Hartland's famous bridge celebrates 100 years with a cover

·3 min read
Depending on what part of the bridge you're talking about, the Hartland bridge is either 100, or 121 years old. (Submitted by Frank Liu - image credit)
Depending on what part of the bridge you're talking about, the Hartland bridge is either 100, or 121 years old. (Submitted by Frank Liu - image credit)

The world's longest covered bridge is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

The Hartland covered bridge is definitely the longest of New Brunswick's famed covered bridges and its most popular.

Gaby Mann, Hartland's manager of tourism, said even after a century the bridge remains an integral part of the community.

"It's the reason people leave the highway," said Mann

"We're up to, gosh, 1,000, 2,000 visitors a week, not counting the tour buses."

Hartland's uncovered bridge?

While this year is the 100th birthday of the Hartland bridge being covered, the bridge itself is older than that.

The bridge was built in 1901, when community members grew tired of having to use ferries to get from one side of the St. John River to the other and formed the Hartland Bridge Company.

Provincial Archives of New Brunswick
Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

"That was a bunch of private citizens who got tired of waiting for the government to decide whether or not to build a bridge and they went ahead and they built one," said Mann

Construction on the then uncovered bridge began in 1899 and had its grand opening on July 1, 1901.

While there were celebrations planned to mark the first crossing, the bridge opened a little ahead of schedule.

"Dr. Walter Chestnut had a patient on the other side of the river who was expecting a child, and he needed to get across to attend the birth," said Mann.

"So he crossed a little bit early."

Provincial Archives of New Brunswick
Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

The bridge stayed uncovered until 1922, when a roof was added to help protect the wooden structure from the elements.

While this had the obvious benefit of keeping rain off the road, it also kept snow off it, which, believe it or not, became an issue at the time.

"In the 1920s, you still had a fair number of people using horse and wagon or in the winter horse and sleighs," said Mann.

"The first year or two, they actually had to take snow into the bridge so the sleighs could get across."

A dying breed

Covered bridges, which were once plentiful in the province, have declined in numbers.

The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure lists 58 covered bridges in the province.

Mann said there are many reasons why the Hartland bridge has remained.

There's the obvious tourism benefits of being home to the world's largest covered bridge, and the town also has a modern bridge just upstream to deal with most traffic.

But Mann said the downtown covered bridge remains an important part of the community, which also helps explain its longevity.

Provincial Archives of New Brunswick
Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

"We use it to get across to visit with each other, to, you know, get to the grocery store, to get to the hardware store, so we see it daily," said Mann.

"Some of the other bridges are not not so fortunate in that they're in there in kind of more hidden places."

The town will be marking the covered bridge's anniversary this weekend.

Festivities will include a market on the bridge, which will give patrons a chance to walk on the bridge.

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