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Covered Bridge, Near Hoosick, 1913

New York. Old Covered Wooden Bridge over the Little Hoosic River. Near Hoosick, Rensselaer Co.
New York State Archives, NYSA_A3045-78_10082
 
Document Description
A wooden covered bridge over the Little Hoosic River near Hoosick, New York, 1913.
 
Questions
What was the covered bridge made of?
Why were these materials chosen?
Why were the bridges covered?
Who built the bridges?
 
Historical Challenges
Create a brochure with a map of New York State showing the location of covered bridges that are still standing.
 
Interdisciplinary Connections
Science: Create a bridge out of newspaper that will support the weight of your Social Studies textbook. Research different bridge designs, such as suspension bridges.
English Language Arts: Compare and contrast the different kinds of covered bridges that were built.
 
Resources
Adkins, Jan. Bridges: From My Side to Yours. Brookfield, CT: Roaring Brook Press, 2002. ISBN: 0761325107, 076131542X.
Simon, Seymour, and Nicole Fauteux. Let's Try It Out with Towers and Bridges: Hands-On, Early-Learning, Science Activities. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2003. ISBN: 068982923X.
 

Historical Context
New York State was mostly rural during the nineteenth century.  Its communities were separated, and commerce came mostly from farms and local water-powered industries.  Few improved roads connected these communities.  As the Empire State grew and its economy expanded, road and bridge improvements became essential to link them.

Covered wooden bridges in New York reflect the development of communities and land transportation.  The earliest known covered bridge in New York was built in 1825 and the latest one in 1912.  The earliest permanent bridges in New York were constructed using readily available local materials and skilled labor.  The cost of constructing bridges was the responsibility of local governments.  Timber and stone were found throughout much of New York State and were the logical choice for bridge materials.  Local millwrights and joiners were the skilled artisans who constructed the bridges.

The first bridges constructed during colonial times were simple, open structures with plank decks that were at most fifty feet in length.  Some covered bridges were constructed in the winter using the ice as a building site.  These bridges were constructed on the ice and then raised into place. Longer bridges were built using more spans supported by piers.  The open timber truss bridge was inexpensive and a popular bridge form until the early twentieth century, when metal trusses replaced them.  The covered bridge was adopted because it protected the timbers from the weather, thus reducing the need for repairs by local governments.  Today, covered bridges are being preserved as a vanishing structure type.

 

 
Essential Question
How does the availability of transportation affect the economic and cultural aspects of a society?
 
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and evaluate the impact of this technology on the local community.