On August 28, 2011, when the Williams River rose to historic heights during Tropical Storm Irene, the Bartonsville Covered Bridge, built in 1870, in the village of Bartonsville, in Rockingham, Vermont, lost its battle to the raging waters.
The swollen river eroded the banks on its south side, damaging the bridge’s abutments. When the abutments gave way the bridge separated from the banks and began gliding down the river. Unable to make a turn in the river, the 151-foot-long, lattice truss-style bridge collapsed in a pile of timber and crumpled standing seam roofing material on the shore about a half mile down stream.
Susan Hammond, longtime Bartonsville resident, was just yards away, caught the entire incident on her digital camera and posted the video on YouTube. Within days the Bartonsville Bridge became a nationwide symbol for the historic destruction Vermont suffered at the hands of Irene. And the video of the Bartonsville Covered Bridge being carried away by the river became a YouTube spectacle. Its destruction, and rebuilding, became powerful symbols for what Vermont has been through since 2011.
Come hell or the high waters of the Williams River, the residents of Bartonsville decided they were going to rebuild their covered bridge and 18 days ago, the community held a ribbon cutting ceremony for its new bridge with Hammond recognizing all of the work that went into bringing a covered bridge back to Bartonsville.
Hammond was among 100 people including Gov. Peter Shumlin and Congressman Peter Welch, who showed up on a very cold morning to recognize all of the work that has gone into replacing the original, historic bridge.
The town worked with the Vermont League if Cities and Towns to secure the insurance money to replace the bridge and with FEMA which helped with mitigation funding.
Engineers at Clough Harbour & Associates, construction crews from the general contractor, Cold River Bridges, and metal roofing contractor, David Paige of Iron Horse Roofing in Londonderry, Vermont, who installed the Forest Green Englert Series 1300 roof, worked through bitter winter weather to make sure Bartonsville would once again have its covered bridge. Everyone acknowledged that the January 26 dedication would not have been possible without everyone working together. Iron Horse’s Paige reports the 5,000 square foot installation which featured a 17-inch wide, 24-gauge panel went smoothly.
“Our slogan was ‘We can rebuild history,'” Hammond told the gathered crowd. “The people of Bartonsville insisted that we rebuild the bridge.” And it was the sheer spirit and determination of people like Hammond that made it happen. She led a fundraising campaign that brought in about $60,000, which she said came from all over the world. She said without a covered bridge, the hamlet of Bartonsville was missing something, and now it is complete once again. And to cap it all off in true Vermont style, her father, Prentice Hammond, was the first to cross the bridge Saturday—in his wheelchair.