The Covered Bridges of Nicholas Powers

Last week, the Wallingford Historical Society presented its first program for this year. The program entitled “The Covered Bridges of Nicholas Powers” was held at the Historical Society Museum located on the second floor of the Town Hall. It was a well attended, fun and informative event.

A. Nicholas Strom-Olsen, the great great great grandson of famous covered bridge builder and Clarendon resident, Nicholas Powers walked the audience through the life and works of Powers.

Nicholas Powers was born on August 30, 1817 in Pittsford, Vermont. He lived in Ira for a period of time and spent his final days in Clarendon.

As Strom-Olsen explained during his presentation, Powers who was self-taught, built his first bridge when he was 19 years old. That bridge, the Pittsford Mills Bridge, traversed the Furnace Brook and was built in the year 1837. It was removed in 1931 for road widening.

The Gorham Bridge, also located in Pittsford traverses the Otter Creek and still stands today. It is one of the four still-standing covered bridges built by Powers in Rutland County.

The other bridges that still remain standing today are the Cooley Bridge over the Furnace Brook in Pittsford, the Brown Bridge over the Cold River in Shrewsbury and one of the Twin Bridges in East Pittsford, which is now on dry land and no longer used as a bridge.

Powers is known for building covered bridges that had covered sides which became one of Powers’ trademarks. Powers built Wallingford’s own covered bridge over the Otter Creek connecting the two sections of Route 140, which was then referred to as a “quaint side road”. Powers built the Wallingford bridge in 1874 and a streamside ledge outcrop served as most of the western abutment of the bridge. Wallingford’s bridge was burned in 1949 when the metal bridge was erected in its stead.

Powers also holds the record for building the longest single span wooden bridge in the world. The bridge, located over the Schoharie Creek in Blenheim, New York was built by Powers from 1854 to 1855. It is 232 feet long. It is contained in the Guinness Book of World Records.

English: The Old Blenheim Bridge in North Blen...

English: The Old Blenheim Bridge in North Blenheim, New York is the longest covered bridge of its type in the world. Photographed 11 March 2008 from up the hill on the eastern shore of the Schoharie Creek. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The bridge was referred to as Power’s Folly because during its construction, nay-sayers believed that the bridge would fall, being unable to support that long of a suspension. It was reported by Strom-Olsen that Powers stood on top of the bridge when it was opened and stated that if the bridge fell, he would fall with it. The bridge settled less than one inch and withstood over two hundred years, it was destroyed by Hurricane Irene when the concrete buttresses went underwater. There no longer being anything to support the bridge, it collapsed.  A true tragedy.

In addition, to covered bridge building, Powers was responsible for building the Kingsley Grist Mill in Clarendon. This is the only mill designed and built by Powers. Ironically, the Kingsley covered bridge located next to the mill was not built by Powers.

Powers also built the Cheese Factory and Creamery in Clarendon which is the present home of the Clarendon Grange. Strom-Olsen was joined by his wife and family for the presentation. A lively discussion ensued with lots of questions and comments from the audience including a story from David Klock about the burning of the Wallingford bridge.

The Wallingford Historical Society welcomes the entire Wallingford community to its next presentation, featuring Wallingford residents Jay White and David Klock at the Town Hall on June 26, 2012 at 7 p.m.

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1 Comment

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One response to “The Covered Bridges of Nicholas Powers

  1. I am secretary for Shrewsbury Historical Society and am trying to find out mailing address for Nicholas Strom-olsen, great great great grandson of Nicholas Powers who built our Brown Bridge. I would like to forward to him our annual Newsletter with our lead story about the Brown Bridge. If you can reply my e-mail address is: ruthcon1@vermontel.net. Thank you.

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