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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 - July 2003

Upper Jay, New York
by Betty Schellmann

[EDITORS NOTE - This story was written by Betty Schellmann on October 19, 1957. She never did anything with the story. Linda McNamara gave me the story for the Courier. I thought it was interesting as it is from the eyes of one of our Charter members. I have not changed the content of the story, but keep in mind that Betty is talking about Jay, N.Y. and not Upper Jay which is south of Jay. The Jay Covered Bridge is still on land, waiting for the new bridge to be built.]
       A party of four left Chaffee, New York at 8:00 a.m. to see some of the beauties of the Adirondacks in the Lake Placid area. The driver, myself, had a dual purpose in making the weekend trip. The listing of "Covered Bridges in Use in New York State" issued by the New York State Department of Commerce indicated a covered bridge was located near the Whiteface Mountain and the popular North Pole region. It was my desire to see and photograph one more covered bridge before the year ended. All things considered it is rather an ambitious hobby to attempt to visit all the bridges listed as they are several miles away from Chaffee with the exception of the Cowelsville bridge. In addition to the distance, they are rapidly disappearing each year.
Jay Bridge. Postcard, 1950s
December 20, 2001
This old Chrome post card from the 1950's shows the brick structure that was next to the bridge. This post card is post marked 1960.
From Dick Wilson collection
       The weather was crisp and a bit damp with a hint of snow in the offing. The Thruway proved to be a boon to us and we literally ate up the miles between Batavia and the Route 8 turn-off at Utica. The sun teased us as we traveled between short rain showers. Much to our surprise there were still traces of Autumn grandeur in the woodlots along the Thruway and in the Mountain forests. We soon passed through Rome, Lake Pleasant, Indian Lake, Speculator, Lake Piseco, etc. and neared Jay around 4:30 p.m.
       An obliging gentleman along the highway sent us on to Upper Jay, Essex County where the bridge stood. I noticed he did so with visible pride and very specific directions as though having done so many times previously.
       Upper Jay was a lovely, modest, country settlement built around a village square. The village square contained many trees and the old-time band stand. The places of business and Churches lined the square.
       As it was getting hazy, in addition to the slight moisture, I entered the combined general store, post office, souvenir store and sports goods supply store to purchase more film and any postcards available of the bridge. The atmosphere of the general store was very friendly and warm and I would have liked to linger a bit longer to hear the comments they made about the snow they had had on Whiteface and about the approaching deer season. But, I hurried to the car and drove around the square and down the hill to the bridge.
       Before spying the bridge we were struck with the sight of a huge, red-brick building, three or four stories high with a rounded tower and bell. I believe it had been a factory at one time and was now a public building, probably a town hall. Across the river, nestled together like an old-fashioned English settlement were several small brick buildings which were now used as tool sheds and storage buildings. They were very quaint and I swear during earlier times must have been homes.
       These brick structures were in keeping with the old, simple, weather-beaten bridge. It spanned the turbulent East Branch of the Ausable River which had a section of solid rock strata and a boulder strewn channel. It was evident that at one time the river had been very violent and had damaged a former bridge whose ghost piers were still visible. The entrance to the bridge was a square effect and give the appearance with its wide casings of entering a home doorway.
       The floor planking of the bridge seemed in a very good state of preservation and as I walked through its dark tunnel with its few small windows my footsteps resounded hollowly. The interior beams seemed sturdy and I could see little evidence of its having been replaced or reinforced in any way. The bridge was a one-way passage and a sign posted at the entrance requested that all traffic entering sound a warning.
       Although built in 1857, a century ago, the bridge showed slight weathering and strain. The exterior walls of heavy planking have rotted and broken off in a few places at the base. Its central section has been given the added support of structural steel trusses.
Jay Bridge. Photo by Dick Wilson, Oct. 1999
JAY Covered Bridge as it is today resting on dry land next to the bridge site. When the new bridge is built downstream, the covered bridge will be put back across the river.
Photo by Dick Wilson, October,. 1999
       Reluctantly, I re-crossed the bridge and as I joined the rest of the party, I took a quick, panoramic, mental picture of the Upper Jay Covered Bridge posed against the rugged mountain backdrop, the partially concealed valley, the threatening snow clouds, the prosperous farm house, the brick houses, the two diverging roads and the angry river bearing down upon it. Everything seemed to try to overpower, but I had the feeling it could stand firm and confident another 100 years if necessary.
       For me the main purpose of the trip was accomplished, and the subsequent trip to Lake Placid and our stay there, our trip through the Mountains and home, were overshadowed by the Covered Bridge and its battle against the elements and human progress.

[*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