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Longwood Covered Bridge heading toward repair

Steel beams were placed under Longwood Bridge but need to be taken out so the bridge can be repaired.

By KATE THURSTON

kthurston@newsexaminer.com

People driving through Roberts Park typically pass Longwood Bridge. It’s a landmark, used for weddings and as a backdrop in countless photos.

But if you pay close attention, you’ll see that the bridge has steel supports because it is slowly shifting. A plan is in the works to build a new support system for the 135-year old covered bridge.

The burr arch-style covered bridge originally crossed Williams Creek on County Road 400 near Glenwood. It was moved to the park on its 100th birthday in 1984. At the time it was the last remaining of at least four covered bridges built in the county by the Kennedy Brothers. Students at the Whitewater Career Center were largely responsible for saving the landmark.

Katherine Good, Connersville park superintendent, has been trying to get blue prints made of the bridge and find out exactly what it will take to repair it.

She told the Parks Board last week that she had started talking about it with Tim O’Rourke, a structural engineer. He is developing blue prints of the bridge. He referred her to a company from South Carolina that does covered bridge restorations. 

“I also had two Amish companies come and look over the summer time and hadn’t heard back. So where we are now, I have gotten approval from the county (to use) the $2,000 set aside for the bridge, I need to pay Tim to do blueprints of the bridge. He said they would be done by the end of the year, he will take a look at it and see what it will take to repair the bridge.”

Good said that the steel supports put under the bridge caused the trusses to reverse and fail.

Joel Long, who helped get the bridge moved back in the 1980’s said he hopes it can be repaired.

“It was rough when we moved it. At the bottom there are cords, two cords on either side and the uprights are sandwiched in between the cords. The cords protruded out the ends and curve into the abutment, the part that was outside of the bridge, that curved underneath. It is what rotted back then and I think that is the problem happening right now,” Long said.

“They used what is like Jenga blocks that were stacked underneath for universal support. The way the bridge was constructed, when it is supported on its own with those arches, the weight of anything going over the bridge is transferred to each end. That is the structural essence of the construction itself. When we went in there and redid that, we had to redo the ends of the cords that run all the way into the abutment. I think that is where a lot of the problem is.”

Long said the Parks Department starting seeing some problems with the separation of the cords from the abutments a few years ago. That is when they put steel underneath it.

“That steel needs to come out now and Katherine is working on that,” Long said. “It has that support now in the wrong spot. The weight of the bridge now being exerted helps buy us some time but it needs to go back the way it should be and that is what we are working towards.”