Westport Covered Bridge
Bridge Name :
Location : At the SE edge of Westport off CR 1100S in Sand Creek Twp.
Waters it crosses : Sand Creek
Number of Spans: 1
Length : 115'
Construction Date : Built in 1880
Type : Burr Arch and Truss
Directions : 1.5 miles East of State Rd 3 on Main Street CR 1100S and left 0.1 mile to the bridge.
Decatur County’s wooden covered bridge, located 1.5
miles southeast of Westport just off County Road 1100 South, is the only
covered bridge ever constructed in Decatur County. It’s a Burr Arch and
Truss type twelve panel bridge spanning 115 feet across Sand Creek with
7.5 feet extensions at each end to help protect interior timbers from the
weather. Its interior clearances are fourteen feet tall and fourteen feet,
five inches between the arches.
On July 20, 1880, the County
Commissioners awarded a contract to A. M. Kennedy & sons, of Rush County,
to build the bridge at $16.00 per foot. The next day, July 21, 1880, the
Commissioners contracted with E. S. Bussell & Brothers to build the stone
abutments. This covered bridge is one of only 11 remaining Kennedy
bridges. It carried traffic for a major roadway east from Westport, of up
to 5 tons, for nearly a century until in 1976 it was bypassed and closed
to all but pedestrian traffic. Its loads varied widely, from pedestrian
foot traffic, to horse drawn buggies, wagons and farm machinery, to steam
powered farm equipment, to more modern vehicles including automobiles and
grain trucks and farm tractors pulling heavy equipment. No doubt, its
loads sometimes strained its structural members mightily, but it’s stood
strong and majestic for these 130 plus years.
On June 25, 1982, the
United States Department of Interior entered the Westport covered bridge
on the National Register of Historic Places.
The covered bridge
originally was completely enclosed, as seen in the picture below. At some
time, probably in the 1930’s, side windows were installed in half the
length on each side at opposite ends so that oncoming traffic could be
seen, because the road turns quickly at each end. Later, probably in the
early 1950’s, the windows were extended the full length of the bridge.
The photograph below shows the west end of the covered bridge amidst
the 1913 flood. Local residents were almost certain that it would be swept
away in the flood waters. The water was lapping against the siding while a
strong stream current overflowed the road at the west end. Again in a
flood of about 1958, a local resident recalls walking across the bridge in
knee high water while helping a family evacuate from their home. But, each
time it’s been threatened by high flood waters, the bridge has held fast.
Photo courtesy of
provided by George Cann
Gatewood and Tony Layton
The bridge is constructed such that there are
twelve truss panel members sandwiched between two arches on each side of
the bridge. You may see the vertical truss beams with the angular strength
members above. The truss panels support the bridge structure: the floor,
the running boards, the walls and the roof. The arches are segmented and
overlapping timbers and are the primary load bearing members that support
both the bridge structure and any load the bridge may carry.
Exactly when, since its construction, any repairs were made, or their
extent, is not known. However, the most recent refurbishment began in the
summer of 2003. The County Commissioners obtained a Federal Highway
Transportation Act grant as the major portion of the $450,000 total
project cost to renovate and preserve this architecturally and
historically significant covered bridge for current and future
generations. Evidence existed that repairs to the ends of the arches had
occurred probably twice before. On the east end, the ends of the arches
were repaired by sandwiching new timbers on either side of the old rotted
arch ends. On the west end, the ends of the arches were cut off and blocks
were installed between the arch ends and the abutment. In one area of the
floor, a panel length long, the floor joists had been replaced with steel
The refurbishment project included replacing the
deteriorated end pieces of the arches at each end of the bridge.
Vegetation was removed from between the stones of the abutments and the
mortar was replaced and repointed. The longitudinal stringers, the floor
joists, and the floor boards were increased in size to meet federal
requirements for traffic loads. A new metal roof was installed. The
weatherboarding was replaced and painted the original color. The square
end openings were restored to their original curved corner configuration.
The missing scroll work was reproduced and painted the correct green
color. The completed covered bridge stood proud and beautiful.
Photos courtesy of Bryan Gatewood and Tony
Westport was sponsoring the “Westports of the World”
convention; what better time to re-dedicate the bridge. On August 14,
2004, the Decatur County Commissioners, in the presence of local residents
and Westport delegates from New Zealand, Ireland, Canada and several other
states from within the United States, re-dedicated the Westport covered
Immediately afterward, drivers who had paraded their
vehicles to the covered bridge were permitted to drive across it, one at a
time, led by Commissioner Tom Menkedick transporting the other
Commissioners in his antique 1957 Chevrolet followed by Bob Conwell in his
antique 1927 Ford Model T truck. Today, the covered bridge is open to
travel across it at any time, with vehicle and passenger weight limited to
4 tons. People come from all across Indiana and surrounding states to
study the bridge’s construction, to admire its simplicity and to marvel at
the ingenuity displayed from a time so long ago.