“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Sheffield in Berkshire County, Massachusetts — The American Northeast (New England)

Reconstruction of 1854 Covered Bridge

Reconstruction of 1854 Covered Bridge Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, November 1, 2010
1. Reconstruction of 1854 Covered Bridge Marker
Inscription. “THE OLDEST COVERED BRIDGE IN MASSACHUSETTS” was ordered to be built in 1854. At a meeting in late 1853 the Sheffield Selectmen were directed to advertise for proposals. They were voted full power to move forward and make contracts, as they placed ads in the Berkshire Courier for bids from bridge builders.

The event that triggered that decision was a lawsuit against the town for damages to cattle passing over the Hubbard Bridge. The Hubbard was a long device, built by the first settlers. In addition to some traffic by farmers and animals, it was used by post riders who carried mail over the Hartford trail to Boardman Street, then across the log span to deliver the mail to some convenient place in the Village.

The covered bridge was built on the west bank of the Housatonic and then rolled out and anchored to position over the water on the abutments. It followed the style of the Towne Bridge, patented in 1820. It used a structural lattice truss of crossed members. The lattice boards were pinned to place with wooden pegs or “trunnels”.

Many of the truss styles had been proven in barn structures and were adapted by bridge builders. These were straightforward expressions of functional structure or architecture.

Covering a bridge offered protection against weather for humans and animals, but
Marker in Sheffield, Mass image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, November 1, 2010
2. Marker in Sheffield, Mass
essentially, putting up side walls and a roof gave it added strength and protected the bridge materials against weather and wear.

One hundred years after the bridge was built, some timbers and framework were replaced and completely new siding was put on the north side. In 1967 the capacity was limited to three tons, and in 1974 the bridge was closed to all vehicular traffic.

Covered bridges are thought of as an important link in American history and mark the differences between horse and buggy traffic and the greater speeds and weight of the automobile and heavy equipment.

Marble quarried from Sheffield, used in the east to form the abutment is the same as the Sheffield marble used in the construction of one section of the Washington Monument. In this use of materials the bridge is kin to that great monument in Washington.

Extensive authentic restoration was carried out in 1981 by Milton Graton of Ashland, N. H., known as the dean of covered bridge builders. He was assisted by his son Arnold and grandson Arnold, Jr., as well as by Sheffield residents who appreciated the painstaking construction methods of the old-time craftsman. This reconstruction is engineered by David Fischetti.

Countless visitors have come to see the bridge during the past 140 years, and the Sheffield Garden Club has beautified the approaches. The bridge and its setting have
Sheffield Covered Bridge image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, November 1, 2010
3. Sheffield Covered Bridge
imparted a sense of tranquility to those who come to enjoy its simple beauty. It has been a favorite subject for photographers and artists.

In the early morning of August 13, 1994, the venerable bridge was burned to the ground!

Some materials salvaged form the earlier structures will be used for continuity in the reconstruction of this valued landmark.
Location. 42° 7.417′ N, 73° 21.3′ W. Marker is in Sheffield, Massachusetts, in Berkshire County. Marker is on Covered Bridge Lane east of S Main Street (U.S. 7), on the right when traveling east. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Sheffield MA 01257, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. American Legion Post 340 Veterans Memorial (about 700 feet away, measured in a direct line); Barnard Park (approx. 0.8 miles away); World War II Memorial Trees (approx. 0.8 miles away); Sheffield World War I Monument (approx. 0.8 miles away); Sheffield World War II Monument (approx. 0.8 miles away); Cast Steel Bell (approx. 0.9 miles away); Old Parish Church Clock (approx. 0.9 miles away); Here Stood the Big Elm (approx. 2 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Sheffield.
More about this marker. Four photographs of the bridge appear
Sheffield Covered Bridge image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, November 1, 2010
4. Sheffield Covered Bridge
on the marker. These have the captions: “TOP: An important link to our historic past, this 1905 photo shows the early covered bridge used by horse and buggy traffic as well as a footbridge. Photograph courtesy of the Sheffield Historical Commission. CENTER: Preserving the old ways. Milton Graton and his sons instruct Sheffield children in the love of covered bridge tradition. Cross lattice structure is used for lasting strength. BOTTOM: Bridge restoration in 1981 shows the structure on west bank of Housatonic. It was then rolled out to position on abutments on the east bank. LEFT: In need of repair, before 1981 restoration, the bridge showed its weathered and romantic past. Artists and photographers have made it the subject of many nostalgic works.”
Categories. Bridges & Viaducts
Interior of Covered Bridge image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, November 1, 2010
5. Interior of Covered Bridge
This photo shows the internal construction of the covered bridge, including the lattice truss of crossed members and wooden pegs mentioned on the marker.
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 1,013 times since then and 83 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on , by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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