FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – The Spencerville Covered Bridge, which nearly met a tragic end Wednesday when a semi-truck driver tried to drive through it, has history that dates back nearly 140 years.
Spencerville, which was the first permanent white settlement in DeKalb County, was built on the banks of the St. Joe River for its advantages in commerce and transportation. The current covered bridge, in place since 1873, is the second bridge to be built at the location. DeKalb County Historian John Bry says the Spencerville Covered Bridge was cheap to build compared to what it might cost today.
"There was an earlier bridge at the location but eventually that went—it disappeared and the county commissioners had put out bids for the construction of another bridge and that's when we got the Spencerville Covered Bridge, constructed for a little under $4,500 at the time."
The bridge is a Smith Truss Patent bridge comprised of white pine from Michigan. Bry says the sturdy pine and Smith Truss design with crossing wood pattern along the sides of the bridge is what has made the bridge withstand the test of time. Bry says the popularity of the bridge within the community has also been a driving factor in repairs and restoration efforts for more than 100 years.
“It’s been threatened before but the community and the county has always rallied around it. It's been threatened by floods, waters, ice dams and it's always prevailed. And throughout the years, starting as early as 1913, in the 20s, in the 50s, the 70s, in the early 80s, the building’s always been maintained, repaired or added to structurally with stronger support piers in the water.”
In 1981, the bridge went through a larger restoration and joined the National Register of Historic Places. It is one of the few remaining covered bridges in the northern half of the Hoosier State.
In addition to being used for transportation, the bridge is also used for an annual dinner and other social engagements. Bry says the bridge is a microcosm of American pop culture.
“Everyone is just romanticized about this bridge and with books, and movies and pop culture, you know the American covered bridge is just this iconic unique thing in American history, and we have a little piece of that history right here in DeKalb County.”
Bry says the county commissioners have assured the community their best efforts will be made to restore the bridge.
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