Tag Archives: Col. Stephen H. Long

Model of Improvement

I had long heard of a model of Col. Long’s Truss in the collection of the The New Hampshire Antiquarian Society, and long had it in mind to arrange a visit as part of research in piecing together my multiple blog entries on the Colonel and his Truss. Though I did not work to do so until coming upon this curious passage in an article titled – An Hour in the Antiquarian Room in Vol XXXII No. 1 of The Granite Monthly, published in 1902.

That initial inquiry to the Antiquarian Society was spurred by some seeming confusion found in the passage, (none of the Childs brothers have or had C.B. as their initials, nor where any of them still living in 1902) and a curiosity as to if there was any possibility that the Society perhaps also had in their collection a model of a Childs truss.

As it turns out, it was a Childs (likely Horace – visit the search bar to the right for information on the man and his truss, or for greater information on the good Col. Long) who donated this Long Truss model to the society, this sometime in the 1870’s. This would stand to reason being that Horace was a cousin of the Colonel’s and his bridge building firm was counted as among the earliest of those named as agent and sanctioned to build Long Trusses, and such a model would have been a useful tool in selling bridges of this truss type.


Col. Long’s Bridge – The Model fits in its box like a hand in a glove

It was a rare thrill to examine the model, which is truly joined with well executed wood to wood joints and holds features I have not yet seen (such as the upper lateral bracing details, and the thrust blocks on the terminal ends of iron rod wind stays) on any still standing Long Truss bridge. It was also an honor and a privilege to examine this tiny construction, it being perhaps wrought by, and likely held by the hands of one or both of these storied bridge truss patent holders.


The Bridgewright Blog would like to thank the NHAS / Hopkinton Historical Society for their willingness and cooperation in providing access to this rare piece of both area and wooden bridge history.


Genuinely joined and richly detailed



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…

Commonly Un Common

The Square Rule is, as I suggested in the last entry, not just back on my current, but it is now my actual horizon. A part of my here is now everyday. As is this wondering as to why it was the people who chose to use it, this Square Rule, chose to do so.

It is a funny place to be in in more ways than one. As is the fact that I might gaze through a window few can share – I know what it is to wonder after the efficacy of which system to use for any given Timber Framed construction. To ask which system of Timber Layout, Scribe or Square Rule is the more, or even the most appropriate. This a window common to a few of my contemporaries. Though one last wide open for but a brief while, centuries ago now, when this rapid shift from the Scribe to the Square was yet underway.

And I think the perspective I view all this through, is far from common. To know traditional versions of both systems of layout is not common even among framers. To have a working sense of both historical framing of buildings, and those of bridges is maybe even more so. All this is a circumstance and a happenstance and a perspective, which was once commonly shared. The once sense of everyday of a common country carpenter, but now some of the little explored vagaries of a hyper niche carpenter. That said, I still see myself as a common country carpenter. Perhaps it is the every tree is a timber, commonality traditional timber framing has with the sawlogs we are often involved in “converting” – It is in this work, none so uncommon to choose timber in the woods and on the stump. Something we have done here as part of the Bernhard Barn restoration, the two Tulip stems which will serve as species in kind replacements of the one piece fifty foot hewn from the round Wall Plates still stand in their forest and yet touch the sky, and do not yet know that they will be part of the next chapter in the ongoing story that this Barn will continue to tell.

It often crosses my mind that this thing of being a Framer with an inter-discipline sense of things is an all too small club, one with a membership far far too short in numbers.

So, all that, and with the other high horizon focus, The Blenheim, seem to bring us back to where this blogging adventure began, with Long Trusses and The Square Rule and who might have taught who what, when it came to bridge framing, (see the May & June ’11 archives) now swings back and over into a parallel and perhaps as seemingly and an almost equally unanswerable exploration. Who was it who brought the roots of Square Rule to the table, and where was that place that they called home?

Semi parallel interwoven puzzles and a wonder after both, send us in search of clues to either, and we find yet another letter of shameless self promotion from the good Col Long –

All this information for but three pence, the price of a nail so small, most might think of it as a tack.

Railroading, Adverts and Lists of What Was

In imagining The Col’s schedule as being always incredibly busy, and cyphering through the available source materials in hoping to find some clue, and some sense as to when he might have found the time to actually work directly with a Bridgewright framing one of his patent trusses and who it might have been…

I fell upon this gem of an advertisement, placed by brother Moses, agent for Stephen, in January of 1836 –

The first name on that list of sub-agents is cousin Horace, (much more on this prolific bridgewright and fellow patent holder later) builder of the Henniker and Haverhill examples listed in this ad. And also of the still existing Long, the Rowell’s, in the Long family hometown of Hopkinton NH, and just downriver from Henniker.

He also built (credit as to the builder of the Hopkinton Village Bridge was corrected in a later entry) this “Village “ example (an in-town bridge with double sidewalks) in the Contoocook Village section of Hopkinton. Removed in 1935 in a WPA Depression era makework project, it sat just upstream from the still existing covered railroad bridge

Former Contoocook Village Bridges

– In fact, we know this little girl and the scene pictured here were photographed before 1889 when the RR bridge pictured was replaced by the one still standing. Little is known about this bridge. But, it is not at all improbable that it was a Childs built Childs Truss, as Horace and his own tight-knit cadre of brothers went on to do much of their contracting and bridgwrighting work for a number of area railroads.

The RR bridge in the photo has little more overhead clearance than the Village bridge it stands beside, and was likely built in the 40’s or 50’s when Locomotives were smaller and lighter.

Amoskeag - Locally built & favored by small area RR's

The Boston & Maine quickly replaced this bridge soon after acquiring the line from the Concord & Claremont, in anticipation of the heavier rolling stock of the future.