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Paper Mill Covered Bridge

Baltimore MD-03-21x Gunpowder Falls Burr 2 189' 1866 About 1923
Paper Mill Covered Bridge crossed the Great Gunpowder Falls in central Baltimore County just northeast of Ashland. The areas north and south of Paper Mill Bridge were abundant with mills where three covered bridges crossed the river not far from each other (Paper Mill, Phoenix Mills and Warren Factory bridges).
The Paper Mill Bridge crossed the Great Gunpowder Falls at the Hoffman's Paper Mill. An article in the Baltimore Sun on July 22, 1898 informs readers of an accident on the bridge involving a traction engine and a thresher. The map to the right of the article is a section of the 1865 Simon J. Martenet map of Baltimore County:

Traction Engine And Thresher Crashes Through A Bridge Over Gunpowder Falls


Jury Of Inquest Says The Bridge Was Not Strong Enough

It Was Built In 1866, And Replaced One Burnt By Col. Harry Gilmor

Paper Mill Bridge MapA traction engine weighing about five tons and a threshing machine weighing two tons broke through the covered bridge which spans the Gunpowder Falls near Hoffman's old paper mills, about a mile from Jessop crossing, on the Northern Central Railway, eight district, about 7 o'clock Wednesday evening. The engine and thresher and all the attendants fell into the stream, and Emanuel Grimm, aged about twenty-one years, of Oregon, eight district, was instantly killed by being caught between the engine and thresher.
Edward Geise [owner and engineer of the thresher] was going from Cockeysville to Mr. Oreck Tracey's farm, near the old paper mill property and was required to cross the bridge. After getting about sixty feet from the entrance of the bridge, one of the girders gave way, carrying two lengths of joists, making a break of about thirty feet by twenty feet in the bridge. The engine went down and fell over on the side, and is almost buried in water and earth. It pulled the thresher with it.
The bridge is about 160 feet long [engineering drawings indicate the length of the bridge is 189'. Possibly 160' is the total clear span of the bridge], with two large arch supports, and has a centre pier upon which it rests, besides the shore abutments. The wood is all white pine, excepting the flooring of white oak. The joists are three inches by ten inches and of pine. There are strong timbers above the flooring, but the weakness is in the ends of the supports, upon which the girders rest. The bridge was built in 1866, and replaced the one that was burned down during the Civil War when Col. Harry Gilmor made a raid through the county.
A magistrate in Phoenix held an inquest to the accident with a jury assigned to determine if the engineer was negligent or the bridge was not a sound structure. The jury determined the insufficient strength of the bridge caused the accident.
Althought the article states the bridge was built in 1866 and replaced another bridge at this site, it is not clear if the previous bridge was also a covered wooden structure.
The Paper Mill Bridge carried traffic until 1922 when a new steel bridge replaced it to accommodate changes to the Loch Raven Reservoir. The bypassed covered bridge likely remained until early 1923. From page 51 of the Annual Report of the Baltimore County Roads Engineer for the year ending December 31, 1922:
In conjunction with the building of the new dam at Loch Raven, the Water Department of the City of Baltimore has relocated and built concrete roads to replace the roads now submerged due to the backing up of the water. A portion of the Ashland Road near Old Paper Mill has been relocated and improved with a concrete roadway, and a steel bridge with concrete slab has been built to replace the old wooden covered bridge.
A detailed engineering drawing for the steel bridge describes it as 361' in length with an additional 80' approach on each end. The old covered bridge is shown below the new steel bridge and can be measured at 188.75' for the covered portion. The drawing also shows the new steel bridge very slightly north of the old covered bridge, although photographs indicate it may have actually been located directly below the new steel bridge when the project was completed.¹ The cost of the new structure was $111,000 and was built by Bethlehem Steel Bridge Corporation of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.²
Paper Mill Covered Bridge Paper Mill Covered Bridge
Photo taken October 24, 1922 shows the Paper Mill Covered Bridge below the new steel bridge. (Photo has been cropped to show clarity of covered bridge.) Photo credit: City of Baltimore, courtesy of Ron Parks. Photographer unknown. This photo, taken October 24, 1922, implies the covered bridge was located directly below the new steel bridge. (Photo has been cropped to show clarity of covered bridge.) Photo credit: City of Baltimore, courtesy of Ron Parks. Photographer unknown.
Paper Mill Covered Bridge Iron & Steel Bridges on Paper Mill Road
"The covered bridge over the Gunpowder River on Paper Mill Road north of Ashland. Before 1921."Source: Gordon Callison, photographer unknown. Permission granted by Baltimore County Public Library. Iron bridge, left, built in 2001 & steel bridge built in 1922 still stand together over the Loch Raven Reservoir. Photo taken August 10, 2009.
By 2001 the steel bridge had become obsolete, not strong enough to carry the heavy, modern day traffic. A new iron structure was built. Destruction of the steel bridge was put on hold as plans were drawn to include it as part of a hiking trail along the old Northern Central Railway Trail. Today, the steel bridge still stands, south of the modern bridge.

UPDATED: 08-30-2013 for information about an accident at the bridge in 1898, and specifications of the bridge. Map added.

UPDATED: 02-24-2012 for information about the length & location of the covered bridge. Photos added.

¹ Information about the lengths and locations of the steel bridge and covered bridge courtesy of Ron Parks, City of Baltimore.

² Baltimore Evening Sun; July 22, 2003.

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