History of Gudgeonville Bridge as taken from the Free Wikipedia Encyclopedia
The Gudgeonville Covered Bridge was a 84-foot (25.6 m) long Multiple King-post Truss covered bridge over Elk Creek in Girard Township, Erie County in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. It was built in 1868 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 17, 1980. It was destroyed by arson on November 8, 2008. It was the oldest of the three remaining covered bridges in Erie County.
The Gudgeonville Bridge was constructed around 1868 and was rebuilt in the early 1870s after a fire. The bridge was located in Girard Township and crossed Elk Creek. The bridge was built and designed by William Sherman. The foundation of the bridge is believed to be remnants of the Erie Extension Canal. The name of the bridge has always had some mystery about. Some sources indicate that the bridge was constructed to provide access to a gudgeon factory, or, a more popular explanation, that the mule that supposedly died on the bridge was named "Gudgeon."
Modern use and status
The bridge has been damaged from numerous small fires and has been the site of constant vandalism over the years. There were several proposals to dismantle the bridge and move it to a more secure location where it would not be vandalized. Another proposal was to build another bridge to bypass the original bridge, as it is too narrow to allow a variety of vehicles to cross it, including snowplows, fire trucks, and ambulances.
The interior of the Gudgeonville Covered Bridge, July 2008
Evans' 2001 Pennsylvania's covered bridges: a complete guide described the bridge to be "structurally sound," but its general appearance to be "most disappointing". The Federal Highway Administration National Bridge Inventory found the sufficiency rating of the bridge structure to be only 14.6 percent. It found that the bridge's foundations were determined to "scour critical," meaning that the bridge's foundations were "determined to be unstable for the calculated scour conditions," and that the railing "does not meet currently acceptable standards". Its overall condition was deemed "basically intolerable requiring high priority of corrective action", with an estimated cost to improve the bridge of $107,000.
The Gudgeonville Covered Bridge caught fire around 1:40 EDT (6:40 UTC) on November 8, 2008. The blaze was determined by the Pennsylvania State Police to have been an arson. On December 17, the State Police arrested two suspects after they confessed to dousing the bridge in gasoline and setting it on fire. The suspects were also involved in several other incidents in northern Crawford County and western Erie County. In August 2009, one of the arsonists was convicted and sentenced to 5 to 10 years in prison for the destruction of the bridge and for an unrelated charge. The other arsonist was sentenced to 5½ to 14 years for the fire and for a string of other crimes.
The Gudgeonville Covered Bridge after the fire on November 8, 2008
On January 26, 2009 the remains of the bridge were lifted from its abutments and set in a nearby field and dismantled to allow for a temporary bridge to have been built in its place. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) would not allow an exact replica of the covered bridge as it still would not be up to code. The temporary, prefabricated bridge was erected in August 2009, funded by an insurance policy held by the township. The new bridge was needed quickly as a permanent, concrete bridge would have taken three years to design and build. Without a bridge, traffic would have had to make a 2 miles (3.2 km) detour.
The Gudgeonville Covered Bridge had always been a popular place to visit because of superstition that surrounds the bridge. Locals believed that the bridge was haunted. A sheer cliff made of shale, nicknamed the "Ox's Bow," flanked the bridge. Many people erroneously believe this cliff to be called the Devil's Backbone, but that is actually a two sided cliff some miles away. Unexplained screams in the middle of the night from the surrounding woods was said to be the result of children who have fallen from the cliff to their deaths.
Another unexplained phenomenon was the sound of hooves on wood and occasional braying coming from the bridge. One story is that a mule was beaten to death on the bridge by its drunken owner because it refused to cross the bridge. Another story involves the mule having a heart attack from being spooked by a calliope playing on a barge going down on the nearby canal.
What ever you choose to believe, she was a grant ole bridge with many memories for those that have lived here all their lives. The link below will take you to some photos of the bridge, before the fire and after.
Tim Blount made this story board and encased it for his Eagle Scout project. It hangs on the wall of the Township meeting room.