About the Program
Every year millions of tourists travel to Parke County for the annual Covered Bridge Festival. This eastern Indiana county is known as the Covered Bridge capital of the world, but it is far from the only location that Americans hold special because of these unique and historic bridges.
Spanning Time: America’s Covered Bridges, explores the affection Americans have for these artifacts. The program looks at preservation efforts, history, construction, tourism and why covered bridges are important. Bridges in Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Oregon are featured.
“What’s fascinating is how universal the feelings toward covered bridges are,” says producer Gino Brancolini. “Everywhere they have covered bridges, people develop an attachment and affection for their bridge. There are instances we heard discussed where someone wanted to tear out the bridge and put in a steel bridge and others would fight tooth and nail to keep it.”
The program contains interviews with preservationists, engineers, builders, restoration experts, tourists, historians and covered bridge aficionados. Because the bridges are often located on rural roads, the program provides incredible scenery from around the country.
“People like them because they look pretty. They’re in a nice environment. They evoke a quiet time when craftsmanship was important,” says director Susanne Schwibs. “They were made at a time when many people had more of a connection to the land and the environment.”
Covered bridges are made from wood, with builders using the timber available in their area. Schwibs says the program shows the lore and unique engineering that goes into building a bridge over a moving body of water.
“One of the things that fascinated us was that although the people who built these bridges for the most part weren’t highly trained engineers, they really knew the products they were working with. They knew where to use certain sources of wood in different areas of the bridge. They had knowledge that allowed them to look at a piece of lumber and know where it was going to be strongest. That goes back to the idea of being closer to nature. The people who built these bridges just had a really acute understanding of what they were working with. It’s the difference between craftsmanship and mass production. Each bridge was going to end up different depending on the craftsman and materials available in that area,” Schwibs says.