Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Roseville Covered Bridge

We'll take a quick detour now between the last post and next post (both regarding the Milltown area) to introduce a site that I'm pretty sure I was unaware of before this week -- the Roseville Covered Bridge. I've written several times in the past about the Roseville area, which is located along Kirkwood Highway just west of Possum Park Road. The posts have mostly focused on the mill seat located there or the neighboring farm (I hate to keep teasing upcoming posts, but one soon will again mention a planned later iteration of the Roseville Mill). I was aware that there was a bridge there, crossing White Clay Creek, but I didn't know it was a covered bridge.

This shouldn't have been too surprising, really. All the surrounding crossings (Paper Mill, Red Mill, and Harmony) had, at one time, covered bridges. There's no real reason why Roseville shouldn't have also. The reason why I had never heard of it before can be explained by the August 19, 1901 newspaper mention of the bridge seen above (courtesy, as usual in these cases, of Donna Peters). And although, to paraphrase a contemporary author, reports of its death were greatly exaggerated, the Roseville Covered Bridge did not last quite as long as did some of the others spanning the borders of Mill Creek Hundred.

I will admit freely that while at this point I don't know a whole lot about the Roseville bridge and I've not come across a photograph of it, I can at least pretty well narrow down its birth and death dates. The article states that the bridge was old by 1901, but not how old. The answer, it turns out, is almost certainly 55 years old. As seen below, in the February 1846 session of the Delaware House of Representatives it was recorded that $425 was carried forward to, "Complete the building of Roseville bridge in Mill Creek hundred." Since many of the other covered bridges date from this same general era, I think it's quite reasonable to assume that this referred to the covered bridge and that it was in fact completed later in 1846.

From the 1845-1846 proceedings of the
Delaware House of Representatives

Any discussion of the actual bridge itself -- what type it was, what it looked like, etc. -- will have to wait until such time as we know anything about it. So far I've found no mentions of it between 1846 and 1901, but several after that. It seems that contrary to the 1901 paragraph, the bridge was not actually destroyed. Or, if it was, it was repaired just enough to be functional again for a while. In September 1905, it was noted that the Levy Court had agreed to pay $18/year to the White Clay Creek Electric Company "for placing a light upon Roseville covered bridge near Newark." I can't imagine why they would place a light on the bridge unless it was in use.

Tour route from 1910

Five years later, in 1910, an automobile touring magazine listed a route from Philadelphia to Washington, DC. As seen above, it specifically mentions Roseville and going through the covered bridge. From these references, it seems obvious that the covered bridge did survive the 1901 flooding. The biggest clue as to how much longer it survived comes to us from what just might be (with apologies to any civil engineers out there) the most boring-sounding publication I've yet had the pleasure to come across -- Engineering and Contracting: Devoted to the Economics of Civil Engineering Design and to Methods and Costs of Construction. The snippet below, from June 1911, shows the various firms who bid on "the construction of the new bridge to replace the old Roseville covered bridge." This was old information by then, though, because another publication also from June 1911 states that it was the Nelson Meredith Company who won the bid.

Bidders to replace the Roseville Covered Bridge

The numbering system is a little off due to the rerouting of roads over the years, but I think that the bridge that briefly replaced the covered bridge was this one, seen below in 1921. These older bridges were just to the south (your left if you're heading towards Newark) of the current Kirkwood Highway (ok, Capitol Trail, but we won't get into that) bridge over the creek, built mid-century*. Because it disappeared prior to the true automobile age. the Roseville Covered Bridge is less-remembered than some of its contemporaries. And since odder things have happened, maybe someday a photograph of this forgotten bridge will surface.

Bridge M229 in 1921

*Edit added 6-22-2016:

Since the main focus of the post was on the old covered bridge, I only briefly mentioned the later bridges. However, a commenter got me thinking closer about the location of the old bridges in relation to the modern bridge. Below are three aerial shots of the crossing, from 1937, 1954, and 2013. Yes, the covered bridge and presumably the 1911 bridge seemed to have crossed at the end of what's today A Street. Even by 1937, though, the current path of Capitol Trail was in place and what looks like a larger bridge carries the road. I think this likely replaced the 1911 structure, which was still essentially built prior to automobile traffic. I don't think in 1911 they had a good idea of what car traffic would be like in just a few decades (hence the 1921 bridge survey).

The 1954 picture shows the next bridge being built, in the same location as the current bridge (it may or may not be the same one, I'm not sure). Somewhere I've seen a shot looking east of this bridge being built, and if I find it I'll add it here. The commenter also makes a good point that there may still be evidence of the old bridges on the creek banks next to the highway. If anyone can get there and check it out, send me some pictures and I'll put them up.

Roseville Bridge 1937

Roseville Bridge 1954

Roseville Bridge 2013


  1. Would this bridge have been located and crossed White Clay on what is now "A Street" which runs parallel to capital trail, and is right at the entrance to Windy Hill.
    The newspaper article above said it was filled with water, so assuming it was down lower to the creek, rather than how high the current bridge is. Plus when they rerouted Old Capital Trail to the modern, I assume they built the new current bridge while the old one was still open, next to it.
    Would be interesting to go down there and see if any remains of any former bridges are still lingering. Thanks.

    1. Yes, that's where it would have been. You got me thinking more about the later bridges, so I added some shots and a few paragraphs to the post to address them. Thanks!!