Jay, New York, April 4, 2004 - Hi Joe,
We just set up the job trailer today in Jay. Materials are supposed to arrive later in the week. Here is a photo of the birth of the bridge. I'll keep you posted on the progress
[Jim Ligon is construction foreman for Alpine Construction of Stillwater, N.Y. He and his team have recently completed work on the Poland Covered Bridge in Cambridge, Vermont.
The Jay Covered Bridge is located in Essex County, N.Y. The 175-foot bridge was built in 1857 using the Howe Truss to cross the Ausable River near Jay , N.Y. - Ed.]
Well, I didn't get to the bridge when it was being moved, so I waited for a nice day to go to Jay and to see what progress has been made since the move. I went up yesterday, November 21st.
The Bridge now sets over the abutments, but not on the abutments. During the rains that we had, the engineers found that the new abutments were retaining moisture, so now they are going to build pedestals on the abutments to set the bridge on. So, the bridge will set high on the cribbing until the new constuction is complete.
The temporary bridge that has been used since 1998 was being loaded on a truck to be taken away and used somewhere else. The piers under the covered bridge will be removed, but the workers did not know a time table for that, as it was to be done by another contractor.
This side view shows the Jay Bridge sitting high over the abutments. Notice the new bridge behind the covered bridge and old piers.
Underside showing cribbing and old piers. Notice snow on the mountain.
Portal looking towards Jay, NY.
Side view showing the cribbing on the Jay side abutment. I was told that a lot of work still had to be done to get the picnic area finished.
Marikka & I went up to visit the Jay CB on July 4th. It really looks great back over the river and it's so nice to see it as a single span again like it was originally built. They really did a nice job on it.
The park along side the bridge when finished will really be nice. It will be very handicaped friendly with ramps everywhere and picnic tables made with long overhangs at the end to be wheelchair accessable. They have a small covered pavilion that will fit about 10 to 12 under it.
On Sunday, October 14, 2007 there was a festive celebration in the little hamlet of Jay, N.Y. I would say over 250 to 300 people showed up to watch the dedication of the new bridge that is named, "The Essex County Emergency Services Volunteer Memorial Bridge," the new park that was built after the covered bridge was put back over the East Branch of the Ausable River. The new park is called, " The Douglas Memorial Park" in honor of two past town supervisors, both from the Douglas family. Then the Jay Covered Bridge (NY-16-01) was dedicated with all the town & county dignitaries present to cut the ribbon.
It was quite an event. There were children singing a song called "This Is America", the local American Legion color guard was there. Many of the volunteer emergency companies were present with their vehicles parked on the new bridge overlooking the festivities. When the new bridge was dedicated, many members of the volunteer emergency companies cut a ribbon that was hanging on the side of the bridge next to a very large American Flag. Students from Holy Name School led everyone on the Pledge of Allegiance. Representatives of the local Catholic, United Methodist and Baptist churches were on hand to each dedicate the new bridge, the new park and the restored covered bridge. The weather was very chilly and cloudy, but not one drop fell to put a damper on this happy occation. The fall foliage was at or near peak, making the surrounding hills & mountains very beautiful.
All in all it was a very nice ceremony, and it looked like everyone who attended had a good time. I know we sure did.
Yours in Bridging,
David & Marikka Guay
As you read through this COURIER, you will see many pictures and stories about the Jay Covered Bridge. Checking the back issues of the COURIER, I found that the Jay Bridge had not been featured. The Jay Covered Bridge is about to join the ranks of the retired and unused spans, so, I thought it needed some exposure while it is still a useful, traffic carrying covered bridge.
The story about the Jay Bridge was written in 1949 by Richard Sanders Allen. Since the story was written, the 2 smaller spans were replaced and only the 175 foot Howe Truss was left standing. For almost 20 years, this smaller Jay Bridge has carried the traffic across the Ausable River.
