As it Was

Those from among my longtime readership will recognize that my ofttimes mention of Maryland’s Gilpin’s Falls Bridge, go all the way back to a description of its system of un-nailed flooring, and how it came to be returned to this long neglected Burr in my maiden voyage entry. That first of frequent mentions having to do with the return of The Gilpin’s to its original fastener free flooring system, and the connection of that system to many early Bridgewrights, and Wooden Truss patent holder Col. Stephen Harriman Long who described it in his Set of Directions to Bridge Builders.

The Floor and the Truss Framing as viewed looking towards the north Portal

The Floor and the Truss Framing as viewed looking towards the north Portal

While recently back in the area involved in a non bridge related timberframe Preservation effort, I stopped back in at The Gilpin’s to check on how both the replacement timber, and the once common and now uniquely applied flooring, was seasoning in, in the three years which have now passed since the bridges celebrated and awarded restoration saw completion.

The North Portal

The North Portal

I was happy to see a second return of tradition and methodology to the Gilpin’s. One that like other aspects of followups in Bridgewrighting, ( See August ’12 entry – Less Than Hardwired for Hardware – for example of other similar seasoning driven followups ) and how a full understanding of the materials used, demand and require a return to the bridge for simple maintenance as timbers in these bridges, and their claddings and other wooden elements of finish and enclosure necessitate. To use the terminology of the day through the words of Col. Long – After seasoning and shrinkage of the Flooring, the “Binders” had been taken up, the un-nailed Flooring had been moved to remove the gaps left by seasoning, and every eight or ten feet along the bridges length – A new piece of Flooring had been added to cancel out the aggregate of those 3/16” gaps. A dozen or so pieces in total along the bridges length.

The added pieces obvious both for their coloration and for the lack of this mysterious red chalk line just adjacent to the “Binders” – Note also the Arches seen in this image descending past the Flooring and the nearby Chords

The work we were following on the restoration of The Gilpin's, was that of Cecil County Bridgewright Joseph Johnson - Photo courtesy of Mike Dixon & Window on Cecil County's Past

The work we were following on the restoration of The Gilpin’s, was that of this fine gentleman, Cecil County Bridgewright Joseph Johnson – Photo courtesy of Mike Dixon & Window on Cecil County’s Past

The full return of this system of Flooring, has with these added pieces of Flooring, now been returned to our Nations Covered Spans. On Sunday the 28th of the coming month, The National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges will hold one of its Summer meetings at The Gilpin’s. My longtime associate Tim Andrews, the fellow Bridgewright I subcontracted to on this restoration effort, will discuss challenges, victories and aspects of the effort both structural and logistic. As well as this now revived system of Flooring.

As it was, at least for this piece of Maryland history, is for the foreseeable future, as it will be…

About Will Truax

I'm a timberframer and preservation carpenter, and regularly work on Covered Bridge restoration projects. Bridgewrighting can be a tough row to hoe, for a myriad of reasons. From scheduling issues to differing opinions and philosophies on what is appropriate in methods and materials, to multiple jurisdictions still not sufficiently vetting bidders resumes - Which is to say, just because a company is on that state approved list and capable of building that seven figure overpass, this does not mean they are capable of restoring a wooden bridge... So, I have much to say about all this and more - And despite my tough row observation, I promise not to whine. View all posts by Will Truax

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