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- A history collected from the archives of the
New York State Covered Bridge Society*
Upper Jay, New York
by Betty Schellmann
A party of four left Chaffee, New York at 8:00 a.m. to see some of the beauties of the Adirondacks in the Lake Placid area. The driver, myself, had a dual purpose in making the weekend trip. The listing of "Covered Bridges in Use in New York State" issued by the New York State Department of Commerce indicated a covered bridge was located near the Whiteface Mountain and the popular North Pole region. It was my desire to see and photograph one more covered bridge before the year ended. All things considered it is rather an ambitious hobby to attempt to visit all the bridges listed as they are several miles away from Chaffee with the exception of the Cowelsville bridge. In addition to the distance, they are rapidly disappearing each year.
An obliging gentleman along the highway sent us on to Upper Jay, Essex County where the bridge stood. I noticed he did so with visible pride and very specific directions as though having done so many times previously.
Upper Jay was a lovely, modest, country settlement built around a village square. The village square contained many trees and the old-time band stand. The places of business and Churches lined the square.
As it was getting hazy, in addition to the slight moisture, I entered the combined general store, post office, souvenir store and sports goods supply store to purchase more film and any postcards available of the bridge. The atmosphere of the general store was very friendly and warm and I would have liked to linger a bit longer to hear the comments they made about the snow they had had on Whiteface and about the approaching deer season. But, I hurried to the car and drove around the square and down the hill to the bridge.
Before spying the bridge we were struck with the sight of a huge, red-brick building, three or four stories high with a rounded tower and bell. I believe it had been a factory at one time and was now a public building, probably a town hall. Across the river, nestled together like an old-fashioned English settlement were several small brick buildings which were now used as tool sheds and storage buildings. They were very quaint and I swear during earlier times must have been homes.
These brick structures were in keeping with the old, simple, weather-beaten bridge. It spanned the turbulent East Branch of the Ausable River which had a section of solid rock strata and a boulder strewn channel. It was evident that at one time the river had been very violent and had damaged a former bridge whose ghost piers were still visible. The entrance to the bridge was a square effect and give the appearance with its wide casings of entering a home doorway.
The floor planking of the bridge seemed in a very good state of preservation and as I walked through its dark tunnel with its few small windows my footsteps resounded hollowly. The interior beams seemed sturdy and I could see little evidence of its having been replaced or reinforced in any way. The bridge was a one-way passage and a sign posted at the entrance requested that all traffic entering sound a warning.
Although built in 1857, a century ago, the bridge showed slight weathering and strain. The exterior walls of heavy planking have rotted and broken off in a few places at the base. Its central section has been given the added support of structural steel trusses.
For me the main purpose of the trip was accomplished, and the subsequent trip to Lake Placid and our stay there, our trip through the Mountains and home, were overshadowed by the Covered Bridge and its battle against the elements and human progress.
[*This material has been posted with the permission and support of Dick Wilson, President, NYSCBS - Ed.]
Return to topJoe Nelson, P.O Box 267, Jericho, VT 05465-0267 This file posted April 21, 2004