In 1856 the East Branch of the Ausable River went on a rampage, foaming out of its Adirondack fastness, and descending upon the little village of Jay, where it tore out mills and destroyed the bridge in the valley.
The following year saw the building of the present covered bridge, a long 240 foot, oddly-built structure. As it stands today the bridge consists of three sections resting on abutments and two huge concrete-faced piers. The main span is a long Howe Truss over the usual channel of the Ausable. One of the shorter spans is a simple truss of heavy timbers connected to the main span by a short girder section. It is difficult to tell whether the smaller span was originally part of the bridge destroyed by flood or an uncovered approach to the main span which in later years was roofed.
Jay Bridge is boarded to the eaves, which makes the interior especially dark. The west portal has a window for admission of light from a nearby street lamp. The east portal is charred, mute evidence of the narrow escape of the bridge when the old mill nearby was burned some years ago.
The view of the old unpainted timber tunnel from Route 9N up in the village includes a landscape of distant rugged mountains and the broadening Ausable cascading down the gray rocks from the wide pool above. At the corners at the village end of the bridge is an old blacksmith shop. Who knows how many hundreds of horses have gingerly tested their new shoes, stepping, "not faster than a walk" across the old span, their hoofbeats clattering on the wide planks. Now it is rare to see a horse plodding into the bridge, but the reverberating horns of automobiles still wake forgotten echoes.
The beautiful East Branch of the Ausable River is spanned by a 175 foot covered bridge in Jay, New York, the only covered bridge in the Adirondack Region of New York State. The single span 175 foot bridge was the main span of a 240 foot, 3 span bridge. In 1954, two short spans, one a Queenpost, the other a Stringer, were removed and filled in with concrete. The main span was reinforced with 3 concrete and iron beam piers. The Jay Bridge was built by George M. Burt in 1857 with a Howe Truss, using iron bearing blocks. They are of a different design than those found in Rexleigh, and they have no writing on them.
In a story in the last COURIER by Frances Withee, I learned that the bridge will by by-passed soon. I wanted to get some new views of the old span without the obstruction of a new by-pass bridge, so we made a visit to see Jay in October, 1983. The bridge and stream fit into the surroundings like they were made for each other. It seems a shame to spoil the natural beauty of the Ausable with a new modern bridge. We can only hope that the new bridge will cross downstream from the covered bridge and not obstruct the view of the rapids.
I have not found any old printed post cards showing the Jay Bridge, but the Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Co. of Belfast, Maine published 4 different cards showing the old Jay Covered Bridge.
Card No. 66 says, "Mountain View, Jay, N.Y." This view is looking west at the main span and it shows the mill near the portal of the bridge.
Card No. 839 is a side view taken from the upstream side md showing the other 2 smaller spans. On the bottom of the photo reads, "Bridge Built in 1856, Jay, N.Y. One of the longest Wooden Bridges in U.S.A." Part of the mill can be seen to the right.
The last of the Eastern Illustrating cards is No. JD29C and is a three quarter view with the long span in the foreground and shorter spans to the left of the picture. The mill is gone and you can see the charred portal where the bridge started to burn when the mill burned. Jay Bridge has angled portals at that time, now they are simple square portals.
Another old photo card I have shows only a portion of the small Queenpost span on the Village end and it looks upstream. This is a good view of the log dam across the rocks just before the river tumbles down and under the bridge. Not much of a dam had to be built at this location to get the needed waterpower. To the right of the eastern portal is a building with the sign, Massy Harris Blacksmith. On the front reads, "The Ausable River at Jay, N.Y."
Another photo card I have shows the entire bridge from below looking west. You can see the small Queenpost span to the left, then the short stringer span and the long Howe Truss. This card shows the 2 piers holding up the stringer span inclosed with wood. This may well be the oldest card of the bunch. This card makes the bridge look like a 2 span structure with a very wide center pier at one end. It could be that at a later date, that pier was replaced by 2 concrete piers and it stayed that way until the short spans were replaced. The front of this card reads, "The Covered Bridge, Jay, N.Y."
