From 1920, when Rhode Island lost its only covered wooden highway bridge, until 1992 it was the only New England state without one. A shame, thought Robert Salisbury, a Foster resident, after his young son, enthralled by pictures of covered bridges on a glossy calendar, asked to see one. Over a period of better than six years, Salisbury spearheaded a drive to gather funds for such a bridge in Foster, to obtain permission from the state Department of Transportation for its erection on a public highway, and to find skilled carpenters capable of directing a volunteer weekend crew for its erection. Triumph at last; then arsonists destroyed the result close to the first anniversary of its opening. A stunned community rallied to rebuild it (with the convicted culprits compelled by court order to join the work force). Because DOT insisted on the safety of a steel-reinforced road deck, purists might deny the validity of the result. But the shed derived from Ithiel Town's design, patented in 1820, for lattice-trussed bridging composed of X-configurated membering. This simplest of standard bridge trusses assembled from the simplest elements was overwhelmingly popular in the nineteenth century for bridges of modest span, whether in wood or metal. The same advantages account for the choice of this construction by the novice builders of this 38-foot crossing of Hemlock Brook. (Rhode Island boasts two other smaller reproduction covered bridges: one on private property, the other in a state park, neither part of the public highway system.)
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Reproduction Covered Bridge
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