More than 350 people turned out on a cold but bright afternoon to witness reopening of the rebuilt Smith Bridge following a brief dedicatory ceremony.

The one-lane covered bridge is the northernmost of 12 which span the Brandywine in Delaware.

Secretary of Transportation Nathan Hayward said original blueprints of the covered bridge that was destroyed by a Halloween arson fire in 1961 were located and "faithfully followed with modern improvements"  in designing the new structure.

Governor Ruth Ann Minner told attenders at the ceremony that the rebuilding was "the kind of project that makes

 
 

A larger-than-expected crowd turned out on Jan. 11 for the dedication and reopening of the rebuilt Smith Bridge linking Christiana and Brandywine Hundreds.

 

First crossers were a procession of carriages and antique cars.

 

Delaware so unique." She said that Delaware Department of Transportation responded favorably when residents of the area made it clear that they wanted a narrow covered bridge. "It was done the way the community wanted it done," she said.

State Representative Robert Valihura touched on the same theme when he described the building of a covered bridge in these times as a public works that is also a public enhancement. As a symbol of simpler times, he said, it stands in sharp contrast to a "cold and sterile" bridge that could have been built.

Fittingly, the first traffic across the span was a parade of four horse-drawn carriages and some 50 antique automobiles.

Although modern covered bridges have been built around the country in recent years, Smith Bridge is considered unusual in that its main purpose is not to please tourists but to move traffic on a secondary, but still widely used, road.

The wooden structure is supported by steel beams on the original concrete piers. It was built at a cost of $1.2 million by Eastern States Construction Services. The bridge itself was built by subcontractor, Pocopson Industries, The roadway is 15 feet wide with a maximum height of 12 feet, 10 inches. The wood is bongassi, an African timber said to be the most durable of all woods.

Posted on January 11, 2003

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