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Brownsville's Smith Bridge Gone

Brownsville, Vt. November 5 -
The Twig-Smith Covered Bridge in Brownsville is no more. Robert Allen, Brownsville resident championing the preservation of the bridge writes: "Joe - Unfortunately, no funds were available immediately to replace the covered bridge; so we had to proceed with a poured concrete bridge that is currently under construction and should be in use by Thanksgiving. Thanks for all your help - we're sorry that Vermont has one less covered bridge! Sincerely, Rob."
      Mr. Allen had been working with the Vermont Covered Bridge Society in finding funds to preserve the bridge when the span was felled by a wind storm October 6.

Brownsville's Smith Bridge Downed by Wind-storm

Brownsville, Vt. October 6 -
Robert Allen, Vermont Covered Bridge Society (VCBS) Life Member reports that the Smith Covered Bridge (45-14-17) in Brownsville was taken down by a micro-burst. The bridge collapsed in three sections; the two trusses, and the roof. The wreckage is blocking the roadway, a self-supporting bridge-deck rated for 30 tons, and has spilled into the stream. A crane will be needed to clear the road, Allen said.

Smith Bridge in Brownsville. Photo by Jim
Smedley. October 7, 2001
Smith Bridge in Brownsville. Photo by Jim
Smedley. October 7, 2001

Photos above by Jim Smedley, Covered Bridge enthusiast from Baltimore, Maryland, taken around 1 p.m. on October 7, the day after the bridge blew down.

Twigg-Smith Bridge. Photo by David Guay,
October 29, 2001
Twigg-Smith Bridge. Photo by David
Guay, October 29, 2001

Twigg-Smith Bridge. Photo by David Guay,
October 29, 2001
Twigg-Smith. Photo by David Guay,
October 29, 2001

The four photos directly above were taken by "Bridgeman" David Guay when he and Marika Guay visited the site in late October. The Town had cleared the wreckage from the stream and set it aside. The historic Garfield Bridge truss is lying directly on the ground unsupported and without covering. Already rotted in places, the old truss will not survive long under this treatment. The town has closed the bridge-deck as unsafe.

Smith Bridge at Brownsville. Photo by Joe
Nelson Aug 5, 1997
Smith Bridge at Brownsville. Photo by Joe Nelson Aug 5, 1997 →

The roadway is sole access to 17 households for emergency vehicles, said Allen. However residents are opening an abandoned trail to the highway.

A few weeks ago Mr. Allen requested assistance in finding a grant to the restore the bridge, which was in need of renovation. A VCBS team began working on the problem of finding funds

Several in the community served by the bridge would still like to have the covered bridge, Allen said. It would help that cause if the trusses could be salvaged intact. The trusses belonged to the Garfield Bridge (45-08-05) built in 1870 in Hyde Park. Vt. before they were erected in Brownsville by developer Thurston Twigg-Smith.

The two forty-foot "Smith" bridges were assembled in 1973 by the Cummings Construction Company from plank-lattice trusses salvaged from the 100-foot Garfield Bridge, one span in Pomfret (45-14-18), the other in Brownsville.

The Garfield Bridge was built in the 1870s over the Green River in Garfield Village in the Town of Hyde Park. When work began in 1946 on the Green River Reservoir project upstream, the old bridge was strengthened to handle construction traffic. It was abandoned in 1965 when the town bypassed it with a culvert. J.P. Rich, president of a local surveying firm, purchased it in 1971 to ensure it would be preserved.

Thurston Twigg-Smith Jr., of ASA Properties Vermont, Inc., a real estate development company based in Hawaii, bought the Garfield Bridge to provide access to two of the corporation's properties. The trusses were taken down, cut in half, and trucked to the building sites. The two bridges were never formally named, but the developer referred to them as the Pomfret Bridge and the Ascutney Bridge.

Lacking bed rock, the abutments of the Pomfret bridge were built on six wooden pilings driven thirty-two feet into the stream bank. It features extended gable-ends with sides left open to display the lattice truss. The roof is finished with shingles imported from Australia. The deck is braced with girders.

ASA Properties did not complete its development project in Pomfret. The subdivision was challenged by strict zoning codes.The land was bought by the Suicide Six Ski Resort's parent company.

The Smith Bridge in Brownsville stands over Mill Brook in the valley below Mount Ascutney where it crosses Mill Brook south of Route 44 and two miles west of Brownsville. It is similar in appearance to the half in Pomfret, also with imported shingles. It differs in that it has been altered to support construction trucks: Large rectangular pieces of the portals have been cut out and the upper bracing system changed to increase passage height. Also, the floor system was beefed up with two large steel beams supporting the timber deck. A sign on the gable-end says: "13 ft 40 ton."

*Details of origin based on an unpublished manuscript by Robert L. Hagerman available in the Vermont Historical Society archives.

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Joe Nelson, P.O Box 267, Jericho, VT 05465-0267,
Copyright © 2001, Joseph C. Nelson
This file posted October 6, 2001, revised November 5, 2001