The next card is a printed black and white showing the same side as the last card, but more from above. It has a white border and in the border it reads, "Covered Bridge-Jay, New York Built in 1856." On the back it reads, "National Press, Chicago." This card also shows the pier with wood around it. The Blacksmith Shop and the mill can be seen in the picture also.
Next come the chrome cards. One view of the long bridge appears on a chrome card, but it is found in several variations and numbers. The view shows the mountains in the background and a white house to the left. The same picture is used in all the different cards, but coloring is different as well as the cloud formations. All cards have the same caption, even though the date of the building is wrong. The caption on the reverse reads, "Covered Bridge Built in 1860 at Jay, N.Y. in the Adirondacks. This bridge is one of the oldest remaining in New York State." The card with number S5270 was published by RH. Pierson, Lake Placid, N.Y. Another card published by Pierson Studio, Lake Placid, N.Y. was made by Dexter Press, Pearl River, N.Y. with number S4146. The last of these cards showing the 3 span bridge is published by Page Distributing Co., Lake Placid, N.Y. The number is C18662 and is made by Mike Roberts, Berkeley, California.
After the bridge was made shorter, lots of views were produced. All 5 views are side views from the upstream side. The first one, No. 5617-B and also D627 is published by Dean Color Service, Glens Falls, N.Y. This card can also be found in the continental size.
A side view with a man sitting on the rocks in a bright red jacket is perhaps the hardest chrome to find. Color by Bob Kamf and is an exclusive by Northern Adirondack Views. The number of this card made by Dexter Press is 97793A. This card can also be found in the jumbo card size.
An unusual card published by Hivnor Card Co. No. 121092 shows the bridge in the fall with a very dark, stormy sky. Carl I. Lawrence of Perry, Ohio took the picture for this card.
A summer view. Published by Fily-Gerald, Lake Placid, N.Y. has the number 28619-C.
The last chrome card is a fall scene showing the bridge with a new green roof. This card was published by Page Distributing Co. Lake Placid, N.Y. and printed by Mike Roberts, Berkeley, Calif. The number on the card is C26376 and on the Continental size is No. B5741.
Happy Card Collecting!
The Jay Covered Bridge is in the news again, but this time the controversy is over the new bridge which will by-pass the old covered span.
The Jay Bridge is the only covered bridge still open to traffic in the Adirondacks. It is located across a very picturesque section of the Ausable River just below a very nice swimming hole. If the Department of Transportation has its way, the new bridge will cross at a new location 600 feet upstream of the old covered bridge. This would spoil the view of the mountains from the swimming hole and the covered bridge.
The bridge history and specifications along with lots of photo's and post card pictures are well documented in Volume 19, number 1, March 1984 issue of the COURIER. The Jay Bridge is located just off Route 9N in the Village of Jay, Essex County, New York. The Howe Truss Bridge was built in 1857. In 1954, 2 small spans were removed after a truck went through them, making it a 175 foot bridge instead of a 250 foot bridge.
A group has been formed to block where the new bridge will be located. The new group is called "Bridge and Beyond," and the president is Fred Balzac. Their recommendations include preserving and enhancing the visual quality of Jay's landscape, and the protection of the unique natural areas. I have been in contact with Mr. Balzac and have sent him information about the Jay Covered Bridge.
I first learned about the Jay Bridge problem in a letter sent by Phyllis Wells on November 27th, 1992. In that letter was a clipping with the headline, "Opposition could kill plan for new Jay Bridge." Also included were 2 letters to the Editor about the bridge. The one letter had a very important statement. I quote, "The old bridge could be repaired for far less than a new bridge and should be. The covered bridge entrance should be restored to its original condition, and made useful for the same type of traffic it has handled for over a century." We in the Society know this can be done. It was just done to the Harpersfield Bridge in Ashtabula, Ohio.
