Bookshelf provides descriptions and notices of recent publications on Pennsylvania subjects.

The Covered Bridges of Pennsylvania: A Guide

by Susan M. Zacher
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1994 (134 pages, paper, $9.95)

Pennsylvania has many types of historic structures scattered throughout its sixty-seven counties, but it’s doubtful if any are as cher­ished and admired as the covered bridge. No matter the season, enthusiasts­ – often joined by photogra­phers and artists – make regular pilgrimages to these historic covered spans. In fact, festivals celebrating covered bridges are held each year in several areas across the Commonwealth. And it’s little wonder. The Keystone State claims two hundred and fifteen covered bridges, the most of any state in the nation. Historians believe that Pennsylvania probably had the most during the height of the covered bridge era, a fifty year period between 1830 and 1880. They also estimate that the Commonwealth at one time had at least fifteen hundred examples! The first cov­ered bridge built in the United States was constructed by a Massachusetts master carpenter, Timothy Palmer, in 1800 in Philadelphia to span the Schuylkill River. The erection of this bridge signaled the opening of the gold­en age of the covered bridge in Pennsylvania, during which the roofed span provided a transition from the early stone bridge to the cast iron bridge (made feasible by the Industrial Revolution). Since the heyday of the covered bridge, examples have been rapidly disappearing, victims of neglect, flooding, vandalism and arson, and adverse effects of progress and encroaching development. Little more than two decades ago – just prior to Tropical Storm Agnes of 1972 – Pennsylvania counted two hundred and seventy-one covered bridges in forty-one counties. The Covered Bridges of Pennsylvania: A Guide is simply that. It’s a compact, easy-to-use guidebook of surviving covered bridges. In The Covered Bridges of Pennsylvania: A Guide, the Commonwealth is broken down into six regions and, in turn, each region is divided into counties. Each section opens with a brief preface that contains vital statistics; for example, the southcentral region, drained by the Susquehanna River and Potomac River watersheds, has sixty-three covered bridges in a twelve county area. The list­ing for each bridge describes its location, the stream or creek it crosses, the truss type, the span length and width, and present condition. When known, the identity of the builder and the year of construction is also included. More than eighty photographs complement the List­ings. Readers will enjoy learning more about familiar – and not-so-familiar­ – covered bridges, especially those that bear fanciful names, such as Turkey Tail Bridge (Perry County), Packsaddle Bridge (Somerset County), Stillwater Bridge (Columbia County), and Devil’s Den Bridge (Washington County). The Covered Bridges of Pennsylvania: A Guide is an intelligently organized manual that will fascinate both the visitor and the armchair traveler.