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Gilpin's Falls Covered Bridge

2009-10 Rehabilitation Photos
Gilpin's Falls Photo Gallery
County World Guide # Crosses Built Truss Spans Length Coordinates Location
Cecil MD-07-01 Northeast Creek 1860 Burr
MKP
1 119'-9" N39°38'55"
W75°57'21"
Bay View. From I-95 northeast of Baltimore City, take Exit 100, RT272, go north for 1.4 miles to bridge on the right. Bypassed.

Gilpin's Falls Covered Bridge Built in 1860

Gilpin's Falls Covered Bridge in Cecil County was built in 1860 by Joseph Johnson at a cost of $2,000. Foxcatcher Farms Covered Bridge and Gilpin's Falls are the only two remaining covered bridges in Cecil County. Located one mile north of Bay View, Gilpin's Falls Bridge is a 119 foot, single span bridge and the longest covered bridge still standing in the State of Maryland. The clear span length of the bridge is 100 feet. Several mills including Samuel Gilpin's flour mill were once located near the bridge.
Gilpin's Falls About 1900A notice to "Bridge Builders and Contractors" appeared in the The Cecil Whig on September 8, 1860 requesting bids for building a bridge in the 5th District, over Northeast Creek at Gilpin's Falls, built on the "Burr" plan. Specifications called for the bridge to "span 100 feet; width from out to out 17 feet; 14 feet from string pieces to square; to have double ribbed segments, double arch, and double string pieces." (Click here to see the detailed specifications for building Gilpin's Falls Bridge.) The Commissioners Minutes Book documents the awarding of the contract for building the bridge "to Joseph G. Johnson, at the sum of $2,000" on September 11, 1860 and on October 9, 1860 the County Commissioners and Mr. Johnson signed and sealed the deal. An article in The Cecil Whig on December 15, 1860 reported on four bridges in Cecil County being close to completion. Regarding Gilpin's Falls Bridge, the article stated, "The new bridge over North East Creek, at Gilpin's Falls, is in process of completion, and will soon be ready for use, as we learn from Mr. Jos. G. Johnson, the contractor. The cost of the bridge is $2,000." On June 18, 1861 the County Commissioners "ordered that J.S. Crawford, Clk, pay Jos. G. Johnson, Bridge Contactor, the balance on his acct. for Bridges at Gilpins Falls, and near J. Reynolds." Although not confirmed, this could mean the bridge was likely completed sometime in very late December 1860, or early in 1861. The strength of Gilpin's Falls Bridge is evidenced by it surviving all of the floods in northeast Maryland in Cecil and Harford counties during the mid to late 1800s, while many other covered bridges and iron bridges were lost.

Rehabilitation and Repair 1930-2008

The old covered bridge was bypassed in 1936 with the addition of State Route 272. Once bypassed it was left neglected until the city of Salisbury showed an interest to purchase the bridge and move it to a city park. Although their effort failed, it inspired Cecil County to save the bridge. After Gilpin's roof collapsed from a heavy snowfall in 1958, the Historical Society of Cecil County and The State Roads Commission of Maryland decided to do a major rehabilitation of the bridge. As much of the wood stock as possible was used to repair the bridge in 1959 and a dedication ceremony was held in 1960. The Baltimore Sun reported in an article on November 11, 1959 that the repairs to the bridge cost $11,000. Harry C. Eastburn & Son of Newark, Delaware were the contractors. Vandalism beset the bridge in October 1971 when a group of thirteen adults and juveniles decided to have a bridge party kicking out several boards. Then again on November 10, 1971 the west side of Gilpin's was damaged. Cost of repair was over $500.
By the late 1980s Gilpin's Bridge was again in need of repair. In 1986, The State planned to widen route 272 and considered moving the bridge to another location. A local citizen, W. Earl Simmers, organized the Gilpin's Falls Covered Bridge Committee and fought to keep the bridge at its current location and also started a campaign to raise funds to restore the bridge. In 1989 the State turned over ownership of Gilpin's Falls Bridge to Cecil County and provided $50,000 for necessary repairs. Shortly thereafter, a steel plate was installed to secure one of the beams, siding was replaced, two coats of paint were applied and the wingwalls and abutments were rebuilt. The Cecil County Roads Department installed posts and chained fences at each portal entrance to keep out cyclists and three wheelers. Gilpin's still needed additional work, estimated at $200,000 in 1993. In 1999 an insect analysis was performed and showed damage done by powderpost beetles. The cost for repairs rose to over $300,000. The Maryland Transit Authority agreed to award $260,000 towards restoration providing Cecil County helped with matching funds. Unfortunately, Cecil County elected to not contribute and the bridge appeared doomed. As time passed with nothing being done to save the bridge, the cost grew again, this time to over $800,000. Mr. Simmers continued to raise money for the preservation effort and resisted all talk about letting the bridge collapse. In 2004, Cecil County rejected all bids submitted for the rehabilitation process and in 2005 no bids were received.

