The Covered Bridges of Chester County

Chester County in Past Time
Sugars Bridge on Brandywine Creek

The bridge is shown as it was some time before February, 1912.
By 1982, when Susan Zacher's guide appeared, it no longer existed.
No other details known.

Other counties have more covered bridges. Lancaster County, right next door, and Parke County, Indiana have more covered bridges than Chester County does. Vermont claims the greatest density of covered bridges, and Chester County might be hard put to dispute that honor. Oregon's bridges are newer, and nearby Bucks County may have more attractions for the tourist -- perhaps. Madison County, Iowa, has the romance of association with the well-known novelette. All the same, we believe that Chester County, Pennsylvania, is the covered bridge county. It's the county to see if you're only seeing one.

Understand, we are not neutral. While we don't live in Chester County, we live in Delaware County right next door. Delaware County shares its one covered bridge with Chester County. When we go bridging close to home, it's Chester County we go to. For bridging purposes, Chester County is our home county, and we're loyal -- fiercely loyal.

But Chester's covered bridges will make their own case, we believe, on the things that are most important: beauty, variety, and heritage.

Chester's bridges do not have a common "look," as we see in most other covered bridge counties. Instead, the rule is diversity. Why so? We can only conjecture. Some of Chester's bridges are quite old. This may be part of the reason. Lewis Wernwag's industrial works were at Phoenixville, in Chester County, and while Chester does not have bridges surviving from that early, Wernwag's creative genius may have left its mark. Then too, Chester is something of a sprawling mini-empire of a county, with no one well-defined center. Much of Chester County is drained by Brandywine Creek, with its artistic associations. Brandywine Creek feeds the Christina River which flows into Delaware Bay. In the northeast, French Creek and the Schuylkill drain Chester County into Delaware River; in the west and south Elk Creek and Octoraro Creek drain separately into Chesapeake Bay. Perhaps the design influences that might have traveled along the creeks traveled less easily across country.

Well -- anyway, diversity is the rule. To begin with Home Bridge, there is Bartram's, with its unusual diagonal boards on the portal. Now renovated, Bartram's continues to grace the small park it has occupied since the highway passed it by in 1940.

Bartram's Bridge, on Crum Creek in Chester and Delaware Counties, Fall 1995

Equally unusual and very scenic is Knox Bridge, the famous covered bridge spanning Valley Creek in the Valley Forge National Monument. Rapp's Dam Bridge, on French Creek near Phoenixville, is remarkable both for the ornamentation of its portal and its scenic qualities. In the west, Speakman Bridge number 2 and Hayes Clark Bridge, the Twin Bridges, with their unusual queenpost truss, are hidden away on private property in the Brandywine Conservancy Laurel Reserve. This tract was formerly the Pennsylvania subsidiary of the Texas King Ranch, and these bridges have been on private roads for generations. Today, they are a nature and farming preserve, a place for bald eagles and cows and wildflowers, where the bridges still serve the service vehicles.

Rapp's Dam Bridge and the Nearby Ruined Mill, Christmas Day 1995

Knox Bridge in Winter, Christmas Day 1995

Speakman Bridge No. 2, Also Known as Mary Ann Pyle Bridge, on Buck Run in Chester County, Pennsylvania

Further west yet, there is Pine Grove Bridge, shared with Lancaster County, a double-span Burr truss bridge spanning the broad Octoraro Creek just below the dam that impounds it.

Pine Grove Bridge on Octoraro Creek in Chester and Lancaster Counties, and the Nearby Power Station

And these are only six of the fifteen Chester County covered bridges. That's why we say that Chester County is the county for covered bridges.

This server includes three driving tours primarily in Chester County. The Northeastern Chester County Tour, a long tour which might be taken in two stages, is (we believe) a good representative of the county as a whole. The Mason and Dixon Line Tour explores southern Chester county and some other areas south of the Line -- though we, having grown up in Louisiana, still find it difficult to think of Delaware and Maryland as "the south!" The Octoraro Frontier Tour explores the borderland between Chester and Lancaster counties. Enjoy!