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About the Jay Covered Bridge [NY-16-01]
- A history collected from the archives of the
New York State Covered Bridge Society*

New York State Covered Bridge Society Courier - March 1984

About This Issue

Jay Covered Bridge. Photo by Dick Wilson
May 1997
Jay Bridge (32-16-01)
Photo by Dick Wilson May 1997
As you read through this COURIER, you will see many pictures and stories about the Jay Covered Bridge. Checking the back issues of the COURIER, I found that the Jay Bridge had not been featured. The Jay Covered Bridge is about to join the ranks of the retired and unused spans, so, I thought it needed some exposure while it is still a useful, traffic carrying covered bridge.
       The story about the Jay Bridge was written in 1949 by Richard Sanders Allen. Since the story was written, the 2 smaller spans were replaced and only the 175 foot Howe Truss was left standing. For almost 20 years, this smaller Jay Bridge has carried the traffic across the Ausable River. - Richard Wilson

The Jay Bridge
By Richard S. Allen
Jay Bridge. Photo by R.S. Allen
       In 1856 the East Branch of the Ausable River went on a rampage, foaming out of its Adirondack fastness, and descending upon the little village of Jay, where it tore out mills and destroyed the bridge in the valley.
       The following year saw the building of the present covered bridge, a long 240 foot, oddly-built structure. As it stands today the bridge consists of three sections resting on abutments and two huge concrete-faced piers. The main span is a long Howe Truss over the usual channel of the Ausable. One of the shorter spans is a simple truss of heavy timbers connected to the main span by a short girder section. It is difficult to tell whether the smaller span was originally part of the bridge destroyed by flood or an uncovered approach to the main span which in later years was roofed.
Jay Bridge. Photo by R.S. Allen
       Jay Bridge is boarded to the eaves, which makes the interior especially dark. The west portal has a window for admission of light from a nearby streetlamp. The east portal is charred, mute evidence of the narrow escape of the bridge when the old mill nearby was burned some years ago.
       The view of the old unpainted timber tunnel from Route 9N up in the village includes a landscape of distant rugged mountains and the broadening Ausable cascading down the gray rocks from the wide pool above. At the corners at the village end of the bridge is an old blacksmith shop. Who knows how many hundreds of horses have gingerly tested their new shoes, stepping, "not faster than a walk" across the old span, their hoofbeats clattering on the wide planks. Now it is rare to see a horse plodding into the bridge, but the reverberating horns of automobiles still wake forgotten echoes.

Card Corner
By Dick Wilson
       The beautiful East Branch of the Ausable River is spanned by a 175 foot covered bridge in Jay, New York, the only covered bridge in the Adirondack Region of New York State. The single span 175 foot bridge was the main span of a 240 foot, 3 span bridge. In 1954, two short spans, one a Queenpost, the other a Stringer, were removed and filled in with concrete. The main span was reinforced with 3 concrete and iron beam piers. The Jay Bridge was built by George M. Burt in 1857 with a Howe Truss, using iron bearing blocks. They are of a different design than those found in Rexleigh, and they have no writing on them.
       In a story in the last COURIER by Frances Withee, I learned that the bridge will by by-passed soon. I wanted to get some new views of the old span without the obstruction of a new by-pass bridge, so we made a visit to see Jay in October, 1983. The bridge and stream fit into the surroundings like they were made for each other. It seems a shame to spoil the natural beauty of the Ausable with a new modern bridge. We can only hope that the new bridge will cross downstream from the covered bridge and not obstruct the view of the rapids.
       I have not found any old printed post cards showing the Jay Bridge, but the Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Co. of Belfast, Maine published 4 different cards showing the old Jay Covered Bridge.
       Card No.4 is a Birds Eye View of Jay, N.Y. which is written on the front. The view is taken from downstream and is looking toward the bridge and the Village.
Jay Bridge card 66 Jay Bridge card 839
       Card No. 66 says, "Mountain View, Jay, N.Y." This view is looking west at the main span and it shows the mill near the portal of the bridge.

