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Covered bridges conveyed beauty
By Cori Urban   - 11/17/2010

The Republican

More Info on This Book: Massachusetts Covered Bridges

Many of Western Massachusetts' covered bridges were destroyed by floods or fire; one in Greenfield survived the floods of 1895 and 1927 but collapsed into the Green River when a town truck crossed it in 1932.

Images of the bridges survive in a new book, "Images of America: Massachusetts Covered Bridges," by John S. Burk.

"The book highlights almost 300 covered bridges and pulls together unique pictures that were scattered all over," said Burk, an outdoor writer, photographer and historian from Petersham whose primary interests are New England's natural areas and wildlife.

Since the early 19th century, more than 270 public highway and railroad covered bridges were built in Massachusetts. Only a half dozen remain, rebuilt or substantially renovated in recent years.

According to Burk, four of those covered bridges are in Franklin County: Colrain, Conway, Charlemont and Greenfield. The others are in Sheffield and Hardwick-Ware.

Pepperell has a new covered bridge, and there is one that was moved from Dummerston, Vt., to be displayed at Old Sturbridge Village, he pointed out.

Burk's book - with a cover 1939 photograph of Hadley's Hockanum covered bridge - features vintage photographs from public and private collections and showcases such waterways as the Connecticut, Deerfield, Westfield, Green, Housatonic, Millers, Blackstone and Merrimack rivers. It contains an overview of covered bridges in general.

Burk points out that the Massachusetts bridges existed in all shapes and sizes, from massive structures in the Connecticut and Merrimack river valleys that ranged from 800 to 1,300 feet in length to the small Adamsville Bridge in Colrain that was 50 feet long.

Bridges in the Montague City section of Montague, in Northfield and in Newburyport were used as combination bridges on which train tracks ran across the top.

Burk reports that Franklin County "was the state's covered bridge center" with 69.

Berkshire County had 46 covered bridges, Hampden County had 43, and Hampshire County had 18.

Burk, who has written or edited books related to wildlife, hiking and photography, spent a year compiling and digitizing images for the book.

"Each (covered bridge) is different and located in nice settings," Burk said. "They're definitely photogenic."

The covered bridges are popular subjects for photographers and artists, and they have historic value. Therefore, the covered bridges bring visitors to their locales.

Burk explained that covered bridges were covered because they were made of wood and therefore subject to the elements year round. "They last much longer that (covered) way."

Steel and concrete replaced wood as the material of choice for bridges, and some communities welcomed the change because the covered bridges were difficult to maintain, susceptible to fires and needed upgrades often.

The 128-page, soft cover "Massachusetts Covered Bridges" sells for $21.99 and is available at area bookstores, independent retailers and online retailers. It is also available through Arcadia Publishing at (888) 313-2665 or online at www.arcadiapublishing.com

Buy It Now: Massachusetts Covered Bridges $21.99

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