Recent Covered Bridge Preservation Efforts (1960-2019)

Bucks County would aggressively promote its covered bridges as part of a broader tourism strategy in the 1960s.

The state of Pennsylvania and the National Park Service also placed Bucks County’s covered bridges on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. The state made a special exception for the South Perkasie Covered Bridge, since structures moved from their original location aren’t usually considered eligible for the National Register.

Bucks County officials also made covered bridge maintenance a priority and faced few controversies over preservation issues. The National Register nomination noted that all seven county-owned covered bridges were in good to excellent condition, while two of the state-owned bridges were poorly maintained.

But in January 1985, arsonists destroyed the county bridge at Haupt’s Mill in Springfield Township. While the county received more than 1,000 petitions for it to fund a replica bridge, commissioners decided in February 1987 to not build any bridge at the location, citing lack of support from township supervisors and residents of the location; a lack of traffic on the old bridge; and unbudgeted costs of $400,000.

Two state-owned covered bridges lost to arsonists have been replaced with replica covered bridges since then. In 1991, a fire destroyed the Schofield Ford Covered Bridge in Tyler State Park. Local residents and politicians raised the funds for a replica bridge and took part in its construction; the new bridge debuted as a walking-only bridge in 1997.

And in 2004, Mood’s Bridge in Perkasie, which was closed for repairs, also fell victim to arsonists. Local residents worked with the state to fund and construct a $700,000 replacement bridge, which was placed back it road service in 2008.

Today, covered bridge historic preservation is supported at a state-level in the PHMC’s Statewide Historic Preservation Plan and through grants offered by the commission. Bucks County’s tourism agencies still heavily promote the bridges. However, an important source of covered bridge funding was lost in 2012 when the federal government ended its National Historic Covered Bridge Preservation Program.

In 2015, the National Park Service published an exhaustive 234-page history of covered bridge engineering and preservation. It concluded with the following thought. “What is the future of these historic resources, which have such a hold on the American imagination?” the authors asked. They pointed to the cooperation of citizens with government agencies to ensure covered bridges “long remain standing in the American landscape.”

In Bucks County, communities have pioneered such efforts for the past 60 years, recognizing the covered bridge network’s long role in the villages, townships, and boroughs that make Bucks County unique. Perhaps its citizens were inspired by Anderson Scruggs’ famous poem from 1932 called “The Covered Bridge.”

“Here was a refuge from the sudden showers That swept like moving music field and wood. And here cool, tunneled dark when sultry hours. Danced with white feet beyond the bridge’s hood. … Yet there are soulless men whose hand and brain tear down what time will never give again.”