Skip to main content

Comstock Covered Bridge - Connecticut

 


One of three historic covered bridges remaining within the State of Connecticut, the Comstock Covered Bridge spans over the Salmon River between the towns of Colchester and East Hampton (formerly Chatham). Initially built in 1873, the covered bridge is 80 feet long and is built in a Howe truss design. The bridge was named after an early local postmaster by the name of Franklin G. Comstock. The bridge crossing at this point had served as part of the main road between Colchester and Middletown for much of its existence. Numerous renovations and a listing on the National Register of Historic Places ensured its preservation. While it is now one of the three remaining covered bridges in Connecticut, it was originally covered simply to protect the wooden trusses from weather. It is now celebrated for the functional beauty that makes it a New England hallmark. Local residents, visiting fishermen, and sightseers alike can enjoy the beauty of this covered bridge.

In 1785, residents living south of the Salmon River in the town of East Hampton (then known as Chatham) encountered great difficulties in crossing the river to attend church services and conduct business with their fellow citizens north of the waterway. Crossing became such an inconvenience that southern residents even considered joining a different town. Rather than lose valuable tax revenues, Chatham town officials petitioned the General Assembly for money to build a bridge, which was uncovered for its first edition. The first bridge was used for traffic to pass over the river en route to church services, business ventures, and general pedestrian needs, which added access between the north and south ends of town. In 1840 it was upgraded for major traffic to be accommodated and in 1873 the bridge was rebuilt, leading to the Comstock Covered Bridge that we know today. It is the only remaining example of a wooden pony truss in Connecticut. The bad news is, the structure wasn’t engineered to support the weight of the covering.

After decades of service from the bridge, the town spent $4,000 in 1873 to rebuild it into something more closely resembling its current form. The refurbished Comstock Covered Bridge carried traffic between Colchester and Chatham (later East Hampton) for nearly 60 years, until it became unsuitable for supporting the increasingly heavier forms of vehicular traffic that were coming into fashion. As a result, a new concrete bridge which is now part of CT Route 16 was built about 500 feet downstream from the Comstock Covered Bridge. In 1932, the new bridge took over the responsibility from the covered bridge of getting vehicles across the river.

During the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) renovated the covered bridge and added wooden gates and new siding. You can see the Despite its reduced role, age and weather continued to threaten the destruction of the bridge. In 1969, with many of its timbers having become rotted due to deterioration, the Comstock Covered Bridge began to sag and was in danger of collapsing under its own weight. Temporary supports were put in place to save the span until major renovations in the early 1970s added steel plates to support the overburdened joints. In 1974, major rehabilitation was conducted which included removal of a 12 inch negative camber, along with strengthening of the bridge. At the time, $482,800 was requested to renovate the bridge, but only $84,800 was received. Nonetheless, the green light was given to fix the bridge.

In the early 1990's, there was a growing concern over vandalism at the bridge along with the need for continued extensive renovations. A group of representatives from a local civic groups called C.A.R.E. (Chatham Alliance of Resources) agreed to have lights installed at the bridge to deter vandalism, make renovations to the bridge and exterior improvements to create a park for all to enjoy. However, the work was not done to restore the bridge to its former glory. Measures were increasingly necessary to keep the bridge from falling into the Salmon River. Massive metal beams were bolted to the sides of the bridge, but that only delayed the inevitable need for a full and proper reconstruction. The 80 foot covered bridge over the Salmon River and north of CT Route 16 was closed in March of 2009 so work could begin on the $1.1 million project to restore the bridge to its former glory and to preserve the historical integrity of the bridge. The bridge was rebuilt using 50% of the original wood. I think that they did an overall swell job in restoring the bridge.

The Comstock Covered Bridge's unique architecture had earned it a listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. Today, this time honored testament to ingenuity and design is part of a public park, thus allowing visitors to take a step back in local transportation history. Its location across the Salmon River brings out plenty of anglers along with other recreational activities for hikers and picnickers alike. In fact, the Salmon River Hiking Trail has a connecting trail that leads to the Comstock Covered Bridge. During a couple of trips to eastern Connecticut in January 2008 and April 2019, I decided to visit the Comstock Covered Bridge and was able to revel in its beauty.