The Community of Jay is unique in this part of New York. We hate to see a covered bridge closed when with some repairs and good maintenance it can be a living historical piece of highway engineering.
The Jay Bridge looking upstream at the rapids and swimming hole
Covered bridge lovers everywhere have a real opportunity to help save a treasured object of affection in my community.
As Dick Wilson points out, a plan is in the works to by-pass the Jay Covered Bridge by erecting a new concrete and steel crossing 600 feet upstream of it. While much of the controversy engendered by the State Department of Transportation plan centers on the exact location of the new bridge, many area residents and frequent visitors have expressed concerns that the proposal threatens the old covered bridge.
Since the origins and even the recent history of the Jay span have been recounted so well in these pages, I would like to focus on exactly how the bridge is endangered and what readers of the COURIER might do to protect it.
There is no disputing the need for some kind of crossing over the Ausable in Jay open to emergency vehicles, school buses, and other local traffic. Bridge and Beyond, the group of about two dozen dedicated citizens with whom I have had the honor of working, is not necessarily opposed to a new bridge.
At a town meeting in December we endorsed several alternatives, including building a new bridge downstream of the covered bridge. Our first choice, however, remains rehabilitating the covered bridge.
Before the first concrete pier is submerged in the Ausable, isn't it worth exploring whether a bridge that has served the transportation needs of the area for six generations can first be remade to handle them for six generations more?
We possess two initial proposals that spell out how the covered bridge can be repaired at a cost ranging from $372,500 to as low as $315,000 -- not much more than a tenth of the $2.122 million that the DOT budgeted for the new bridge, and that was in August 1990!
That same year, Graton Associates of New Hampshire conducted a study of the Jay Covered Bridge for the Preservation League of New York. Although the Graton report detailed how the old bridge could be repaired and maintained even in the event a new bridge was built, its recommendations went unheeded. According to a spokeswoman for the League, copies of the report were distributed to Essex County, which is responsible for maintaining the bridge, as well as the Jay Town Supervisor, but nothing was done.
What is even more disturbing is that the covered bridge is not being properly maintained now. In 1986, Essex County passed a resolution committing itself to maintaining the covered bridge after a new bridge is built. But did the passage of that resolution, one is compelled to ask, emancipate the county from maintaining the old span until a new one is constructed?
If you have not been to Jay lately, you are likely to be quite dismayed at how our town treasure has been let to decay these past few years. More recently, the county has had the gall to lower the height clearance on the bridge -- effectively prohibiting the passage of fire trucks to the eastern side of the Ausable. Rather than do even the most minimal repairs, the county seems to be holding its breath waiting for the new bridge. But if there were ever a serious fire that spread due to the inability of fire trucks to pass through the wooden crossing, many residents will be holding the county responsible.
Resolutions notwithstanding, this recent action (or inaction) by the county does not bode well for future behavior. If the county is not maintaining the Jay Covered Bridge now, when it is the only thoroughfare here over the Ausable, what incentive will it have to do so once the new span is built and the old one bypassed?
But this is only the most obvious threat a new bridge 600 feet upstream poses to the existence of our covered one. Another concern we have raised is whether the very construction of a span upstream threatens the structure below it. The DOT has a stated preference for building new bridges upstream of existing crossings in the event the old bridge, as they put it, "fails."
Let's think about the logic of this for a moment. The DOT officials maintain that even though the Federal funds they would use to cover 80% of this project require the closing of the old bridge, they say they are committed to preserving its "historic integrity." Yet they want to build a new bridge upstream of it in case the "functionally obsolete" one washes out.
Well, this functionally obsolete old thing has survived more than 135 years of catastrophic North Country climate! The question to ask is, what if the new bridge fails? What about the ice that is sure to build up around the new structure? Does it not threaten the covered bridge?
There is a solution to this problem. Rather than erect a costly new bridge whose construction will almost certainly require the by-passing of the Jay Covered Bridge -- and you do not need me to tell you what happens to bridges after they are by- passed -- let us rebuild what we already have.
