Blogging Chester County Coatesville Covered Bridges Photo Essay Photo Journal Photography Projects Reference

Speakman #1 Covered Bridge – 4 years later

While I was out on a GPS drive yesterday, I found myself very close to Speakman #1 Covered Bridge, and having several hours before the kids got home, I decided to stop by and do a follow-up session.

The last time I was at the bridge was back in 2010, and as I got closer, I started to notice signs saying the bridge was closed.

This made me very concerned, especially since we’ve had several harsh winters since I was last there.

As I approached the bridge, I felt rather depressed when I began to see barriers in front of the bridge opening.

Bridge Closed signs at Speakman #1
Bridge Closed signs at Speakman #1 in Chester County PA.

While I was getting out of the car, I was wondering what kind of damage had happened, when I was shaken from my thoughts by a man in a pickup truck.  He asked if I was fishing to which I raised my camera.

The truck pulled into the area in front of the bridge and the man got out and started chatting about the bridge in general.

I explained to him that the last time I’d been down here was in 2010, and that I was rather shocked to see the general appearance of the bridge.

At this point, Lawrence introduced himself and said the bridge had been closed for about two years due to damage by a truck hauling steel plates through the bridge.

Truck damage to Speakman #1 covered bridge in Chester County PA.
Truck damage to Speakman #1 covered bridge in Chester County PA.
Truck damage to Speakman #1 covered bridge in Chester County PA.
Truck damage to Speakman #1 covered bridge in Chester County PA.
Truck damage to Speakman #1 covered bridge in Chester County PA.
Truck damage to Speakman #1 covered bridge in Chester County PA.
Truck damage to Speakman #1 covered bridge in Chester County PA.
Truck damage to Speakman #1 covered bridge in Chester County PA.
Truck damage to Speakman #1 covered bridge in Chester County PA.
Truck damage to Speakman #1 covered bridge in Chester County PA.
Truck damage to Speakman #1 covered bridge in Chester County PA.
Truck damage to Speakman #1 covered bridge in Chester County PA.

Apparently, a driver was heading southbound on Frog Hollow Road, when a steel plate shifted as he turned right onto Covered Bridge Road, severely damaging the South West entrance post.

Lawrence continued to tell me stories about the local area and the bridge as we walked around, inspecting the damage.

In this picture, you can still see some of the fire damage cause by some local boys.  Notice the char in the diagonal crossbeam.

Arson damage at Speakman #1 in Chester County PA. - Notice the 'new' siding.
Arson damage at Speakman #1 in Chester County PA. – Notice the ‘new’ siding.

From the outside, looking upstream, you can see the boards that were replaced.

Truck damage to Speakman #1 covered bridge in Chester County PA.
Truck damage to Speakman #1 covered bridge in Chester County PA.

I asked when the bridge was going to be fixed, but that remains to be seen. There appears to be an argument between the local townships and the state about who is going to pick up the restoration cost.

When you go to the upstream side of the bridge, you can see where the tall grass has gotten stuck between the boards during several recent floods.

Flood damage to Speakman #1 covered bridge in Chester County PA.
Flood damage to Speakman #1 covered bridge in Chester County PA.
Flood damage to Speakman #1 covered bridge in Chester County PA.
Flood damage to Speakman #1 covered bridge in Chester County PA.

If you look very carefully at the above image, you can see how the left vertical steel I-beam is bent from all the ice and trees hitting it.

Needless to say, it is easy to see that Speakman #1 Covered Bridge needs some major restoration if it is going to last into the future.

I hope by posting these images, I can make other people aware of what needs to be done.

If you have any contacts, please let me know!

Thanks in advance,

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Covered Bridges of the Oxford Area – the Book

I have been playing with the idea of publishing a photography book for some time, and after my experience with producing Madison’s 10th birthday gift, I decided to make a first real attempt.

So what was my first real book going to be about?

