Hidden Treasures

October 20, 1993

Maryland, the land of pleasant living, is known for a lot of things: crabs, horses, the Chesapeake Bay, lighthouses. Covered bridges? Nope. There are a couple hundred in Pennsylvania and more than 800 in the nation, but Maryland has just eight left of the 50 that once dotted the state.

These structures achieve what many works of architecture and engineering do not: They're romantic, functional, simple, eternal, even mysterious. People still debate the origins of these spans, whether they were covered to shelter wayward travelers, to keep horses from getting spooked over water or, as is predominantly thought, to protect the timber skeleton that supports the decking.

Howard has one of the eight remaining, though it doesn't date to the 19th century like the others and has been rebuilt substantially in recent years. A bridge enthusiast, Hubert Burdette, built it of barn timbers on his property in Lisbon, off Newport Road near Route 94, 50 years ago.

Actually, the Maryland county richest in these bridges is Frederick, where three remain. Unfortunately, they have recently suffered the same fate as many of these crossings nationally, having been wrecked by arson or negligence.

Two years ago, the Loy's Station Bridge near Rocky Ridge was almost destroyed by a man who set it ablaze in an insurance fraud scheme. It's a gauge of how strongly Frederick countians feel about their bridges that the sentencing for the crime made banner news in the local press. A truck damaged the Roddy Road covered bridge near Thurmont last year. And the support beam of a third covered bridge was also cracked by a passing truck last summer.

Negligent drivers aside, there are greater challenges to man's ingenuity than the preservation from fire of these bridges; it's a challenge that state and local authorities should meet. Sprinkler systems are available as are wood and paint treated to retard fire. At the least, automatic fire alarms could be installed to summon local fire companies.

One unfortunate irony we must add is that we didn't compose the previous paragraph. It was lifted almost verbatim from an Evening Sun editorial published in 1961. If there's any proof needed that Maryland hasn't sufficiently treasured its covered bridges, it is that 32 years later, the problem remains as frozen in time as these graceful relics.

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