Last December, at the request of Bridge and Beyond, a highly regarded Vermont timber bridge builder came to Jay to examine our covered bridge. He is convinced that it can be shored up to withstand the weight of almost any vehicle compact enough to pass through it. At a cost of $315,000, such a plan will protect the covered bridge from virtually certain decay, preserve the splendor of an Adirondack vista, and save New York State taxpayers a couple of million bucks to boot!
This is where you come in. The officials and agencies responsible for making the final decision need to hear from concerned citizens all over this state. While the decision may ultimately rest with the DOT, it must seek input from the Adirondack Park Agency and such entities as the Federal Highway Administration and the National Park Service. I urge you to contact them about the wastefulness of the DOT plan.
Your state Senator, Assembly member, and U.S. Representative (not to mention Senators D'Amato and Moynihan) may also be very interested in $2 million being spent unnecessarily in another district. Although 80% of this project is Federally funded, the money is really New York's to spend.
Finally, if anyone can influence the decision, it is our Governor. In this age of fiscal austerity and environmental awareness, who better to approach about pure wastefulness than Mario Cuomo? I have written to him myself to request a meeting in Albany or for him to visit Jay. Perhaps you could help convince him of this issue's importance to all New Yorkers -- for surely if such a plan could happen in an area as beautiful as the rapids above the Jay Covered Bridge, it can happen anywhere.
The accompanying box lists relevant names and addresses. Your letters can make a difference, and that is why there is a real, if momentary, opportunity for people like us -- who care about the integrity of old inanimate objects -- to have an effect. Just as a small group of ordinary citizens made enough noise to at least slow down what appeared to be the inevitable, so can a band of bridge appreciators help reverse the direction entirely.
Thanks largely to the letters, postcards, petitions, and phone calls generated by our group, the DOT was forced into reexamining alternatives once ruled out and postponing the public hearing that is almost always tantamount to the confirmation of a bureaucratic decision -- the public be damned. In the short window of time that exists before a decision is made, we have a chance to change people's minds.
Save the Jay Covered Bridge!
View of the Jay Bridge from the Jay side showing the old blacksmith shop
The Howe Truss in the Jay Bridge if properly repaired and maintained, is strong enough for modern traffic.
The Jay Covered Bridge on a warm August afternoon in 1987. This photo was taken upstream at the approximate location of the proposed new highway bridge.
The 137-year-old wooden covered bridge in the village of Jay, New York, is the only one of this type in the Adirondack North Country. It became a tourist attraction after a sign was erected on route 9N about 1984. In increasingly poor condition, it may be closed as a result of the 1994 summer inspection by the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT).
The bridge is on County Road 22 (Glen Road), two tenths of a mile south of the junction of State Routes 86 and 9N. It is Jay's only crossing of the East Branch of the AuSable River. When closed, vehicles must drive an additional seven miles via Upper Jay or six miles via the Stickney Bridge. The Glen Road has a year-round daily traffic count of 1355, nearly the highest in the county.
An eight-foot overhead clearance and three-ton load limit now restrict vehicles to cars, pickup trucks and small school buses. This, of course, means detours for fire and ambulance vehicles, and trucks heading for Ward Lumber Company, the town's major employer. It also means more wear and tear on county roads in the area.
This view of the Jay Covered Bridge is one you will not be able to take if the new bridge is built 600 feet upstream.
The covered bridge in Jay represents the history of the town and its people. In the nineteenth century, the hamlet was a small service center and a prosperous industrial district focusing on the abundant water power of the AuSable River. The primary function of the bridge was to transport iron ore from the Palmer Hill mines to the mills and forge on the south side of the bridge.
The first wooden bridge in Jay was built about 1846. The flood of September 30, 1856 destroyed all but eighty feet of the two north spans. The present bridge was built in 1857 by George M. Burt of AuSable Forks. He built a one hundred sixty foot span to connect with the two remaining spans. The new bridge was two hundred forty feet in length, with a five ton load limit. Roofing was put on in 1858.
