Skip to main content

Gallon House Bridge


What do teetotalers and libations have to do with the name of a covered bridge? Let's find that out at the Gallon House Bridge. Oregon's oldest covered bridge still in continuous use, the 84 foot long Gallon House Bridge has had quite a colorful history since it first opened in 1916 at a cost of $1,310. The Gallon House Bridge is the only remaining covered bridge open to vehicular use in Marion County, Oregon. Crossing the Abiqua Creek about halfway between Mount Angel and Silverton in the Willamette Valley, the Gallon House Bridge was named because there was a small house that was built that sold bootleg alcohol on the Mt. Angel side of the bridge.

You see, at the time, Silverton was a dry town comprised mainly of Protestants and Mount Angel was a wet town populated with Roman Catholics who hailed from Germany and Switzerland (and even today, Mt. Angel shows off its German character). In 1904, Oregon voters approved the Local Option Act that allowed each city to ban the sale of alcohol. Silverton citizens had voted to be dry while Mt. Angel voters chose to allow the sale of alcohol. According to local lore, an enterprising saloon owner built a small house on the north end of the bridge and stocked it with liquor. Residents of Silverton who wanted to partake in alcohol walked the two miles each way or so to the bridge, crossed over to the Mt. Angel side and purchased a bottle, jug or jar and returned home. People got around the law by selling the gallon jugs, but giving away the spirits, hiding the money transfer that made it a sale rather than a gift. Although this was in violation of the spirit of the state law, it was perfectly legal as long as nobody wrote out a receipt, or even if the receipt was for the bottle rather than its contents. As a result, Mt. Angel bottle and jug merchants did a brisk trade taking care of thirsty visitors from Silverton who met each other at the covered bridge, hence the name Gallon House.

After the age of Temperance and Prohibition, the Gallon House Bridge faced the typical whims that a covered bridge faces. During the famed Christmas Flood of 1964, the bridge was swept off its footings and suffered considerable damage. As  it was the county's only covered bridge, the Marion County Board of Commissioners decided it should be repaired and maintained as a historical landmark. In 1985, the bridge was closed to all traffic when a damaged chord rendered the bridge useless. County road crews repaired the bridge to accept traffic up to a 10-ton limit by reinforcing a lower chord, as well as making repairs to the beams and flooring. In 1990, because of poor structural condition, the bridge was rehabilitated further. In 2016, the bridge celebrated its 100th anniversary, and today, you can bike, walk or drive across the bridge.

The tradition of having a small area for the exchange of goods continues near the Gallon House Bridge, but instead of distilled spirits, you can acquire produce.

A small historical plaque near the bridge explaining the highlights of the bridge's history.

A cyclist is making his way across the Gallon House Bridge during a Sunday ride.

Small plaque indicating the Gallon House Bridge's place in Oregon history.



Sources and Links:
Marion County Oregon - Gallon House Bridge
Association of Oregon Counties - Marion County Rededicates the Gallon House Covered Bridge
Offbeat Oregon - Gallon House covered bridge: Ground Zero in battle over booze
Silverton Country Historical Society - Gallon House Bridge Turns 100

How to Get There:

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Paper Highways; California State Route 1 through the Lost Coast

For all the accolades and praise that California State Route 1 gets for being a top notch coastal highway one fact tends to get overlooked; the highway was never finished!  In this edition of Paper Highways we look at the failed path of California State Route 1 through the Lost Coast.



Part 1; the history of Legislative Route 56 and California Route 1 through the Lost Coast

The Lost Coast region consists of the undeveloped coastal areas of Humboldt County, Mendocino County, and the King Range.  The Lost Coast region roughly spans from near Rockport in Mendocino County north to Ferndale of Humboldt County.  The Lost Coast region is known for having rugged terrain which rivals what is seen in Big Sur.  The Lost Coast has several small communities such as; Shelter Cove, Whitehorn, and Petrolia.

In 1933 Legislative Route 56 was extended south to LRN 2 (US 101) near Las Cruces and north to Ferndale to LRN 1 (also US 101).  Prior to 1933 the legislative description of LRN 56 had it's nort…

Where the hell is Hill Valley? (US Route 8 south/US Route 395 east)

Recently I made a visit to Universal Studios near Los Angeles.  While on the back lot tour I came across a piece of infamous movie-borne fictional highway infamy; the location of town square of Hill Valley, California on US Route 8/US Route 395.


The above photo is part of the intro scene to the first Back-to-the-Future movie which was set in 1985. To anyone who follows roadways the signage error of US 8 meeting US 395 in California is an immediately notable error.  For one; US 8 doesn't even exist anywhere near California with present alignment being signed as an east/west highway between Norway, Michigan and Forest Lake, Minnesota.  To make matters worse US 8 is signed as a southbound route and US 395 (a north/south highway) is signed as an eastbound route.  At minimum the cut-out US 8 and US 395 shields somewhat resemble what Caltrans used in the 1980s.

Assuming Hill Valley is located on what would have been US 395 by 1985 what locales would be a viable real world analog?  US 39…

US Route 99 to Visalia?...

Something that I noticed awhile back while doing map research regarding US Route 99 in Fresno was that the highway intended to be originally routed through the City of Visalia.



The early originally planned alignment of US Route 99 in Visalia

To be clear US 99 was never actually routed through Visalia and ended up bypassing the City in favor of a direct route from Goshen southeast to Tulare.  US 99 within San Joaquin Valley was aligned over Legislative Route 4 which in turn was added to the State Highway System as part of the 1909 First State Highway Bond Act.  LRN 4 for a time was aligned through Visalia via; Mineral King Avenue, Main Street, and Mooney Boulevard.  This early alignment of LRN 4 through Visalia can be seen on the 1924 Division of Highways State Map.


The initial draft of the US Route System was approved by the Secretary of Agriculture during November of 1925.  The US Route System with in California was approved by California Highway Commission with no changes recommended…