Braces, Chords & Ties: Bunker Hill Covered Bridge

Leaves crunched underfoot on a worn path that had once been a Native American trail—a trail later named the Island Ford Road. The dirt road crossed Lyles Creek near Claremont, in the foothills of western North Carolina.

In 1894 (or 1895 according to some records), Bunker Hill Covered Bridge was built by Andy J. Ramsour to span the creek. He designed it using “Improved Lattice Truss” methodology patented in 1839 by General Herman Haupt, Chief of Military Railroads for the Union Army during the Civil War.

One of only two covered bridges in North Carolina standing today, Bunker Hill Covered Bridge, (which was named after a nearby farm), is the only remaining wooden example of Haupt’s truss design. Its construction incorporated braces, chords, and ties that were efficiently positioned to eliminate redundant materials and unnecessary counterbalances traditionally used at the time. Haupt’s rational engineering method helped to eliminate cross strain and the risk of split timbers. [1],[2]


Bunker Hill Covered Bridge, a Catawba County Historical Association Restoration, is built of oak with wooden pins, called trunnels. — Claremont, NC


A look inside Bunker Hill Covered Bridge: Originally built in 1894 as an open span, the bridge was covered with a 91-foot wood shingle roof five years later. Today, the roof is made of tin. — Catawba County, NC


Covering a bridge served to protect the structure from sun, snow, sleet and rain for up to 100 years, whereas an uncovered bridge held up to the elements for 15-20 years. — Bunker Hill Covered Bridge; Catawba County, NC

To view the bridge, parking is available at Connor Park off of US Highway 70. From there, it’s just a short walk—maybe 1/4 of a mile. Hours of operation are from dawn until dusk.


A view of Connor Park from the trail leading to Bunker Hill Covered Bridge: Picnic tables are available along the creek, and the parking lot is just out of view on the right. — US Highway 70, near Claremont, NC.


The trail leading to Bunker Hill Covered Bridge from Connor Park off of Highway 70. — Catawba County, NC

Bunker Hill Covered Bridge survived major floods in 1916 and 1940. During the 1930s, the bridge was closed to local traffic as part of legislation to improve roadway systems and travel. In 1970, Bunker Hill Covered Bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The bridge was fully restored in 1994; and in 2001, it was designated as a National Civil Engineering Landmark. [3]

[2]The other covered bridge in North Carolina is Pisgah Covered Bridge (1911) in Randolph County.

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