       Card No. 839 is a side view taken from the upstream side md showing the other 2 smaller spans. On the bottom of the photo reads, "Bridge Built in 1856, Jay, N.Y. One of the longest Wooden Bridges in U.S.A." Part of the mill can be seen to the right.
Jay Bridge card JD29C Jay Bridge postcard
       The last of the Eastern Illustrating cards is No. JD29C and is a three quarter view with the long span in the foreground and shorter spans to the left of the picture. The mill is gone and you can see the charred portal where the bridge started to burn when the mill burned. Jay Bridge has angled portals at that time, now they are simple square portals.

       Another old photo card I have shows only a portion of the small Queenpost span on the Village end and it looks upstream. This is a good view of the log dam across the rocks just before the river tumbles down and under the bridge. Not much of a dam had to be built at this location to get the needed waterpower. To the right of the eastern portal is a building with the sign, Massy Harris Blacksmith. On the front reads, "The Ausable River at Jay, N.Y."
Jay Bridge postcard Jay Bridge postcard
       Another photo card I have shows the entire bridge from below looking west. You can see the small Queenpost span to the left, then the short stringer span and the long Howe Truss. This card shows the 2 piers holding up the stringer span inclosed with wood. This may well be the oldest card of the bunch. This card makes the bridge look like a 2 span structure with a very wide center pier at one end. It could be that at a later date, that pier was replaced by 2 concrete piers and it stayed that way until the short spans were replaced. The front of this card reads, "The Covered Bridge, Jay, N.Y."
       The next card is a printed black and white showing the same side as the last card, but more from above. It has a white border and in the border it reads, "Covered Bridge-Jay, New York Built in 1856." On the back it reads, "National Press, Chicago." This card also shows the pier with wood around it. The Blacksmith Shop and the mill can be seen in the picture also.
       Next come the chrome cards. One view of the long bridge appears on a chrome card, but it is found in several variations and numbers. The view shows the mountains in the background and a white house to the left. The same picture is used in all the different cards, but coloring is different as well as the cloud formations. All cards have the same caption, even though the date of the building is wrong. The caption on the reverse reads, "Covered Bridge Built in 1860 at Jay, N.Y. in the Adirondack. This bridge is one of the oldest remaining in New York State." The card with number S5270 was published by RH. Pierson, Lake Placid, N.Y. Another card published by Pierson Studio, Lake Placid, N.Y. was made by Dexter Press, Pearl River, N.Y. with number S4146. The last of these cards showing the 3 span bridge is published by Page Distributing Co., Lake Placid, N.Y. The number is C18662 and is made by Mike Roberts, Berkeley, California.
Jay Bridge postcard Jay Bridge postcard
       After the bridge was made shorter, lots of views were produced. All 5 views are side views from the upstream side. The first one, No. 5617-B and also D627 is published by Dean Color Service, Glens Falls, N.Y. This card can also be found in the continental size.
       A side view with a man sitting on the rocks in a bright red jacket is perhaps the hardest chrome to find. Color by Bob Kamf and is an exclusive by Northern Adirondack Views. The number of this card made by Dexter Press is 97793A. This card can also be found in the jumbo card size.
Richard S. Allen
Richard S. Allen standing at the Jay Covered Bridge portal in 1939
       An unusual card published by Hivnor Card Co. No. 121092 shows the bridge in the fall with a very dark, stormy sky. Carl I. Lawrence of Perry, Ohio took the picture for this card.
       A summer view. Published by Fily-Gerald, Lake Placid, N.Y. has the number 28619-C.
       The last chrome card is a fall scene showing the bridge with a new green roof. This card was published by Page Distributing Co. Lake Placid, N.Y. and printed by Mike Roberts, Berkeley, Calif. The number on the card is C26376 and on the Continental size is No. B5741.
              Happy Card Collecting!

[*This material has been posted with the permission and support of Dick Wilson, President, NYSCBS - Ed.]

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Joe Nelson, P.O Box 267, Jericho, VT 05465-0267
This file posted April 21, 2004