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Lyndon Bridge Is Falling Down

An historic covered bridge in Caledonia Countyis in such terrible shape that bridge experts fear it will soon collapse. The private owners have made repairs over the years but can’t afford to save it now, so a preservation group is hoping  to step in.

The iconic Sanborn bridge, once known as the Centre bridge,  stands at the intersection of Routes 5 and 114 near a welcome sign into Lyndonville, which calls itself “The Covered Bridge Capital of the Northeast Kingdom.”

But earlier this week, a team of covered bridge experts announced that the nineteenth-century relic might soon fall into the Passumpsic River. That would be a tragic end to a bridge that was moved to its present location about fifty years ago in order to save it from the state’s wrecking ball, when its replacement was built. The move, on rollers, took days to accomplish.

Jeanne Elliott was a high school freshman at the time the bridge was moved.

“They let us all out of school to come and watch, I mean it was a holiday in Lyndonville because it was quite an operation,” Elliott recalled.

About fifteen years later, she and her husband Arthur took ownership when they bought the motel next door. The bridge is closed to vehicles but has always been  popular with pedestrians and snowmobilers.

The Elliotts have replaced the roof four times, but they haven’t been able to keep on top of damage to the wooden foundation caused by storms and floods.

Now there’s a broken beam under the bridge, which has been closed with yellow police tape. News of its imminent demise has reached the Vermont-based National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges. Tim Andrews is a board member who recently inspected the structure. His New Hampshire business restores covered bridges and barns.

“In my 35 years messing around with covered bridges, I’ve never seen a covered bridge in such disrepair and structurally it is most literally headed to the river within the next couple or three weeks,” Andrews said.

Andrews says the Society’s board will vote shortly on whether to help fund emergency repairs to the bridge while a new owner is sought. He figures the price tag for a total restoration could top $800,000. He says the trusses  are rare.

The Elliotts say they have tried to give the bridge away to the state and the town, with no success. Now the question, Andrews says, is whether the state Agency of Natural Resources will issue a construction permit before the bridge falls down.

Charlotte Albright lives in Lyndonville and currently works in the Office of Communication at Dartmouth College. She was a VPR reporter from 2012 - 2015, covering the Upper Valley and the Northeast Kingdom. Prior to that she freelanced for VPR for several years.
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