In the United States’ early years, engineers constructed wooden covered bridges that would help travelers get to where they were going faster and provide shelter from the weather. You know, the red bridges on Indiana license plates. There used to be over 10,000 of them in the country in the 1800’s, but many of them were replaced with newer designs prior to 1950.
Indiana’s Covered Bridge Heritage
Thanks to preservation efforts, Indiana is still home to 98 historic wooden covered bridges. Most of the state’s covered bridges are in the Western part of Indiana. But, there are a few right here in Southern Indiana. There are nine bridges on the Covered Bridge Loop, including Lawrence County’s very own Williams Covered Bridge.
Williams Covered Bridge is Indiana’s longest double span covered bridge. It spans the East Fork of the White River, resting just off the Huron and Williams Roads, south of State Road 450. The total length of the bridge is 402 feet, including a 13-foot overhang, and stands over 19 feet tall.
An Architectural Achievement
It was built by Joseph J. Daniels in 1884 and named after the nearby town, Williams. Residents needed a way to transport their horses, buggies and wagons across the White River. It features the rare Howe truss. The truss is the component of the bridge that holds the bridge covering upright and is one solid unit. The Howe truss was designed with vertical and diagonal members that slope towards the center of the bridge. Inside the bridge, you can see how the wooden planks work together to create this design. Many other bridges in the state utilize different types of design, such as the Burr Arch truss.
The bridge’s design was so strong that it was able to hold motor vehicle traffic as time passed and technology advanced. The bridge was open to vehicular traffic all the way until 2010, when it was significantly refurbished. Today, Williams Covered Bridge is only open to foot and bicycle traffic.
The bridge has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1981. The bridge’s history is honored during a few events there throughout the year. In 2018, Lawrence County Tourism Commission hosted a dinner on the historic structure in September to commemorate Lawrence County’s Bicentennial.
Breathe in days gone by while welcoming new adventures along the back-country roads when traveling to Williams Covered Bridge. Nothing is quite as satisfying as fresh air and open road.