Looking back at my recent history, it only makes sense that I do something about covered bridges, and I already had the content from the presentation I did back in October 2012 for Citadel bank.

This time is going to be easier from the standpoint that I only had a limited number of pictures, and a layout with the text.

So after a couple of hours, I was able to put the following together using the simple Adobe Lightroom module, and uploading to

I invite you to take a look, and let me know what you think.

Covered Bridges of the Oxford Area

With this first book done, and I’m sure that I’ll revisit at some point, I am beginning to put together some ideas on themed books.

This time, using Blurb’s SmartBook application to put together my next adventure, namely because it seems to offer far more options and controls than what is available in the built-in Adobe Lightroom module.

In the meantime, let me know what you think of the book!

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Chester County Covered Bridges HDR Information Lancaster County Oxford Photo Essay Photo Journal Photography Projects

Citadel Open House Talk – Covered Bridges


Also check out my recently published 32-page book based on this presentation!

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The following is the Talk I gave about the covered bridges in the Oxford area of Chester County, PA.

The information on the history of the four bridges was done over the internet, and tries to be as accurate as possible.

Thank you’s

Good afternoon…

First, I would like to “Thank” the Folks here at the Oxford Branch of Citadel for hosting tonight’s events, and especially Gwen Smoker for coordinating all the various people.

Gwen first contacted me at the beginning of October about this event, and asked if I would be interested in Sharing some of my Covered Bridge images.

My immediate response was yes!

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been frantically opening two-year-old files, and regenerating new images based on new tools and techniques, gained over hundreds of hours of practice.

So who am I?

According to my Twitter @alseymour profile – “A Father, a Photographer and a Computer Geek in Chester County PA – #photography #restoration #science #physics #space”

I have lived in Chester County for over 35 years, and was introduced to photography as a young child, and have carried that interest ever since.

Over the years, I have been lucky enough to work in several industries, where I can use my love of photography and technology to their fullest.

With the maturing of both computers and cameras, the technology is readily available to use both to enhance what we see in daily life.


In my case, I am using a digital photographic technique known as High Dynamic Range Imaging or HDRI or HDR.

The basics of HDR photography are this –

  • you need to capture at least three separate images
  • each image needs a different exposure level

What this means, is that you take a middle image, and then one overexposed and another one underexposed.

Then on the computer, you combine the three images, creating a single file that contains the color range for all three images.

From there, there are many different software packages and techniques to create a final image that pushes the boundaries of today’s technology.

My First Bridge

I took my first digital photo of a Bartram covered bridge in Newtown Square, during the early Fall of 2009.

After processing the image, I posted it to my Flickr account for photo sharing and thought nothing more of it, until several months later I got a request to add it to a covered bridge group.

Shortly after submitting the image to the group, I began to get some wonderful comments, which only encouraged me to further investigate the other opportunities in Chester County.

Little did I realize what I was getting myself into…

During the summer and fall of 2010, I lived on Google Earth as I hunted down all the Chester County bridges, and then plugged the coordinates into my car’s GPS device.

With all this information, I was able to plan day trips to capture as many bridges as I could in what little free time that I had available to me.

Covered Bridges of Chester County & Oxford area

The first covered bridge in Pennsylvania is thought to have been built around 1807, and for the next 92 years, it is believed that there were over 1500 covered Bridges built.

Currently, there are about 220 covered bridges still left standing in Pennsylvania, with 15 of them residing in Chester County.

Of those 15, three of them are in Elk Township, the smallest Township in Chester County.

Today, I have been asked to tell you about the four covered bridges that surround the Oxford area, and they are:

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 Pine Grove

Pump House & Pine Grove Covered Bridge (1864)
Pump House & Pine Grove Covered Bridge (1864)

The first Pine Grove Bridge was built some time in 1816, but was later destroyed by a storm.

In 1846, the bridge was rebuilt by Robert Russell and Joseph Elliott for just $1,494, but it was later swept away by ice.

