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The Covered Bridges of East Vincent

It used to be that wherever you traveled in our Keystone State, you would sooner or later come across at least one of these structures.  Several were found in Chester County and East Vincent could claim four of their own.  However, over the years those numbers slowly have come down and now within the Township there are only two covered bridges left standing.
The first four of the Township’s bridges to help residents safely cross the French Creek were all covered structures.  By placing what was known as “weatherboarding and roofing” on the bridges as they were built, it was estimated that they could remain in good condition from 30 to 40 years rather than the expected 12 if left exposed to the harsh elements.  With good maintenance, these estimates have proven to be quite conservative.  There was also another useful purpose for the “weatherboarding.”  Cattle were fearful when crossing any bridge if they spotted water running dangerously under them, but the protective siding shielded them from this hazard, allowing them to move safely to the other side.
All four of the bridges were built in the pre-Civil War era beginning in 1833 at Wilson’s Corner followed by three in the 1850’s, Sheeder Hall (1850), Hallman (1854), and Kennedy (1856).  Each one used the popular design of a transplanted Pennsylvanian, Theodore Burr.  His structures were supported by what became known as the “Burr arch truss” which can be clearly seen on the inside walls of the roadway. 
It is truly remarkable to state that each of those original four bridges survived far beyond the 40-year optimistic estimate.  Wilson’s Corner remained in operation for over one hundred years before a new structure had to be built in 1936, and the Hallman Bridge finally fell victim to a fire in 1927.
The Sheeder-Hall Bridge, which is shared with West Vincent, stands as a towering monument to its builders, Robert Russell and Jacob Fox, for it has served the community well from the nineteenth through the twenty-first century.  Sheeder-Hall has now reached 155 years of age and still manages to carry a new brand of modern day traffic across those waters that the original builders could never have even imagined.  This magnificent structure holds the distinction of being the oldest covered bridge in Chester County.
The other covered bridge, resting totally within the Township, is the Kennedy Bridge found along the heavily traveled Seven Stars Road.  This last of the original ones to be built was named for Alexander Kennedy, a prominent landowner in the area and one who was involved in its construction.  This crossing remained in use for 130 full years before it was destroyed by fire in the early morning hours of May 10, 1986.  Recognizing its historical significance, the local residents petitioned for a replacement in its original form.  The new bridge is an exact copy of the original except for the use of extremely durable African Bongossi wood that not only has great strength but also is resistant to both fire and insects.  The new Kennedy Bridge with its distinctive Burr truss was reopened for traffic the next year and rededicated on June 22, 1988.
These two covered bridges, each containing the easily recognizable Burr arch truss design, displaying their distinctive portals (entrances), and their magnificent stone wall approaches (seen better on the side away from the road), are worthy of a visit to vividly recall those days and times long since departed, when horses and buggies and a few cows provided the main traffic seeking to cross the waters of the ever challenging French Creek.
By:  Dr. Robert Price
Historical Commission