Today’s post comes from Joshua Cain, an archives technician at the National Archives in College Park, MD.
Fall is a perfect time for a countryside drive as the changing leaves make for beautiful scenery. To enhance that experience, try taking a drive through a covered bridge. There are several covered bridges on the National Register of Historic Places in Records of the National Park Service—Record Group 79—in the National Archives Catalog. Three of them are close to each other in Frederick County, Maryland, which is not too far from Archives II in College Park, MD.
The most northern of the three is the Roddy Road Covered Bridge, where Roddy Road crosses Owens Creek. The wooden bridge consists of a single kingpost truss 40 feet in length, making it the shortest covered bridge in Maryland. This single kingpost truss is the oldest truss design used in bridge construction and is primarily used for short distances.
The Roddy Road Covered Bridge has had its share of damage. An oversized truck damaged the roof and truss of the bridge in March 1992. Then in May 2016 the bridge suffered more damage, yet again from an oversized truck. Even more unfortunately, in June 2016 another oversized truck caused such extensive damage that a replica bridge was constructed in its place. Thankfully, there are now clearance bars at the openings of the bridge to warn drivers.
Further south along Owens Creek is the Loys Station Covered Bridge on Old Frederick Road. This wooden bridge is 90 feet in length and rests on two stone abutments. The design is a multiple kingpost wood truss: one kingpost in the center with several right angle panels on each side of it. This design was developed to span long distances, up to one hundred feet.
In 1991 as part of an insurance fraud scam, a pickup truck was set on fire while on the bridge. It caused enough damage that reconstruction was needed. The new bridge was officially opened to traffic on July 4, 1994, and has had no damage since.
The third is the Utica Covered Bridge, which crosses Fishing Creek on Utica Road. The bridge is a little over 100 feet in length and has a Burr arch truss design. This design is named after Theodore Burr, one of the earliest and most prominent bridge builders in the country. His truss design soon became one of the more frequently used designs in bridge construction.
The Utica Bridge originally spanned the Monocacy River, where the Devilbiss Bridge is currently located, but it was badly damaged during the 1889 flood. The surviving half of the bridge was disassembled, moved by wagon to Utica, and reassembled over Fishing Creek. Sadly, the bridge suffered damage from a box truck in June 2021 and will hopefully reopen before winter arrives.
While these Frederick County covered bridges are on smaller country roads, that was not the case for other covered bridges in Maryland. Some were on major highways like the US 40 and the Jefferson and Buckeystown Pikes in Frederick County. At one point Maryland had 52 covered bridges across the state, but many were either destroyed by storms and fires or replaced with steel truss bridges. These Frederick county covered bridges are three of only six covered bridges left in the state. All three were first built in the second half of the 19th century and have been in continuous use since. These rustic, picturesque bridges offer a peek into the past and are worth a visit, especially in the fall.