Wooden covered bridges are truly artifacts from another time. These bridges were important because they could last for almost a century while an uncovered wooden bridge usually only lasts about twenty years. Popular and efficient bridges for many years, they became obsolete in the late 19th century because the Second Industrial Revolution made metal structures significantly less expensive to build. A beautiful example of an early covered bridge is Mary’s Covered Bridge in Chester, IL.
The 90-foot bridge is built of hand-hewn native white oak on stone piers in the Burr Truss (or King Post arch) style. The roadway across the bridge was a planked road made by cross laying 8 foot long planks across stringers flush with the ground. The road was operated from 1854-1872 as a toll road to allow farmers to bring corn, wheat, and lumber to Chester, a significant port on the Mississippi River.
The bridge continued in use until 1930. In 1936, it was acquired by the State of Illinois and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. It has been meticulously refurbished so that it keeps its original charm, but is safe from river flooding. Visitors can still enjoy the expert craftsmanship as it is open for foot traffic.
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