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Covered Garden Bridges Cross Over to 21st Century

“TFCSOTSPBWL OCTOBER XVIII MDCCC.” This curious inscription was carved by a stonemason, John Lewis, into a block of granite that he had lain as a support for a bridge that was being built by Timothy Palmer. Because of space restrictions, he simply used initials, instead of writing, “The first corner stone of the Schuylkill Permanent Bridge was lain on October 18, 1800.” When the bridge was nearly finished, in 1804, a Philadelphia judge, Richard Peters, suggested that, in order to preserve its trusses and extend its life, the bridge should be covered. The cover was designed and built, and the first covered bridge opened for travel on January 1, 1805.

Judge Peters had no way of knowing what he was starting. His simple idea for covering that bridge led to a wellspring of folklore, legend, myth, and mystique, that would turn the reasoning behind it as murky as the waters surrounding its original cornerstone, which, it is believed, still supports what is now known as the Market Street Bridge.

The speculations were numerous and humorous. Some people thought that covered bridges were intended to look like barns, to make animals feel more comfortable while crossing them. Others maintained that the covers were there to keep horses from being frightened by the rushing water beneath them. It was also said that covered bridges were designed to keep travelers from seeing what kind of town they were approaching, until it was too late to turn back. Although many people said that the coverings were meant to keep snow off the bridges, old toll signs that designate fares for horse-drawn sleighs contradict that notion.

Covering bridges also enabled them to be used for scores of purposes, other than getting to the other side of a stream. They were used for campaign rallies, religious services, family reunions, meetings, weddings, debates, shelter from a storm, fishing and diving platforms, and even hanging clothes to dry during inclement weather. Favorite places for couples to steal a few kisses, covered bridges were commonly called “kissing bridges.” They were also sometimes referred to as “wishing bridges” because it was believed that any wish a person made while passing through one would come true.

The most powerful effects of the decision to cover that first bridge, however, are intangible. Even for those who know none of the specific details of their history, covered bridges evoke nostalgia and stir strong emotions, while their gradual disappearance from the country’s landscape incites a growing passion to preserve them as precious, irreplaceable landmarks.

Although it’s true that the covered bridges that were built and used by our ancestors are decreasing in number every year, a new era in covered bridges is just dawning, at The best part is that these new bridges, which are designed for your own creek, stream, or walkway, have all of the charm of their predecessors, but, constructed from your choice of treated pine or Dura-Temp siding, many times the durability.

At, you can customize your own gorgeous covered garden bridge in three simple steps, choosing from a variety of sizes, styles, materials, and accessories. Visit today, and begin your own tradition of swimmin’, fishin’, whistlin’, and kissin’.

For more information, call 888-293-2339, or e-mail

About the Author: Kathy Moran - Writer for

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