In 1884, Elias McMellen, a former Captain in the Union Army, built the 198 feet long and 15 feet wide bridge, and added it to his list of 12 other bridges he built in eastern Pennsylvania.

(Mostly in Lancaster County, but I have also photographed Pool Forge, which is North of Oxford, in Caernarvon Township.

[Anyone have an idea of how much it cost?] – ($4295)

In 1988 it was restored, and 20 years later in 2008 it was refurbished.

Pine Grove is the longest bridge in Chester and Lancaster counties, and sits just below a waterfall that is next to the old pump-house of the Octoraro Water Company.

The pump-house was built in 1904 by the Chester Water Authority, and since 1953, they have been leasing space for meeting rooms and art studios to the Charles X. Carlson Octoraro Art Association (OAA).

On a personal note, this is one of the bridges that I got to photograph with my daughter, Madison.

She was such a trooper, even though she was usually bored out of her mind.

I did ask her to blog about her experience during the days adventure, and she has… Kudos to her…

Since this was the first time that she had seen me at work, my running around in the water, and up and down rocks was causing her to caution me continually.

It was hard to convince her that this was one of the easier bridges to photograph.

I did visit the bridge this past September, but there was a lot of construction going on, and finding a place to park was difficult, so unfortunately, I did not stop.
[August 27, 2010] – Original Photo-Blog Posting

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Linton Stevens

Long View of Linton Stevens Covered Bridge (1886)
Long View of Linton Stevens Covered Bridge (1886)

From the information that I have found, this bridge was originally just a foot bridge across Big Elk Creek.

Then in 1875, an iron bridge was constructed, but only to be destroyed 9 years later in the flood of 1884.

In 1886, J. Denithorne & Son’s built the 102 foot long, 15 foot wide bridge we largely see today.

The bridge was named after a local landowner, who also served as the Postmaster for Hickory Hill, and ran the Post Office out of his General Store.

On December 10, 1980, Linton-Stevens Covered Bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In the spring of 1996, the bridge was closed down due to damaged underpinnings during a flood, but was reopened in August 1997.

[Pause to ask question? Anyone know the name of the Hurricane that hit the area in 1999?] – Hurricane Floyd

To me, some of the most memorable and interesting shots from Linton Stevens, are from underneath.

You see these massive, freshly painted, cream-colored girders running the full length, and then in between, colorful spray paintings of those that had visited the bridge.

[September 13, 2010] – Original Photo-Blog Posting

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Rudolph & Arthur

Looking through Rudolph & Arthur Covered Bridge (1886)
Looking through Rudolph & Arthur Covered Bridge (1886)

From 1850 to 1909, the Rudolph family, along with Charles Arthur, ran a Paper Mill up-stream with the power generated by the water.

In 1880, the Randolph family, along with Charles Arthur, commissioned general contractor Menander Wood, to build the wood bridge, while Richard T Meredith supplied that masonry work

[Can anyone guess the cost?]

  • Wood Work – $1440
  • Stone/Mortar – $890
  • Total – $2330

This bridge is also built across Big Elk Creek, but is further downstream than Linton Stevens, and seems to be more prone to flood damage because of this.

There have been reports of flood damage in 1915, 1994, and again in 1999 with Hurricane Floyd.

Rudolph and Arthur covered bridge was also listed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 10, 1980.

What I really remember most about this particular bridge, was standing in the nice cool water on such a hot day.

What is also different it is that if you look at the under structure, and is much darker and more visually elaborate than Linton Stevens.

After returning to the bridge deck, I managed to get some detailed framework before my battery died signaling the end of the day of shooting.

[September 13, 2010] – Original Photo-Blog Posting

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Glen Hope

Looking East (Down Creek) - Glen Hope Covered Bridge (1889)
Looking East (Down Creek) – Glen Hope Covered Bridge (1889)

Built in 1889 by Built by Menander Wood and George E. Jones for

[Who much do you think it cost?] – $1767

This 65 for long, 16 foot wide bridge also holds the distinction of being the Southernmost Covered Bridge in Pennsylvania, and in 1980 was listed National Register of Historic Places.

