A reminder of a young nation carved out of the wilderness, covered bridges are charming, yet practical. Timothy Palmer built the first American covered bridge over the Schuylkill River at 30th Street in Philadelphia in 1800. The investors asked to have it covered in the hopes of extending the life of the bridge, and Palmer reluctantly agreed. The value of the covered bridge design was quickly recognized, as it greatly extended the life of the wooden bridges by protecting the side supporting timbers (not necessarily the floorboards) from exposure to the weather, thus lowering maintenance costs. There are several wife's tales which present alternate views as to why these bridges were built with a cover, including safeguarding livestock when crossing water, or scaring off evil spirits, but the true reason the bridges were covered was to preserve them from the environment. As a result, many of these wonderful wooden structures have survived for over a century.
While covering the bridges was a practical way to protect them from snow and rain, it also had a downside. During pre-automobile days, when sleds were the primary method of winter transportation, snow actually had to be shoveled back onto the bridges to provide a snowy surface for the sled runners.
Covered bridges dot all regions of Pennsylvania and they are a treat, regardless of the season. Wherever you plan to visit in the state, there is probably at least one covered bridge nearby. So bring your sweetheart and discover why these timeless treasures were also known as "kissing bridges."
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