Complete Rehabilitation of Gilpin's Falls Bridge 2009-10

Mr. Simmers' preservation effort was rewarded when he learned in 2008 that the Federal Highway Administration awarded a large grant for rebuilding Gilpin's as part of the National Historic Covered Bridge Preservation program. Additional grants arrived from the Maryland State Highway Administration and Maryland Historic Trust. These grants, along with private donations covered nearly all of the money needed, now determined to be $1.4 million. The National Society for The Preservation of Covered Bridges donated $8,000 to fully fund the project. The donation was the largest single amount of money the National Society ever contributed to a covered bridge project, a testimony to the importance of rehabilitating Gilpin's Bridge. The National Society awarded the money on the condition that changes made to Gilpin's Falls Bridge through the restoration process would be historically correct.
Gilpin's Falls April 2010The contract for the rehabilitation of Gilpin's was awarded to Kinsley Construction of Timonium, Maryland. Master Bridgewright Tim Andrews of Barns and Bridges of New England was in charge of restoring bridge trusses, reintroducing camber and straightening the bridge with assistance for the timberframing aspects from Will Truax of The Truax Timberwright Woodworks and Jeremy Woodliff of New World Restoration. Wallace, Montgomery & Associates LLP was the engineer of record for design. The project started early in 2009. Crews worked diligently and with precision for almost a year to rebuild Gilpin's Falls Bridge. The bridge was restored as close as possible to its original authenticity. (Click here to see more technical details about the wood used for the construction of Gilpin's Bridge.) The project was completed early in 2010 with the exception of painting and ground work which waited until the spring. On June 24, 2010, a Ribbon Cutting Celebration was held, attended by over 75 people including the builders of the bridge, various dignitaries and citizens of the local area.
Gilpin's Falls Bridge has been the recipient of four awards since the completion of the project. The American Public Works Association, Virginia/DC/Maryland Chapter, awarded the Historical Restoration "Project of The Year" for 2010. Also, in 2010 it was selected as the "Project of the Year" by the County Engineers Association of Maryland. In 2011, it was honored with the "Award of Excellence" from the Maryland Quality Initiative. Also in 2011 it has been chosen as the 2011 Maryland Preservation Award for "Project Excellence" from the Maryland Historical Trust. Gilpin's Falls Bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 3, 2008.
Be sure to click on the link near the top of this page to see photos of the rehabilitation process.

Bridge Specifications
Bridge Name: Gilpin's Falls Length at Center: 119'-9." Length on floor at clear span: 101'-5." Height to Peak: Approximately 15'-8" NE end; Approximately 15'-8" SW end
Alternate Name(s): Gilpin's Width Roadway: 13'-4" NE end; 13'-0" SW end Maximum Height at Portal Entrance: Approximately 12'-3" NE end; Approximately 12'-3" SW end
Alignment: NE to SW Width Portal Opening: 14'-10 NE end; 14'-6" SW end Posted Height Restriction: None (bridge is bypassed)
Distance Above Water (variable): 3'-4" Width Outside Dimensions: 18'-2" NE end; 17'-10 SW end Roof Overhang-Side: Approximately 1'-0" each side
Panels: 12 each side Posted Weight Restriction: None (bridge is bypassed) Roof Overhang-Ends: None
UPDATED: 9/18/2011, correction to length of bridge after rehabilitation. Specific information added for responsibilities of contractors for rehabilitation of Gilpin's Fall Bridge and an update for awards the rehabilitation project has received.
UPDATED: 6/24/2010, more specific information about the early years of the bridge, confirmation of year completed, more information about 2009-10 rehabilitation, photos added to gallery.

Maryland Covered Bridges
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