I photographed Glen Hope two years ago, and I still remember my conversations with Jamie Crouse of Elkton, Maryland, as he was kind enough to stop and chat with me for some time.

He and his family have lived in the area for several generations, and the stories he told me seem to roll right off his tongue, as if it was yesterday’s news.

As a young boy, Jamie remembered his father telling him the story of an overloaded cement truck crashing through the floorboards in 1967, and how new Steel Stringers were added by the end of 1968.

Jamie also told me the story of the arson fire that occurred during 1987.

Apparently a couple of local college boys, decided to take bales of hay, put them inside a bridge, and then doused them with gasoline, and setting them on fire.

He was able to point to dark indentations in the floorboards, where one can still see the outlines of where hay bales were set on fire.

There was a great deal of damage to the roof, and in 1991 a significant restoration effort was completed, including the recovery of the original Bongossi wood.

Bongossi wood is from Africa, and is very dark and dense and used heavily in construction and marine work.

I do not have any collaborating evidence on this but Jamie’s most humorous story was the following:

“During his teenage years, two local girls visited Glenn Hope and other local covered bridges in the area, and carved “Boobless Wonder Strikes Again” on the down-creek trusses and “Woogie” on the up-creek trusses.”

If anyone can confirm this…

Glen Hope was the last Chester County Covered Bridge that I photographed on October 21st, 2010, nearly a year to the day of when I started with Bartram on October 23, 2009.

[October 21, 2010] – Original Photo-Blog Posting


In conclusion, the four covered bridges of the Oxford area are very unique to Chester County, and with the colors of fall starting to emerge, I encourage you and your family to take a trip to any one of these bridges and witness the beauty of the bridges and this coming fall season.

There are 4 computers set up, each with a different Slide Show, that features 2 more images of each bridge, and 5 images from the rest of my Portfolio.

I invite you to take a look…

Thank you…



Final Thank You’s

Citadel for Hosting…

Gwen for arranging everything…

And everyone for coming…

Slide Show

The following links where part of the slide show that were running on four (4) different computer screens during the Open House.

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Looking for water

It has been very dry in Chester County for a while now, and when it did rain last night, I had thoughts of where to find some water to finally take pictures of in the area.

Early in the morning, I put my photography gear in the car, along with drinks and snacks and I was off.

By the time I finished my quick errands around town, it was overcast, 85°F+ with slightly high humidity, and I knew I really wanted to play with my new 10-stop neutral density filter, and I knew my first stop.

Downingtown Dam

The Downingtown Dam, which is just west of the center of town, along Rt. 282/Creek Road was my first stop.

I parked in the little spot near the road, packed up my vest, grabbed my tripod, and was off along the little path through the woods.

120727 Downingtown Damn HDR 06
120727 Downingtown Damn HDR 06

Tech Note – The Downingtown Dam image is a HDR collection of (3) three images taken at 180 sec, 120 sec and 60 sec (f22 ISO100), combined in Photoshop, with Tone Mapping done with Nik Software HDR Efex 2.

I had been there a day or two earlier with my kids, when we took advantage of the swimming area just above the damn, and I also knew I could get a good measurement of what to expect further up-stream for possible later shoots.

The water level was definitely higher, my guest 2-3 inches, and most of the concrete on the damn was cover, with places blocked by small branches.

On the downside of the damn, it was still easy to cross the river with all the bare rocks still visible, and I quickly situated myself on the one large concrete slab near the middle.

As I setup, and looked around, I knew I was not going to get much, but I pushed on with the session.

During my time, I did finally get an exposure into the 4 minute range with the sun nearly right over head, but still not slow enough for somethings I want to do.

