Floodwaters care little about history. That much is certain. As the bulging rivers of Vermont wash away roads and property after Tropical Storm Irene, they have taken with them a piece of state history by tearing apart its storied covered bridges.
With flooding washing out or covering roads in 41 different towns, the loss of a handful of bridges may not yield the most immediate concern, but it still signifies a prominent piece of Vermont history lost.
With about 100 original covered bridges statewide, at least four have been either severely damaged or completely destroyed already.
The Bartonsville Bridge, constructed in 1870, located in Rockingham about 35 miles from the Massachusetts border, was nearly 160 feet long. The Williams River, which the bridge spanned for well over 100 years, took it apart with a rush of water. The bridge withstood the onslaught for hours until finally crumbling and joining the rapids it couldn’t withstand.
Two other bridges in the same town were also reportedly damaged, according to Bloomberg.
Other bridges have major damage too, with a covered bridge over Cox Brook now with a tree through its roof. The Taftsville covered bridge, built in 1836 in Woodstock, was deemed unsafe after debris—including massive propane tanks—pounded it. The Kidder Hill covered bridge, built in 1870 over the South Branch Saxtons River in Grafton, is possibly lost for good, and the Quechee covered bridge now barely straddles the Ottauquechee River.
Joe Nelson, vice president of the Vermont Covered Bridge Society, tells the Burlington Free Press the damage is “devastating.” The loss in just a few days was more costly to the heritage of covered bridges than a typical decade. Or more. Although, this isn’t the first time a major flood event has wiped out bridges, but it certainly has been a while. The last event—in 1927—took out nearly 100 bridges.
Soon will come the task of rebuilding the bridges, but nothing quite beats an original.