Bogert's Covered Bridge
Bogert’s Covered Bridge, named after local land owner Peter Bogert, was built in 1841 and spans the Little Lehigh Creek. It initially carried pedestrians, equestrians, and horse-drawn carriages over the creek and, later, automobiles until it was severely damaged in the 1950s and almost demolished. It has been through one major restoration and is currently in need of another, for which fund-raising efforts continue. The bridge is now part of the Lehigh Parkway, a 476-acre park that stretches along the Little Lehigh and it continues to provide pedestrians and bicyclists a shaded crossing of the creek. It is now the oldest covered bridge in Lehigh County and among the oldest in the country. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
Backstory and Context
Back in the 1730s, Abraham Kirper acquired a tract of land around the Little Lehigh Creek. He then built a dwelling on that land in 1741 that still stands and is known as Hunter’s Cabin. Kirper then sold the cabin and land to Peter Bogert in 1744. Bogert and others then built a stone ford at the location of the current covered bridge. However, the local Lenape natives complained that the ford blocked canoe access along the creek. Accounts of the time claim that Bogert negotiated a peaceful settlement between the natives and settlers regarding the ford on his land, achieving the title of “peacemaker” among the natives.
Almost a century later, it was decided that a bridge was needed and the designers, whoever they were, decided upon a covered Burr truss bridge with vertical plank siding and a gable roof. Named after bridge designer/builder, Theodore Burr, a Burr truss bridge features two arch trusses which run the length of each side of the bridge and rest on abutments at each end. Bogert’s Bridge was no different. Completed in 1841, the 145-foot bridge was primarily used by farmers and iron companies transporting crops and supplies to and from the nearby canals. Within a generation, those crops and supplies would be going to and from railroad depots rather than canal depots.
Eventually, covered bridges fell out of fashion for pragmatic reasons. Their roofs prevented street car lines from running across them with the advent of electricity and their wooden construction simply could not hold the weight of street cars, railroad engines and, later, heavy trucks. However, Bogert’s Covered Bridge continued its primary function until a set of truck accidents in the mid-20th century placed its continued existence in doubt. Rather than repair it, the county discussed its destruction until it was reprieved by the Save the Bogert’s Bridge Committee in 1957.
The solution that saved the bridge was to build a new, modern bridge over the creek a few hundred feet to the west and then re-route N. 24th Street/Oxford Drive over the new bridge in 1964. Today, a paved path, known as Fish Hatchery Road, leads to the bridge and is used by thousands of walkers, joggers, and cyclists every year. Despite being awarded a Keystone Historic Grant in June of 2018, the bridge is still in need of an estimated $1.5 million in renovations and fund-raising efforts are ongoing.
Zacher, Susan. "National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form." United States Department of the Interior/National Park Service. March, 1980. Accessed November 1, 2018. http://www.dot7.state.pa.us/CRGIS_Attachments/SiteResource/H050824_01H.pdf
Fulton, Sarah. "Bogert's Covered Bridge turns 175." Allentown Morning Call. June 13, 2016. Accessed November 1, 2018. http://www.mcall.com/news/local/allentown/mc-allentown-bogerts-bridge-20160613-story.html
"History's Headlines: Bogert's covered bridge." WFMZ December 21, 2015. Accessed November 1, 2018. http://www.wfmz.com/news/lehigh-valley/historys-headlines-bogerts-covered-bridge_20160530015933611/20215149
Cassi, Sarah. "Oldest bridge in Lehigh County is getting a little help." Lehigh Valley Live. June 12, 2018. Accessed November 1, 2018. https://www.lehighvalleylive.com/allentown/index.ssf/2018/06/oldest_bridge_in_lehigh_county.html