After about 45 minutes of shooting, I headed back to the car, and headed further upstream.

I stopped at several more places along Creek Road, checking the water levels. On several occasions, I had to deliberate, if it was worth the walk through thick poison ivy and oak, for a mediocre shoot.

When I reached the west side of Glenmoore, I turned around, and headed back on a GPS drive to my next adventure.

Sheeder-Hall Covered Bridge

I first photographed the Sheeder-Hall Covered Bridge back in 2010, and lately, I have been reviewing my images, with a desire to try again.

In Chester County, there are many wonderful, scenic roads, and Pughtown Road, off of Rt 100 (Pottstown Pike) is one of them, and along the way, one will find Hollow Road, on which Sheeder-Hall Covered Bridge can be found. The best place to park, in the little area on French Creek Road.

Sheeder-Hall (1850) - Looking Downstream
Sheeder-Hall (1850) – Looking Downstream

Tech Note – A series of (5) shots ranging from 1/15th to 1 second (f25 ISO100), combined in Photoshop, with Tone Mapping done with Nik Software HDR Efex 2.

Once again, I got my vest and tripod out, and headed down one of the little paths that lead to the downstream side of the bridge.

I waded into the water, and took some more documentary style images, looking upstream, and then headed back to capture some more interior shoots.

Eventually, I crossed the bridge, took some more shoots and headed back, and as I did, I turned, and saw this view. The traffic was lite, so doing the required multiple exposures for HDR work was easy, and then I was done for this session.

Rapps Dam Covered Bridge

Rapps Dam Covered Bridge in Phoenixville was another bridge that I photographed back in 2010, and since that time, Rapps has been restored, and I finally got a chance to visit to see the new construction!

120727 Rapps Covered Bridge hdr 12 - Under the Bridge
Rapps Covered Bridge hdr 12 – Under the Bridge

Tech Note – The Underneath shoot was another series of (7) HDR shoots, taken between 1 second and 60 seconds at f22 ISO100. Combined in Photoshop and tweaked with Nik Software HDR Efex 2.

When one is walking near the bridge, you can still smell the fresh new wood, combined with a pitch smell as you walk underneath.

120727 Rapps Covered Bridge hdr 18
Rapps Dam Covered Bridge hdr 18 – Looking Upstream

Tech Note – The Underneath shoot was another series of (6) HDR shoots, taken between 8 seconds and 180 seconds at f22 ISO100. Combined in Photoshop and tweaked with Nik Software HDR Efex 2.

It is very easy to see that the renovations that started on January 17 2011, were a success when the bridge reopened on Monday, November 21, 2011.

PennDOT took 10 months to replace the 4 steel support beams, remove and replace the cedar roof and redwood timber and siding, along the 106-foot span. The project cost $1,527,257, which was paid for by state funds, and was managed by Bi-State Construction of Easton, PA. The last time the bridge was reconstructed was in 1978.

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2014 April 29

Apparently, an 18-wheeler decided to take on Rapps Dam… Guess who won…

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Announcements Blogging Covered Bridges HDR Lancaster County Photo Essay Photography Projects Published

Covered Bridges of Lancaster – Featured

Destinations Travel Magazine - June 2011
Destinations Travel Magazine – June 2011

The June issue of Destinations Travel Magazine has just been released!

In this issue, you will find the Eastern most Covered Bridges of Lancaster County that I have been able to photograph, which include:

This concludes the third and final installment of Covered Bridges of South Eastern Pennsylvania.

I would like to thank the folks at Destinations Travel Magazine, especially Darlene Perrone for taking the time and effort to include my photography work in this wonderful publication!

Looking into the future, it is my hope, that this summer, I will get the time to further find and explore the Covered Bridges in Lancaster County, as well as those in Delaware and Maryland!

Thanks again for all the support that I have received and I look forward to bring you more images of these wonderful Covered Bridges!

– Andrew
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