The Covered Bridge at Charming Forge
There are many persons who deplore the removal of old landmarks in the construction of new and modern structures. The huge red-covered bridges are passing from the scene. In recent years one of the most noble of all bridges in Berks County was torn away to make way for a concrete structure bared to all of the elements. The old covered bridge at Charming Forge is a familiar memory for many persons who sought out that romantic spot in years gone by.
And yet these covered bridges are not ancient or even very old. The Forge Bridge was only 65 years of age when it was removed in 1938. Many persons still are living who can remember the cable bridge which spanned the wide Tulpehocken (spelled Tulpehoccon as late as 1876) prior to erection of the covered bridge at that point in 1873.
In this modern day it may be interesting to note the specifications which were set up by the county commissioners when the Charming Forge covered bridge contracts were given in the autumn of 1872.
The abutment walls were to be eight feet thick and 21 feet wide under the ground. The abutments were to be raised in such a way that a space of seven feet be allowed between the breast of the dam and the woodwork of the bridge itself/
“The bridge is to have a double arch, and to be constructed of the following kinds of lumber: Wall plates of white oak, 20 feet six inches long, six inches thick, and 15 inches wide; the chord lines, arch pieces, posts, floor beams, tie beams, braces, and weatherboarding to be sound white pine; the rafters and laths either of hemlock or of oak; shingles of split white pine.”
The following were specifications for size and timber:
“Wall plates; 6×15; bottom chords 8×14; top chord 10×10; floor beams 8×12; double arch pieces 7×13; queen post 10×13; ring post 10×15; braces 8×10, etc.
When one reads these requirements it is not difficult to see why steel and concrete must be used to take the place of timber. Where would we find the timber?
The bridge was 165 feet long between the abutments. It was 16 feet wide “in the clear” and 13 feet high. The bridge was painted with Ohio “fire-proof” paint.
At the time of the building of the Forge bridge, life in that part of Marion Township was vastly different from the peaceful summer resort that makes up Charming Forge today. In 1872 the Union Canal was still operating along the reaches of the Tulpehocken and Taylor’s Forge, the one-time Tulpechocken Eisenhammer of “Baron” Whilhelm Stiegel still was smelting pigs from iron ore. A sturdy bridge was needed to bear the weight of wagons loaded with ore from the Cornwall Mines and Charcoal from the pits on neighboring farms.
O Tempore Mores!