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.
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:
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
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.
Rudolph & Arthur
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.
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.
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…
Final Thank You’s
Citadel for Hosting…
Gwen for arranging everything…
And everyone for coming…
The following links where part of the slide show that were running on four (4) different computer screens during the Open House.