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Exploring Four Covered Bridges in the Catskills

Forge Covered Bridge

I recently spent some time in the Catskill Mountains of New York exploring its many waterfalls and covered bridges.

Located along Dry Book are two remaining covered bridges. The first is the Forge Covered Bridge, a covered Kingpost truss erected by Salem Jerome Moot in 1906. It features a design similar to others in the Catskills, all of which included side buttresses. The crossing was named for an iron forge that existed nearby.

Moot was a barn and bridge framer who lived and operated a sawmill in Dry Brook. As noted in Spans of Time, Covered Bridges of Delaware County, NY by Ward Herrmann, “when they were raising the barn which belonged to Jack Todd, the people from the area gathered to help and watch the event. It was a very large overshot barn with a stable beneath and a hay barn overhead. The men thought they were going to see a mixed-up deal, but Moot called every part right. He directed the erection of the barn’s assembly of pre-cut parts as he did in the bridge situation, and every part fit with nothing left over.”

At one time, there were eight covered bridges over Dry Brook: Rider Hollow, Lincoln Todd, Gould, Haynes Hollow, Forge, Tappan-Kittle, Ort Todd, and Myers. A flood in December 1901 destroyed all of the bridges along Dry Brook. With the exception of Forge, Myers, and Tappan-Kittle, all others were washed away during a flood on November 25, 1950. The Myers Bridge was reconstructed in 1989 with a modern girder structure with siding and roof protecting a concrete deck.

The bridge was declared unsafe to cross in 1928 and it was proposed to be replaced. Instead, Kingdom Gould, who owned the Furlough Lodge nearby, acquired it for a dollar in 1953 and closed it to public use. His son rehabilitated the bridge in 1976.

Up the strem is the Tappan-Kittle Covered Bridge, a covered Kingpost truss also built by Salem Jerome Moot in 1906. The cedar shingled roof was replaced with red asphalt in 1974 and wooden poles were wedged from the stream bed below to hold up the trusses. In mid-1976, cables were attached from nearby trees to underside timbers to provide additional support. Eventually, structural deterioration led to the reconstruction of the bridge in 1985, during which the underside timbering was replaced with steel girders.

Closer to Pepacton Reservoir is the Millbrook Covered Bridge, a covered Town Lattice truss erected by Edgar and Orrin Marks and Wesley Alton over Mill Brook in 1902. In May 1964, the bridge was re-evaluated for its load strength after a resolution was passed to raise its weight limit from two to three tons. It was determined that the crossing could support a school bus but despite this, by September, the bridge was bypassed with a modern structure.

After Millbrook Covered Bridge was damaged by floodwaters in 1969, the town looked into donating the bridge to the Tuscarora Club or any historical society for the purpose of repairing and preserving the structure. After the Club and historical society declined the offer in 1971, the town moved to relocate the bridge to dry ground 200 feet downstream but it wanted private entities to pay for part of the relocation costs and for the Tuscarora Club to give permission to place the bridge on their property. The Club did not agree to those terms and the town decided to leave the bridge in place.

Millbrook Covered Bridge was rehabilitated by Bob Vredenburgh, the great-grandson of Edgar Marks, one of the original builders, in 1991.

(I had exterior photographs of this bridge that were accidentally deleted.)

Over in the hamlet of Downsville is Downsville Covered Bridge, constructed in 1854 by Robert Murray for $1,700. Carrying automobile traffic over East Branch Delaware River, it features a Long truss and Queenpost truss design similar to others in the Catskills. The structure was rehabilitated in 1998-99 at the cost of $975,000 and work included replacing two lower chords with three laminated beams joined together to form a single 174-foot-long chord. No laminated beam of that length had been built before, and the task was awarded to the Unadilla Laminated Products Company of Sidney. The crossing was reopened to traffic on May 22, 1999.

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