This bridge is of the Howe truss design, large wooden X's with vertical iron rods to strengthen them. It was an advance from the earlier all-wooden trusses because of the added strength. The Howe type was the favored truss design because it was simple, sturdy, and easily erected.
On February 10, 1857, Reuben Comins of Troy, New York, patented a new design for a shoe for a truss frame or bearing block. This block is in the form of an inverted T. This design is very similar to, if not identical with, the ones found on the Jay covered bridge. It probably represents an early usage of Comins' patented design.
For many years past, this bridge has been endangered by vandalism, flood, fire, and accident. In 1992 some people picnicking had tom boards off the bridge to use in a campfire. They were surprised before the fire was lit, so the boards were recovered and put back on the bridge.
Ice and flooding occur almost annually, and have damaged the underside of the bridge. In December 1976, an ice jam rerouted the AuSable River down the North Jay Road, and came close to the bottom of the bridge. Max Thwaits, Town of Jay Highway Superintendent, worked to clear a twelve-foot high, two mile long ice jam so water could flow through the flooded area.
A Lake Placid News article in March 1979 noted that the bridge was the site of flooding in 1977, 1978 and 1979, but had escaped damage from ice cakes. Malcolm Alford, present Essex County Superintendent of Highways, says one good ice floe could take the bridge out.
Mary Wallace, Town of Jay Historian, says there have been a number of fires on the bridge over the years. Fortunately, all of these were caught before serious damage was done. She herself came home late one night in the 1940's and found a pile of hay burning in the bridge.
Jay, New York, built in 1857 using Howe Truss to span East Branch of the Ausable River
As early as July 31, 1940, the DOT inspection report said: "This is an old covered bridge, very poor." At that time, the bridge was only eighty-three- years-old.
A 1980 survey by the Federal Highway Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Project said the bridge was in need of repair, and was fourth on the list of priorities for replacement. There was speculation that the covered bridge might be tom down, and a more modem structure built on its site.
In 1986, the DOT's condition report said all verticals (metal rods) were rusted. Every diagonal member, and every top and bottom chord member (all rough timber) were damaged. The bridge was rated a four (on a scale of 3-7).
The DOT condition report in 1988 described significant deterioration of various structural components of the bridge. Inspector Frederick Townsend was unable to determine a load rating, and called the bridge "highly redundant." The DOT advised the town that they planned to replace the covered bridge with a new one 570 feet upstream. In 1992, Tony Lavigne, of the Essex County Public Works Department, rated the bridge at 3.04.
Essex County submitted a request in 1983 for building a new bridge. Later, New York State funding was withdrawn because of more critical priorities after floods in southern New York State. State and local funding is now back in place.
In 1986, Ken Wheeler, Essex County Highway Superintendent, said the bridge was structurally worn out. It was one-lane, serving two-lane traffic from each side. This was a prime reason to get traffic off it. It was almost lost in 1985.
Jay Bridge. Notice the difference 10 years make. Between this picture and the one I took in 1984. Clearance has been reduced and new fence.
When an accident had occurred, or repairs simply needed to be done, people would think of its conservation. In the late 1940's, the Garden Club of Jay focused its attention on saving the bridge from a modem replacement. They had fund-raising activities to contribute to its maintenance.
After the 1953 accident, many people wanted to replace the bridge with a new, modern one. The old bridge was spared through the efforts of Dr. John D. Smith, Jay Town Supervisor, and William Calhoun, who wrote many articles and letters. Glyndon Cole editorialized in favor of its preservation in the Fall 1953 issue of North Country Life.
Dorothy Madden, a Jay Town Board member, got a resolution passed in 1972 to pursue getting the covered bridge listed as a national historic landmark. In 1975 a letter was received from the New York State Division for Historic Preservation saying they were willing to consider this. Some work was done, but listing was never achieved.
