New Smithsonian Exhibition on Covered Bridges at the Montshire
August 5 - October 15, 2006
The Montshire Museum
of Science in Norwich,
Vermont is hosting a new
exhibit on covered
bridges this fall from
August 5 to October 15.
The exhibit includes
dozens of beautiful
photos of bridges,
models, and exhibits
about bridge design,
function, and history.
Few structures in
economic necessity and
romantic idealism better
than the covered bridge.
A new Smithsonian
exhibition, “Covered Bridges: Spanning the American Landscape,” will celebrate these iconic
structures and the individuals behind their development through photographs, architectural
schematics and models.
Though they first appeared in Europe during the Middle Ages, covered bridges flourished in the
United States in the 19th century, where they helped encourage the country’s economic
development by way of a growing network of roads. The first covered bridge in the country
appeared over the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia in 1805, and by the 1870s more than 10,000
covered the American landscape as part of the country’s westward expansion.
From the beginning, individual inventiveness played an important role in the proliferation of
covered bridges. As the industry grew, individual builders experimented and adapted each
other’s designs in hopes of finding a means to build stronger bridges with the least amount of
materials. In addition to being visually appealing, the resulting structures were engineering
masterpieces—both important factors in their survival today.
Covered bridges grew in popularity among the general public in the early 20th century and
became attractive subjects for artists and advertisers. They appeared in advertisements for
everything from tires to thermal underwear, feeding the nation’s desire for nostalgia. In some
cases, advertisers took their messages to the bridges themselves, creating enormous billboards on
both the interiors and exteriors.
Despite their appeal, between 1870 and 1970, 90 percent of the country’s covered bridges were
destroyed by arsonists, natural causes and progress in transportation. Today only about 750
remain, concentrated mostly in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Vermont, Indiana, New Hampshire and
Those interested in this program can contact Kevin Coburn, Manager, Public Relations,
Montshire Museum of Science, Norwich, VT. 802-649-2200 ext. 222,