|Postcard showing the Paper Mill Covered Bridge|
The first bridge we'll look at was one of the last in the county to be intentionally taken out of service, and was to my eyes one of the most beautiful -- the Paper Mill Bridge east of Newark. The history of this bridge, not surprisingly, is closely tied to the nearby Meeteer (later, Curtis) Paper Mill. When the mill began operations in the late 1700's, there was no bridge here -- only a nearby ford, called Tyson's Ford. In 1817, the first bridge carrying what we now call Paper Mill Road over White Clay Creek was built. The cost was $1771.83 for the wooden, non-covered bridge. This bridge sufficed for the next 44 years, until it was replaced in 1861 by a 96 ft. Town lattice truss covered bridge ("Town lattice truss" was the style of bridge, the most common, especially in rural areas, since it could be built without metal fasteners).
It's very possible that construction of the new bridge was prompted by the outbreak of war, and an increase in production at the paper mill due to government contracts. I'm not sure if the rectangular "nameplate" seen in the postcard above was original, but it was definitely in place by about the turn of the century. It may be a bit difficult to see, but it says, "1861 Paper Mill Bridge". The plate is still visible in the first picture below, which was taken in 1921, but by the time of the second picture, which may date to the early 1940's, it was gone. There were apparently plans to replace the aging bridge as early as the early 1930's, but lack of funds and then World War II saved it for almost 20 years. The Paper Mill Covered Bridge was finally replaced by a modern, concrete span in 1949, just in time to handle the increased automobile traffic generated by a growing Newark and burgeoning suburbia.
Before we move on to the second bridge, located on the other side of the hundred, a quick note about covered bridges in general. I could be wrong, but I think many people misunderstand the reason behind building a covered bridge. I remember being told as a child that covered bridges were built so that horses would not get spooked while traversing fast-moving streams. This is not the case. The real reason goes back what was mentioned in the first paragraph -- maintenance. The exposed planks in a regular wooden bridge tend to rot and deteriorate fairly quickly. This necessitates constant repairs, and lots of money. The reason for building a covered bridge is simply to protect the lumber of the decking from the elements.
From a large, exposed, heavily-travelled bridge, we now move to a location where many people may not even know a bridge exists, let alone that there was once a covered bridge. Faulkland Road, as it descends westward from Newport Gap Pike, crosses the Red Clay Creek tributary of Hyde Run before rising again to Duncan Road. For about 60 years, this was the site of one of the odder covered bridges in the area, and one of my favorites. Very little is known about this bridge, and only one photograph is known to exist. It was likely a Town lattice truss bridge, and was probably built in the 1850's or 1860's. *See notes below The concrete girder bridge that eventually replaced it was only 27 feet long, so the covered bridge was probably smaller than that.
|Faulkand Covered Bridge 1921|
Additional Facts and Related Thoughts:
- In the 1858 "Journal of the House of Representatives of the State of Delaware", there is an appropriation of $400 for "building new bridge over Hyde Run, near Brandywine Springs" (near the bottom of page 42). I can't verify for sure that this refers to the construction of the covered bridge in the picture, but the date does fit with what was estimated for it.
- Prompted by an inquiry from a comment, here is a link to a document (PDF) that talks about several bridges, including the 1922 Faulkland steel bridge.