Within the framework of increasing local, state, and federal recognition of the value of historic resources, and the pending construction of a new bridge, in 1986 the Essex County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution in support of retaining and maintaining the covered bridge.
As a step in this direction, a plan was developed to preserve the covered bridge as part of a public park and a potential historic district. The design development process was completed in 1987, funded by two grants from the New York State Council on the Arts.
At one time, construction was expected to begin in July 1987, and take a year to complete. Realignment and relocation of the road would be required. A spot on WPTZ's local news broadcast of October 23, 1992, stated that construction would begin in 1994. The latest word, from Walter Addicks, Design Engineer, says it is in the design process, and construction could begin in 1996, with completion that year or in 1997.
The Jay Covered Bridge in 1996
When the DOT chose a sight six hundred feet above the covered bridge for the new one, Bridge and Beyond, a local citizens' group, was formed. They objected to the site as infringing on the scenery surrounding the bridge. The Town Board created a committee to study alternative sites. DOT is considering these as well as renovation to accommodate all vehicles.
Some say the argument is over tourism versus industry. Perhaps one could say aesthetics versus jobs. Bridge and Beyond has recommended upgrading the covered bridge to acceptable standards. This would provide a viable bridge while ensuring its preservation. If a new bridge is built, would there be money for the old one?
Preparation for the building of this bridge has been ongoing since 1983. Testing and examination of the surrounding terrain established the site 590 feet above the covered bridge. DOT considers this site the best because it does not impinge on historically sensitive sites. Also it is higher above the flood plain area, and construction would be easier.
One letter to the editor of the Press Republican noted the curving, hilly approaches to the bridge from each side, and danger to pedestrians. In a Press Republican article, Malcolm Alford, Jay Superintendent of Highways, said he feared the delay might cost the town the bridge. The one the DOT plans to build is estimated to cost about $2.122 million. The county simply could not afford to build it.
Meanwhile, the old bridge continues to deteriorate as its long-term fate remains unsettled. Let's hope that an agreement can be reached soon. A viable bridge is critical to the transportation needs of the village. As a significant architectural and trans- portation feature of the village, the covered bridge deserves to be preserved.
Editors' Note: This information was received on Feb. 1st, 1996 from Bridge & Beyond. This would be the most up-to-date information on the Jay Covered Bridge.
72% of Jay Residents Responding to Citizen's Group's Survey Say "No" to New Bridge Over Scenic Upstream Spot.
JAY, NY -- The people of this Ausable Valley community finally had their say on the long-running bridge issue.
Responding to a survey mailed to every postal patron in the Town of Jay by a local citizen's group, 72% of those participating agreed with the group's position on preserving the scenic upstream area within sight of the Jay Covered Bridge while opposing new bridge construction 600 feet upstream of the historic structure.
More than 400 people responded overall to the survey -- a remarkable number, according to Bridge and Beyond, a grassroots nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of the small-town character of Jay. The ratio of citizens supporting the group's position to those opposing it was 3 to 1.
An Overwhelming Response
"Measured against any standard," the group declares in its just-released report on the town-wide survey results, "400-plus responses in a town the size of Jay should be interpreted as an overwhelming response to (our) call for a vote, as it were, 'of the people.' ...
"While we are not yet ready to claim an absolute majority of the town, we believe that these results establish indisputably that there is a substantial proportion of Jay citizens and taxpayers who oppose the construction of a new bridge 600 feet upstream, period."
The survey was mailed just before Election Day in response to actions taken last summer by a number of public officials that resulted in the rejection of the state DOT's plan to renovate the covered bridge, the abandonment of the bridge by Essex County to the Town of Jay, and a subsequent call for a new bridge to be built instead -- upstream of the covered bridge and over part of the local swimming hole.
Giving Voice to the Will of the People
articularly troubling to Bridge and Beyond was the decision by the Jay Town Board in August to recommend the 600 feet site after telling citizens in July they would be able to vote in a non- binding referendum on the matter in November.