Enjoying the Comstock Covered Bridge from below during my April 2019 visit to the bridge. I didn't see anyone fishing or passively recreating, but maybe because it was a rainy Easter Sunday.



Along the deck of the covered bridge. The gates you see date back to the 1930s, when the CCC was working on maintaining and repairng the bridge.

CCC bridge plaque.

On the other side of the bridge now.

Inside the covered bridge.

The modern bridge just south of the covered bridge, which carries CT 16 across the Salmon River.

Looking north at the Salmon River.

Interpretive storyboards that tell the history of the Comstock Covered Bridge.


Things were a lot different when I visited the Comstock Covered Bridge in 2008. Outside beams and supports were used to hold the bridge up before the bridge was most recently renovated.






How to Get There:




Sources and Links:
CTMQ - Comstock Covered Bridge
Chatham Historical Society - Comstock Bridge
Connecticut Office of Tourism - Comstock Covered Bridge
Bridgehunter.com - Comstock Covered Bridge 07-04-01 #2
Life, On a Bridged - Comstock Covered Bridge, East Hampton-Colchester, CT
CTHumanities - The Comstock Bridge Brings East Hampton Residents Together 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Central Freeway of San Francisco (US Route 101)

The Central Freeway is a 1.2-mile elevated limited access corridor in the city of San Francisco.  As presently configured the Central Freeway connects from the end of the Bayshore Freeway to Market Street.  The Central Freeway carries the mainline of northbound US Route 101 from the Bayshore Freeway to Mission Street. The Central Freeway has origins with the establishment of Legislative Route Number 223 and is heavily tied to the history of the once proposed Panhandle Freeway.  The Central Freeway between the Bayshore Freeway and Mission Street was completed during 1955.  The corridor was extended to a one-way couplet located at Turk Street and Golden Gate Avenue in 1959 which served to connect US Route 101 to Van Ness Avenue.  The Central Freeway was damaged by the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake and has since been truncated to Market Street.   The Central Freeway as pictured on the blog cover was featured in the May/June 1959 California Highways & Public Works.  The scan below is fro

The Bayshore Freeway (US Route 101)

The Bayshore Freeway is a 56.4-mile component of US Route 101 located in the San Francisco Bay Area.  The Bayshore Freeway connects the southern extent of San Jose to the Central Freeway in the city of San Francisco.  The corridor was originally developed as the Bayshore Highway between 1923 and 1937.  The Bayshore Highway would serve briefly as mainline US Route 101 before being reassigned as US Route 101 Bypass in 1938.  Conceptually the designs for the Bayshore Freeway originated in 1940 but construction would be delayed until 1947.  The Bayshore Freeway was completed by 1962 and became mainline US Route 101 during June 1963.   Part 1; the history of the Bayshore Freeway Prior the creation of the Bayshore Highway corridor the most commonly used highway between San Jose and San Francisco was El Camino Real (alternatively known as Peninsula Highway).  The  American El Camino Real  began as an early example of a signed as an Auto Trail starting in 1906.  The era of State Highway Mainte

Former US Route 101 and California State Route 41 through Paso Robles

Paso Robles is a city located on the Salinas River of San Luis Obispo County, California.  As originally configured the surface alignments of US Route 101 and California State Route 41 converged in downtown Paso Robles.  US Route 101 originally was aligned through Paso Robles via Spring Street.  California State Route 41 entered the City of Paso Robles via Union Road and 13th Street where it intersected US Route 101 at Spring Street.  US Route 101 and California State Route 41 departed Paso Robles southbound via a multiplex which split near Templeton.   Pictured above is the cover of the September/October 1957 California Highways & Public Works which features construction of the Paso Robles Bypass.  Pictured below is the 1935 Division of Highways Map of San Luis Obispo County which depicts US Route 101 and California State Route 41 intersecting in downtown Paso Robles.   Part 1; the history of US Route 101 and California State Route 41 in Paso Robles Paso Robles ("Pass of the