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Baltimore, Harford counties celebrate completion of Jericho Covered Bridge restoration

The Jericho Covered Bridge has been reopened to traffi after extensive repairs. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun video)

Many horse-drawn carriages have crossed the Little Gunpowder Falls via the Jericho Covered Bridge during its more than 150-year history.

Another horse and carriage crossed the historic span Monday morning, carrying Harford County Executive Barry Glassman and Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, as they celebrated the completion of a one-year, $1.8 million restoration of the bridge which links their two counties.

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The bridge was built in late 1865 and is one of six remaining wooden covered bridges in Maryland. It is the only covered bridge remaining between Baltimore and Harford counties, who jointly own and maintain it.

The one-lane span, which Kamenetz noted "carried 700 horseless vehicles each day," connects Jericho Road between both counties, and it is a draw for visitors to the nearby Historic Jerusalem Mill Village and the surrounding Gunpowder Falls State Park.

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The two county executives, plus additional Baltimore County leaders, state leaders and supporters of Jerusalem Mill Historic Village gathered on the Baltimore County side of the bridge for a ribbon-cutting ceremony, before Glassman and Kamenetz took their ceremonial ride..

In his remarks before the ribbon cutting, Glassman said the two counties "have a great history that goes back into Colonial times as we follow the milling tradition along our many waterways."

"I think the bridge restoration today represents a rededication of that [partnership]," he said.

Crews that have been restoring the 150-year-old Jericho Covered Bridge are rolling it back into place over the Little Gunpowder Falls

The restoration work started during the spring of 2015, overseen by Kinsley Construction Inc., of Timonium and Barns and Bridges of New England, based in Gilford, N.H.

The bridge, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in the Burr Arch Truss style, a common design when hundreds of covered bridges dotted the landscape in Maryland.

"The project is definitely unique from the engineering and design standpoint," Steve Walsh, chief of engineering and construction for the Baltimore County Department of Public Works, said.

A grant from the National Historic Covered Bridge Preservation Program, which is administered by the Federal Highway Administration, covered 80 percent of the $1.8 million budgeted for the restoration.

The counties shared the remaining 20 percent of the price tag, with each county contributing 10 percent. Harford County contributed $200,000, and county officials helped review plans and provided comments during the project, according to Harford County government spokesperson Cindy Mumby.

Baltimore County took the lead in administering the project, Mumby said.

The bridge is 86 feet long and 14 feet wide, Kamenetz noted. It was originally made from white pine, but wood from Douglas fir and black locust trees was used in the restoration.

"We would have preferred that any replacement material be white pine," he said; however, scheduling conflicts and "logistical issues" prevented white pine from being used, so workers went with Douglas fir and black locust.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, with the scissors, and Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, to Kamenetz' left, prepare to open the Jericho Covered Bridge following a year-long, $1.8 million of the bridge connecting the two counties across the Little Gunpowder Falls.
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, with the scissors, and Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, to Kamenetz' left, prepare to open the Jericho Covered Bridge following a year-long, $1.8 million of the bridge connecting the two counties across the Little Gunpowder Falls. (Courtsey of Harford County goverment / Provided photo)

"It has a high decay resistance, so that's why its preferred," Tim Andrews, owner of Barns and Bridges of New England, said of the wood selection.

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The roof shingles are made from Western cedar trees, and the span is supported by steel beams, according to Andrews.

He said there are about 840 wooden covered bridges left in the United States, out of more than 20,000 at their peak.

"What's special is the community's commitment to keeping it," Andrews said of the Jericho bridge.

Baltimore County Councilman David Marks, whose district includes the Kingsville area, recalled visiting the local swim club as a child and traveling past nearby Jerusalem Mill to get there.

He said the structures were decaying at the time, but local volunteers have spent the past 30 years restoring and maintaining the historic Quaker village, once an area hub for grain milling.

"What a wonderful masterpiece of historic preservation we have today, and I'm so proud to represent this community," Marks said.

After several months of painstaking restoration work, the 150-year-old Jericho Covered Bridge will be carefully rolled back into place beginning Thursday afternoon.

State Sen. J.B. Jennings, of Joppa, who represents eastern Baltimore County and western Harford in Annapolis, said the covered bridge could have been demolished and replaced with a modern structure.

"Seeing this bridge continue the way it is means a lot to this community, to all of us," Jennings said.

The senator also thanked Kenneth Holt, Maryland's secretary of housing and community development and a former state legislator, for his longtime support of the bridge restoration. Holt attended Monday's ceremony.

Rick Decker, a Harford County resident and president of the Friends of Jerusalem Mill volunteer organization, noted Holt was the group's first treasurer when it was founded in 1985.

"Most everything you see there has been the sweat from the brow of volunteers and private donations," Decker said of the restoration of Jerusalem Mill.

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