Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ware-Hardwick Covered Bridge, Ware-Hardwick, MA

Ware-Hardwick Covered Bridge
The bad thing about wooden bridges is, they're only temporary. Truth is, all bridges are temporary; even today's bridges aren't meant to last much beyond 50 years without being totally reconstructed. New England's remaining covered bridges struggle to remain aloft until there's enough money and interest to get them renovated -- or torn down entirely for the public safety.

All of Connecticut's covered bridges have been rebuilt at least once; the Comstock covered bridge down in East Hampton is only the latest. The Bulls Bridge and West Cornwall Bridge are not the bridges they once were.

Neither is the Ware-Hardwick Covered Bridge, which crosses the Ware River in (wait for it) Ware, Massachusetts. It just finished a $3 million renovation in 2010; it had been closed off for years before then, unsafe to carry any load. The original latticework and outer walls were re-used, but the floor is wood over a sturdy steel frame, and the rafters are entirely new. The roof is now made of steel, an odd choice for a historic bridge.

I found names scratched into the latticework from 1938, and I'm sure I could have found earlier if I'd looked longer. Like most covered bridges that survive to this day, it doesn't take a lot of traffic. It's not an important bridge for traveling. It's an important bridge for connecting the community to its past.

I was more than a little shocked to hear, as I was talking with some guys walking along the Ware River as I was photographing the bridge, that the bridge might be moving to a new home in Vermont. Now, I don't have a dog in this fight. Connecticut's three covered bridges are being preserved. Vermont has seen its covered bridge number drop from 500 a hundred years ago to 100 now. Clearly it would like to acquire some replacements. Massachusetts, though, only has three covered bridges -- same as Connecticut.

Obligatory car and bridge shot
After spending all this money to renovate the bridge, they are talking about selling it? Madness. I couldn't find any confirmation of this on the web; I hope rumors is all this turns out to be.

The Ware-Hardwick bridge was designed based on patent by Ithiel Town, the architect who (by wild coincidence) designed the Bulls Bridge and West Cornwall Bridge. He charged one to two dollars per foot of bridge for the use of his patent.

I'm pretty sure the Town Bridge in Canton (last week's post) wasn't named after him, but who knows?

Wooden pegs hold the lattice together


  1. Lovely photos of a lovely bridge.

  2. I live right down the street from this bridge and I have not heard about this bridge moving. I would be so sad if that happened!

    1. I still can't find any confirmation for this. It just doesn't make any sense, anyway -- any state that wants more covered bridges can just build some. This bridge was just rebuilt. They just rebuilt the Comstock bridge down near me. And they'd just have to built _another_ bridge for the regular traffic.

      I was just up to Enfield this past weekend to have a look at a new, pre-fab bridge. I am really hoping replacing old bridges with factory bridges doesn't become a "thing".