ©, 1999, Joseph C. Nelson
This file revised April 9, 2000 (10:21AM)