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

The original alignment of US Route 40 over the Martinez-Benicia Ferry and Carquinez Scenic Drive

This past November I took a day trip out to the Carquinez Straights to explore the original alignment of US Route 40 over the Martinez-Benicia Ferry and Carquinez Scenic Drive.



Part 1; the history of road bound travel over the Carquinez Straights

The Martinez-Benicia Ferry began operation in 1847 and is the second oldest ferry in the San Francisco Bay Area.  The Martinez-Benicia Ferry shuttled traffic across the Carquinez Strait long before a bridge was present in the area.   The Martinez-Benicia Ferry was founded by Dr. Robert Semple and was taken over by Oliver Coffin (interesting last name) who built the Ferry Street Wharf in 1850.  The Martinez-Benicia Ferry can be observed even vintage maps such as the 1857 Britton & Rey's Road Map of California.


By 1915 a steam ferry known as the City of Seattle was the first to carry automotive traffic across the Carquinez Strait.  Access to the Martinez-Benicia Ferry was by way of Legislative Route 14 and Legislative Route 7.  LRN…

Box Canyon Road (former US 60, US 70 and the second California State Route 195)

This past month while visiting Riverside County I drove Box Canyon Road from Interstate 10 near Chiriaco Summit southwest to Mecca in Coachella Valley.  Box Canyon Road is mostly known for being the original alignment of US 60/70 when they were expanded into California.


Box Canyon Road is an approximately 15.8 mile road between I-10/Cottonwood Springs Road near Chiriaco Summit which travels southwest through the Mecca Hills to Coachella Valley where it becomes 66th Avenue. 


Box Canyon Road follows a naturally cut wash through the terrain of the Mecca Hills.  The path of Box Canyon Road has been a known route of travel from Coachella Valley to the Colorado River and eastern Sonoran Desert for centuries.  During the California Gold Rush a wagon route known as the Bradshaw Trail was plotted through the Sonoran Desert by William D. Bradshaw.  The Bradshaw Trail was plotted in 1862 through the Sonoran Desert east over the Colorado River to a new mining strike found in La Paz, Arizona.  B…

California State Route 111 in Coachella Valley

This past October I spent some time driving the remaining segments of California State Route 111 in Coachella Valley.


CA 111 is a highway completely contained within the Sonoran Desert of Southern California.  CA 111 begins at Interstate 10 near Whitewater in San Gorgonio Pass of Riverside County.  CA 111 traverses Coachella Valley and the eastern shore the Salton Sea where it terminates at the Mexican Border in Calexico of Imperial County.  Prior to recent relinquished segments CA 111 was 129 miles in length.



Part 1; the History of California State Route 111

CA 111 was one of the original run of Sign State Routes announced in an August 1934 Department of Public Works Guide.  The original route of CA 111 was aligned entirely over Legislative Route 187 between US 60/US 70/US 99 near Whitewater to US 99 in Brawley.  LRN 187 had been added to the State Highway System a year prior in 1933 according to CAhighways.



CA 111 first appears in substantial detail on the 1935 Gousha Highway Map of …