Rebuilt covered bridge to reopen for cars, trucks

July 03, 1994|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Western Maryland Bureau of The Sun

THURMONT -- A rebuilt Loy's Station Bridge -- one of only six 19th-century covered bridges in Maryland -- is scheduled to reopen for cars and trucks tomorrow.

The rebuilt, red timber-frame bridge, destroyed by arsonists three years ago, actually got its first traffic -- walkers, bicyclists and even horse-drawn wagons -- late last month.

But the opening for vehicles was held off so its wood-shingle roof could be completed.

Preservationists, volunteers and others celebrated the bridge's restoration with old-fashioned fun on June 25: stump speeches, Civil War re-enactments, craftsmen, music, food and train rides.

The festivities, attended by several thousand people, were reminiscent of 19th-century events marking the opening of covered bridges in rural communities.

"In those days building bridges was a big thing. Often they were built where fords had been made. The fords were often inconvenient and deadly," said Dean Fitzgerald, president of the Frederick County Covered Bridge Preservation Society, a group that has spearheaded efforts to preserve the bridge and two others in the county.

"Bridges were quite an addition to the community and were often celebrated," he said.

The covered bridge is on Old Frederick Road, south of Route 77 near Thurmont. The bridge crosses Owens Creek and is a popular spot for swimmers and picnickers.

Mr. Fitzgerald said rebuilding the bridge cost about $300,000. It's now undergirded with steel beams and rests on a concrete base. Frederick County commissioners allocated about $50,000 to the project, and the rest was covered by insurance.

The original bridge was built between 1859 and 1880 and then reinforced with steel beams in the 1930s. Charred timbers from the old bridge have been included in the reconstructed span, he said.

In rebuilding the bridge, preservationists overcame a number of hurdles, including difficulty in finding 45-foot long white oak beams and battling state and local officials over its design and roof.

The bridge's design is a compromise. Preservations wanted to reconstruct the bridge entirely out of wood. They won the roof battle, though. Plans for a metal or tin roof were shelved.

Mr. Fitzgerald said the new bridge has been coated with a flame retardant liquid and a fire detection system has been installed. Lights have been placed around on the bridge to deter vandalism.

"It's a beautiful bridge," Mr. Fitzgerald said. "It's been a lot of fun restoring it, but it's also been a lot of work. We're lucky to have this here. It adds a lot of charm to the community."

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