Last weekend I strayed from New England and visited this covered bridge in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Built in 1852 to span approximately 100 feet across Marsh Creek, it later served both Union and Confederate soldiers in the Battle of Gettysburg. It was closed to traffic in the late 1960’s, and in 1996 floodwaters swept it from its abutments. After raising it three feet and reinforcing it with steel beams, it was then reopened to foot traffic.
The simplicity of its exterior purposeful form has both nostalgic and contemporary appeal. Bands of clapboard cladding alternating with unclad bands, in which crossing structural members are exposed, emphasize the length and tectonics of the span with elegance. From the interior, the diagonal geometry of the substantial exposed wall framing and overhead trusses repeats as if in rhythm with your pace as your cross from one side to the other.
Curiously, the lower, continuous unclad band that invites air and intermittent daylight inside is below eye level. This directs your focus inward and reinforces the sheltering experience. I wonder, though, if the restoration change to the bridge elevation put the daylight openings below eye level; perhaps the soldiers in 1863 could have looked out with greater ease because they were crossing on a different, lower floor level relative to the daylight openings. On the other hand, it may have been intentionally originally designed to limit view and exposure. Still, I longed to pause en route and comfortably take in the view from within. Too bad for me. I’ll have to design my own covered bridge.
by Katie Hutchison for the House Enthusiast