Along a country road in a valley surrounded by mountains near Lairdsville sits a 125-year-old covered bridge, the barn-red wooden structure bridging the gap over Little Muncy Creek.
It's this sort of rustic, historic surprise Mindy Crawford, executive director of Preservation Pennsylvania, finds so charming.
"You're driving along and go around a turn and see a covered bridge. ... I like the undiscovered, and suddenly seeing something I didn't know was there," Crawford said.
Frazier Covered Bridge near Lairdsville, which has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
It's that very bridge, Frazier Covered Bridge, that will receive a 2013 Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Award, specifically a Construction Project Award, at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Sept. 27, at the Sunnybrook Ballroom, 50 Sunnybrook Road, Pottstown.
The 60-foot-long bridge on Township Road 664 was built in 1888 of the Burr Arch design, with no major work done on it since 1940. Lycoming County Transportation Planner Mark Murawski said the bridge was in desperate need of repair.
"The bridge was in such disrepair we would've had to close it had we not worked on it, and extremely vulnerable to be taken out with a major flood," Murawski said.
So the county completely rehabilitated the bridge in 2011 at a cost of $866,000, replacing about two-thirds of it with materials similar to the bridge as the old material was damaged beyond salvaging.
The work was done in accordance with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission's standards, and also won the 2012 state award for best county project, Murawski said.
The bridge's current purpose is purely historical, as it leads only to a cul-de-sac. In 1980, the bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1985, the county built a new bridge upstream to serve general traffic near Lairdsville, Moreland Township, Murawski said.
Among the numerous bridge projects, Crawford is particularly excited about the work done on Frazier bridge.
"They had to really take it apart completely and carefully rehabilitate each section. It's a great project," Crawford said.
Along with Frazier bridge, the county rehabilitated the other two of its county-owned covered bridges, Buckhorn and Buttonwood.
The 79-foot-long Buckhorn Covered Bridge is on Township Road 784 and goes over Larry's Creek in Cogan House Township, serving a hunting cabin. Built in 1877 of the Burr Arch design, this red wooden structure is the largest of the three county-owned bridges, and is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Murawski said.
The county rehabilitated it in 1998 at a cost of $148,000, replacing the roof, sideboards, improved the foundation and painted the bridge. Other than needing repainting and fixing up some boards, the bridge remains in "good shape," Murawski said.
Buttonwood Covered Bridge was built in 1898 with multiple king truss variant design, and the county also undertook work on the 57-foot-long bridge in 1998 with Buckhorn. Also a painted red wooden structure, it goes over Blockhouse Creek on Township Road 816, Jackson Township. The $106,000 rehabilitation included a new roof, sideboards, fixing structural issues and foundation work, Murawski said. The county repainted it in August, using prison work crews.
All three bridges have a 3-ton weight limit, ensuring their longevity. Lycoming Supply Co. did the construction work, and Larson Design Group engineered all three bridge rehabilitations.
The county uses Act 26 money for covered-bridge repairs, which is dedicated money to preserve covered bridges as many are being lost, and local governments don't have enough money to repair them, Murawski said.
Pennsylvania still leads the nation with the most covered bridges at 211, according to The World Guide to Covered Bridges, published by the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges.
There used to be nearly 1,400 authentic covered bridges nationwide, with less than 900 remaining today, according to pacoveredbridges.com. Time has taken its toll, along with arsonists, although federal money is helping to restore these national treasures, many over 150 years old.
When covered bridges were built, wood was used because of its natural abundance, and the bridges needed to be covered to protect from weather and rotting, according to faculty.lebow.drexel.edu.
Over time, steel truss bridges replaced covered bridges, in turn replaced by concrete bridges. Steel interacts with corrosive forces, and if cracks in concrete are properly sealed, concrete is easier to maintain, Murawski said.