Nestled between the quaint towns of Cornish, NH, and Windsor, VT, the Windsor Cornish Covered Bridge (also known as the Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge) is a beautiful nostalgic structure connecting two New England states across the Connecticut River.
While the current structure was built in 1866, three previous bridges were built on this site in 1796, 1824, and 1828. Flood waters were often to blame for the necessary reconstruction.
The current structure is 449 feet in length and 24 feet wide. For decades the Windsor Cornish Covered Bridge held the distinction of being the longest covered bridge still in existence. But in 2008, a longer bridge was built in Ohio.
The cost to build the 1866 bridge was $9,000. From the time of its construction until 1943, the Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge operated as a toll bridge. Tolls ran as high as 20 cents for a four-horse carriage to cross.
Interestingly, in 1866, because the bridge connected “wet” Cornish, NH and “dry” Windsor, VT, tolls were 2 cents for pedestrians entering New Hampshire but 3 cents to return to Vermont.
In 1936, the bridge was purchased by the state of New Hampshire and became toll-free in 1943.
The design of the Windsor Cornish Bridge represents a pivotal moment in transitioning from masonry arches to timber-truss designs.
The design of the bridge employs the Town lattice truss design, patented in 1820 by architect Ithiel Town. An innovative pattern at the time, the design utilizes load-bearing joints fastened with wooden pegs which emphasizes even load distribution.
The Town lattice truss design also showcases the abundance of timber resources and carpentry skills prevalent in the region. Town’s patented design, allowing for off-site assembly by carpenters of modest skill, became widely popular, fostering the creation of approximately 10,000 covered bridges in the U.S. by the turn of the 20th century.
While Town initially contemplated using iron instead of wood with his design, the Cornish-Windsor Bridge and others showcase the enduring strength and charm of wooden timber-truss bridges. Notably, the longest bridge using Town’s lattice-truss design, spanning 2,820 feet over the James River in Richmond, Virginia, met an unfortunate fate during the Civil War.
Today, the Windsor Cornish Covered Bridge remains an iconic landmark, recognized as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark since 1970. It’s also been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1976. This architectural marvel continues to be a functional crossing, offering a glimpse into the resilience of early American design.
About Kerry Flatley
Kerry Flatley has lived in New England for the past 26 years. She has roots in Maine & Massachusetts, family in New Hampshire, and grew up close to the Connecticut border. She loves all that this region has to offer – the ocean, mountains, islands, history, villages, and cities. When she’s not writing about New England, she’s relaxing at home in the Boston suburbs with her two teenage daughters and husband.