There are few things more quintessentially Lancaster County than the humble old covered bridge.
You can find 29 such bridges scattered around Lancaster County, and if you’re interested in rural architecture or historic building techniques - or just in finding postcard perfect photo opportunities - they’re well worth seeking out.
Here are nine facts about Lancaster County’s covered bridges that you may not know:
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- At one time, there were more than 130 covered bridges in the county. (In the mid-1800s, there were about 12,000 such bridges nationwide, with 1,500 in Pennsylvania alone.)
- With 29 bridges still standing, Lancaster County has more covered bridges than any other county in Pennsylvania - and places second nationwide. (The winner? Parke County, Indiana, with 31.)
- The oldest covered bridge in the county is the Neff’s Mill bridge over the Pequea Creek between West Lampeter and Strasburg townships. It was first built in 1824, and reconstructed in 1875.
- The newest is the Willow Hill Covered Bridge, built in 1962 by the owner of the Amish Farm & House tourist attraction from the remains of two demolished bridges - the Miller’s Farm and Goods Fording bridges.
- Nearly all of the county’s covered bridges are red. (Depending when they’ve last been repainted, that red may have faded to a more natural wood tone, of course.) But there’s one exception: The Keller’s Mill bridge over the Cocalico Creek in Ephrata Township is painted white.
- Most covered bridges - in Lancaster County and elsewhere - are built using the Burr arch truss construction technique, invented by Theodore Burr in 1804. There’s only one exception in the county: The Landis Mill bridge, located just one block from Park City Center, is a kingpost construction.
- Though the county’s surviving bridges were built by a variety of people, Elias McMellen is the builder with the most bridges still standing - seven of his original 12 bridges in Lancaster County remain to this day.
- Six of the county’s bridges are closed to traffic, but the other 23 are open and in regular use.
- You probably know that covered bridges are only one lane wide - if you see opposing traffic, wait and let it through. But did you know you should also wait to follow a car through in the same direction? Those old wooden beams are very sturdy, but while they can easily support the weight of a car, the weight of two cars at once just might be too much. So let the car ahead of you clear the bridge before entering.