Note: Although this is a part of a series, each article can be read individually and in any order. Stops on this journey across Ashtabula County, Ohio include: Mechanicsville, Doyle Road, Giddings Road, Netcher Road, and South Denmark Road Covered Bridges.
Having spent the weekend in Ashtabula, Ohio, I prepared to head homeward. I had allowed myself an extra day to drive home, which meant I had some time to explore the region. Over the years, I’ve found exploring Ashtabula County has been filled with excitement as I’ve toured many cemeteries and covered bridges within its borders. The county celebrates its covered bridges with a yearly festival and continues to erect new ones to bring visitors into the region.
While I had visited a number of their covered bridges in the past, I still had some I wanted to stop at and photograph. Scrolling through the GPS, I found one I had yet to visit – Mechanicsville Covered Bridge. Taking Route 20 westward out of Ashtabula, I then turned southward onto Route 45 into Austinburg. While not the most direct route home, I knew I had the time to do some exploration before I had to turn the vehicle eastward.
Entering Austinburg, I saw my first stop of the day – a gigantic, twenty-foot-tall rocking chair located on the northern edge of town. After taking some pictures of it, I continued a short distance southward and turned right onto Route 307. Following it westward for two miles, I made the left turn onto County Highway 218, also known as Windsor-Mechanicsville Road, and drove southward. Roughly a mile later, the covered bridge came into sight. A modern road bypasses the covered bridge on its northern side and I passed over the modern bridge and parked in a lot at its western edge.
While Mechanicsville is merely a place name in today’s world, at one time it was a thriving community which grew around the mills which had been powered by the Grand River. Only the covered bridge, which was erected in 1867, keeps the ghost town on modern maps.
As I got out of the vehicle, I realized that I could have driven through the bridge, and knew I would do so before leaving the area. The bridge has a length of 160 feet, features a Howe truss with an added arch and sits on two concrete piers which were added in 1996.
One of the oldest covered bridges in Ashtabula County, Mechanicsville Covered Bridge survived floods which severely damaged or destroyed other bridges that once spanned the Grand River. The bridge underwent a massive renovation in 2003 and was reopened to traffic in 2004. The walls and the approaches are painted white and on the northwestern exterior wall, a painted quilt block hangs as decoration.
With the modern road passing the bridge, I was able to explore without the fear of constant vehicular traffic. But even then, there was so little traffic that once I passed through the covered bridge, I was able to walk across the modern bridge and take photographs from it.
I finished photographing the bridge before turning the vehicle eastward and passed slowly through it and headed to the next stop on my journey home.
Note: In researching the history of the bridge, I stumbled upon an article from the March 25, 2004 edition of the Ashtabula Star Beacon (Ashtabula, Oh). Written by Carl Feather, “Rehabilitating the Past,” mentions two pieces of information that I found interesting.
1) The piers need the bridge more than the bridge needs the piers. In most cases, piers are erected as a means of support, but in this case, the main reason the piers were added was to stabilize the bridge. The reason the piers are standing is due to the weight of the covered bridge resting on them.
2) Duane Urch, the foreman for the rehabilitation project is quoted: “Everybody who worked on that job (the restoration of the Mechanicsville Covered Bridge) still hasn’t figured out how they put the thing up” using the tools available in 1867. Whatever the secret the original builders had, the bridge remains a testament to their abilities.
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