Crews that have been restoring the 150-year-old Jericho Covered Bridge are rolling it back into place over the Little Gunpowder Falls
Silently and ever so slowly, the Jericho Covered Bridge is returning home.
For months, the 150-year-old bridge has been sitting off its base over Little Gunpowder Falls as it was painstakingly repaired by a team that specializes in wooden bridges.
With the restoration work complete, the arch-and-truss frame is slowly being put back into place atop a restored wooden roadbed.
Much like the Civil War-era craftsmanship in the repairs, the movement of the 90-foot span is being accomplished in an old-fashioned way. On Thursday afternoon, a team from Kinsley Construction and Barns and Bridges of New England used a steel cable to connect the bridge with a winch anchored to a Ford F150 pickup truck.
Following a ceremonial champagne toast — "To history!" cheered Baltimore County Councilman David Marks — Kinsley's Carl Hastings began pulling the bridge frame slowly across wooden rollers to draw it gradually back into place.
Officials and history buffs lined up on either side of the cable and watched as the bridge progressed almost imperceptibly.
"Is it moving?" Marks asked.
"Yeah, she's moving," Hastings replied.
With each pull of the lever, the bridge moved a fraction of an inch. It's expected to take at least three days to get the bridge frame back over the water. When it's back in place, it will resume carrying one lane of traffic over Little Gunpowder Falls.
The beginning of the roll attracted members of the Friends of Jerusalem Mill — some dressed in period clothing, one as Gen. Ulysses S. Grant — to celebrate the era in which the bridge was built.
"It is going to be more durable, more strong and a more authentic representation of what was here in 1865," said Rick Decker, president of the friends group, which supports the nearby Historic Jerusalem Mill Village on the grounds of Gunpowder Falls State Park.
Though the span isn't part of the restored mill village, friends and visitors have taken a keen interest in the covered bridge.
Decker said the restoration project has attracted perhaps a bit too much attention. Neighbors in the rural area have taken to calling him to shoo away curious visitors after hours who might get hurt. Decker, in turn, has been a frequent caller to police and park officials.
"There's a lot of curiosity when there's construction going on," he said.
The Jericho Covered Bridge has long been a source of fascination. A short walk from Jerusalem Mill, it's a popular backdrop for photos. And there's no shortage of ghost stories about the bridge.
In 1864, residents of Baltimore and Harford counties began asking the government for a bridge over the falls to link the towns of Jerusalem Mill and Franklinville, according to records included in the bridge's listing on the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties.
Baltimore County officials hired Thomas F. Forsyth to build the bridge in 1865 at cost of $3,125.
The bridge has had two major restorations, the last one in 1983. Today, it's one of six covered bridges still standing in Maryland, and one of only three supporting vehicle traffic.
The current restoration project has a $1.8 million budget, most of it from a federal grant program for historic covered bridges. Baltimore County and Harford County are each kicking in 10 percent of the cost.
The initial contract called for workers to repair the bridge over the water, but Tim Andrews with Barns and Bridges of New England determined it would be safer to lift the structure off the water and roll it onto land for the repairs.
Over the months, Andrews' team replaced rotted and damaged wood while trying to keep as much of the original wood from 1865 as possible.
The Jericho bridge features a design called Burr arch truss, designed by Pennsylvania bridge builder Theodore Burr in the early 1800s. In addition to vertical trusses that support the bridge structure, the design features one long, curved arch on either side of the span.
After the bridge is secured back to its decking, it will get new siding and roofing to protect it from the elements. If the weather cooperates, the work could be complete and the road reopened by mid-February.
The restored bridge will have a slightly different look. In place of the dull brown color it has long sported, it's getting a new color: bright barn red.