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RESTORATION OF RICHLAND CREEK COVERED BRIDGE

by

Vilena Anderson

 The Richland Creek Covered Bridge is the only one remaining of five such wooden structures built in Greene County. The 100-foot bridge was built in 1883 by A. M. Kennedy and Sons of Rushville, Indiana. It is located 2 1/2 miles south of Bloomfield on Base Line Road, also know as the Old Scotland Road.

The bridge was first restored in 1967 by Jake Wilson, a well-known bridge builder in Bloomfield, with the assistance of Joe Hays, a highway engineer. Wilson provided the financing for the supplies and labor during the renovation of the bridge. No tax money was used in this project. The bridge was restored to its original condition; however, two windows were added and the ornamental trim was not replaced.

The second restoration was started on May 5, 1997, by F. E. Gates Company, a division of Blakely Corporation of Indianapolis. The first phase of the project began with water blasting, a special chemical process, to remove years of graffiti. Construction workers then dismantled the siding, roofing, and rafters. They discovered that the bridge was leaning more than had been anticipated.

As the crew was dismantling the bridge, they found a plaque from Robbins Lightning Protective Company of Maryville, Missouri, showing that the bridge had been lightning proofed. According to John C. Kindler, project manager, the best sections of the old wood are being preserved for use as possible mementos. Some of the nails are also being saved.

Before the second phase of the project could begin, the firm had to obtain a permit from the State Department of Natural Resources. The permit allowed the crew to work in the streambed underneath the bridge while they temporarily shored it up and attached cable lines to the bank to stabilize the bridge. The shoring held up the bridge while the arches, which actually support the bridge, were being replaced. The bridge popped and cracked when the crew realigned the wood. This procedure squared and leveled the structure.

The completed bridge had 31,600 board feet of new timber, including 6,300 board feet of oak flooring. The roof was replaced with 2,600 square feet of shake shingles. Several support beams, including both lower cords (horizontal support beams) were replaced. Approximately half of the burr arches and the entire east abutment also had to be replaced. Southern Yellow No. 1 Pine was used to restore the bridge except for the following areas: cedar shakes for the roof, poplar wood for siding, and oak wood for the flooring. Other supplies included 3/4-inch bolts, pole barn nails, glulams (a type of wood) for floor beams, and stringers (a type of reinforcement).

Changes in the original plans involved adding oak flooring, replacing additional timbers, and using a fire retardant. The installation of oak decking allowed light vehicles--cars and pick-up trucks that weigh up to three tons--to cross the bridge. The contract initially was for posts to be placed in front of the bridge, allowing only pedestrian traffic. The change added $4,000 to the project but not because of the oak costing more. With the hard wood, the crew had to pre-drill over 4,000 holes for bolts instead of simply using a nail gun for securing the flooring.

The two small windows added during the 1967 restoration project were not replaced in 1997 as they were not part of the original covered bridge design. F. E. Gates estimated that the completed bridge will last about 75 years without major restoration. The entire project cost $344,000.

The county is working with a local utility group to provided lighting around the bridge to help reduce vandalism. Also being considered is the possibility of installing a silent fire alarm, which would report smoke or fire to the local fire department.

 

REFERENCES

 

Burk, Jodi. "Covered Bridge Project Starts," The Evening World, August 18, 1997.

Personal interview with David Anderson, Greene County Highway Supervisor, on Monday, October 6, 1997, in Linton, Indiana.

Personal interview with John C. Kindler, Project Manager of F. E. Gates Company, on Thursday, September 18, 1997, in Bloomfield, Indiana.

Sheckler, Jackie. "Old Bridge to Get New Chance," The Herald-Times, March 11, 1997.