UPDATE: Repairs Scheduled to Start for Henniker Covered Bridge
**UPDATE: PLEASE SEE PROGRESS PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE REPAIRS AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE**
One of 54 covered bridges listed on the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources website, the Henniker covered bridge is about to receive some important repairs. Work could begin on the bridge as early as March 16 pending an approval letter from the Division of Historical Resources and final permitting from the Town of Henniker. The project is expected to take six to eight weeks and New England College anticipates that the covered bridge will be back in full operation by the College’s Commencement on May 16.
Constructed in 1972, the Henniker covered bridge has not yet reached the 50-year milestone required to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places; however, the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources considers the state’s covered bridges to be of significant importance and some of the state’s most valuable assets. Since its founding in 1974, the Division of Historical Resources has sought to preserve and promote the many sites associated with the historical, archaeological, architectural, engineering, and cultural heritage of the state for the enjoyment of its residents and visitors.
The Henniker covered bridge was constructed in 1972 by Milton Graton and his son, Arnold. Using Ithiel Town’s 1820 patent for lattice truss construction, Graton and his son employed historic building techniques in the construction of the bridge including the use of a team of oxen to haul the framed trusses across the Contoocook River.
The bridge measures 136’7” in length and covers a 114’6” span of the Contoocook River. The overall width of the bridge is 18’4” with a roadway width of 14’5”.
The pride of the Town of Henniker and New England College, the Henniker covered bridge serves many practical functions for both. First-year students at the College gather on the bridge during orientation and again four years later at Commencement. The bridge functions as a walkway from the College’s main campus to the outlying athletic fields. It is also a link in the Henniker Community School’s emergency evacuation route. A scenic landmark in the town, the Henniker covered bridge has also provided a romantic venue for the exchange of wedding vows over the years.
According to Gary Harper, Director of Campus Operations for New England College, the bridge’s roof will be removed, roof trusses will be tightened, a second row of 2X4 strapping will be installed to strengthen the roof, and new fascia boards and cedar shakes will be installed. The restoration project is the first major repair since the bridge was built 37 years ago and should be completed in six to eight weeks. In addition, safety cameras will be installed on the bridge and upgrades to the structure’s lighting will be made. Work will be carried out by David Holmes of Weare, a specialist in cedar shake roofing.
Costs for the restoration, cameras, lighting, and the creation of a fund to maintain the bridge in the future, will approach $100,000 and have been raised entirely by donations. Dr. Michele Perkins, President of New England College noted, “At a time when many colleges across the country are postponing or even cancelling construction projects, we are pleased to be able to move forward with plans for several important projects on the New England College campus. We believe that the ability to complete these projects sends a powerful message to our students and their families, that NEC is well-positioned to weather the economic downturn without compromising the quality of our academic or co-curricular programming.”
At the completion of the restoration project, the NEC Class of 2009 has plans to donate several granite benches to be placed in the vicinity of the covered bridge. “We are grateful to the senior class for their kind donation of these granite benches,” said Dr. Perkins. “With additional landscaping in the area, the appearance of the covered bridge will be enhanced and a tranquil setting for the NEC community and the Town of Henniker will be created.”
PROGRESS PHOTOS (taken 4/22/09):