Passage of Time
West Cornwall covered bridge to celebrate at 150
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the bright-red bridge that spans the Housatonic River on Route 128 in West Cornwall. Despite a number of ice storms, hurricanes, and fires that have threatened its existence throughout its history, it remains an iconic landmark in the Litchfield Hills, known to locals as the “Kissing Bridge” due to its long, dark span and romantic appeal to lovers passing by in carriages.
The West Cornwall Covered Bridge—172 feet long and 15 feet wide—is one of tens of thousands of covered, wooden bridges that were built around the country in the 1800s. Since 1762, there had been multiple attempts to build a bridge over the Housatonic River, but all were largely unsuccessful until 1864, when Ithiel Town designed the sturdy, lattice-truss structure that now exists today. Slotted treenails (wooden pegs) secure the bridge, which is composed of red spruce (a wood stronger than oak), though the formerly gray bridge was not actually painted red until 1957.
Over the years, the bridge has seen its fair share of trials and tribulations as a result of various manmade and natural disasters. In 1945, a 20-ton oil truck fell through the flooring. A hay truck caught fire and nearly engulfed the bridge in flames. Ice jams, high waters, and hurricanes have also threatened to wipe out the bridge.
At one point, the state of Connecticut considered replacing the bridge completely due to the extensive number of repairs that had been done to it, but a local committee, “Save the Covered Bridge,” successfully fought to preserve it. In 1973, the Connecticut Department of Transportation added a concealed, steel deck as added support for the increasing weight of traffic. Two years later, in 1975, the bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The West Cornwall Covered Bridge is one of three remaining covered bridges in Connecticut, and thoughtful events are planned to celebrate its 150th year. On September 14, an exclusive benefit dinner will be held on the bridge by renowned Chef Joel Viehland of Community Table to promote local businesses. The next day, there will be a celebration of arts and culture, and a final ceremony will end the festivities in October.