"Sensing an arrogant disregard for the expressed will of the people among many of our public officials," the report states, "Bridge and Beyond decided to give the people of Jay the opportunity to 'vote,' via the mail, that they were being denied at the ballot box."
The group printed a questionnaire in the form of a self-mailer that presented the then-newly approved position statement. Each postal patron was asked to indicate support or lack of support for the position and then mail the form back using his or her own postage. The position statement reads:
Bridge and Beyond's primary objective is the preservation of the scenic upstream area within sight of the Jay Covered Bridge, including the covered bridge and the swimming area. We adamantly oppose any new structure 600 feet upstream of the historic 1857 bridge because it would violate the preservation of this scenic area.
Substantial Cause for Rethinking the Issue
Encouraged by the implications of the survey's results, members of Bridge and Beyond believe the project met both of the objectives expressed last fall -- 1) making the group's position clear in the wake of public confusion over the county's reversal; and 2) to find out just how much support Bridge and Beyond had in the community at large.
"We took quite a risk in undertaking this," says the group's president, Fred Balzac. "The results could have gone the other way, and we had committed up front to reporting the outcome.
"We're gratified to know that we speak for so many people in town."
Bridge and Beyond will report the results to the DOT and the Board of Supervisors and will make its findings available to any other interested arm of government, as well as individual citizens, in the hope that the results will lead to some serious rethinking of the issue.
The group has been working to preserve the scenic upstream area within sight of the Jay Covered Bridge ever since a DOT plan to construct a new concrete-and-steel bridge there surfaced in 1992. That plan was itself abandoned by the DOT in 1994, and these concerned citizens find it both ironic and frustrating to be faced with essentially the same bridge plan now in 1996.
"For any plan to gain the support of a substantial number of people in Jay," the survey report concludes, "we believe it must address the need for emergency vehicle protection and do so quickly; guarantee a future for the Jay Covered Bridge, preferably as a traffic bridge; and protect the swimming hole and upstream corridor."
We have kept up on the Jay Covered Bridge in these pages. I am not going to go over all that has happened those years, but what I have seen since May. Any views I talk about are mine only and not the Covered Bridge Society's. Jeanette is also writing a story on our visit to Jay when it was removed.
On May 14th the Department of Transportation closed the Jay Covered Bridge. We were told the Board of Supervisors were going to vote on the fate of the bridge on May 27, 1997. Jeanette covers this meeting in her story. We were there and I didn't like what I saw. The fate of such an important historical part of the Adirondacks should not be left to a Board of Supervisors who know nothing about such things.
Think about the Adirondacks for a minute. We have the Adirondack Park and Forever Wild. We have laws and regulations about what you can and cannot do, yet we can't save the only covered bridge on a highway in this vast wild area. On that day, the only decision should have been to put a temporary bridge next to the covered bridge and then have the Gratons repair the covered bridge.
On June 12, 1997, we saw the last two sections of the bridge lifted off the river. I watched while the saw cut through the old truss members in four places. All these timbers are now destroyed and new ones have to be used. After the last two sec- tions were set down, they were inspected. I heard some of the workers comment on the good condition the bridge was in. The trouble spots were at the ends where they sat on the abutments. The very heavy floor which was put in a few years ago was a very good thing to get rid of. There it sat, in four sections, on two sides of the river. A VERY SAD SIGHT!
What happens now is anybody's guess. I would like to thank Phyllis Wells of Platts burgh, New York, for keeping me up-todate with all the happenings at Jay with pictures and clippings. Phyllis sent me some clippings in August that told about the two sections on the Village side that have been moved to the park to join the other two sections. We would have been there to see the move if we had known.
We now must go ahead, get the new highway bridge built, then do whatever we can to see the Jay Covered Bridge is repaired and put back across the river where it belongs.
Two sections of the Jay Bridge stand in the park across the River fron Jay, N.Y.
Dick had been hearing from people in Jay, New York, for a long time about their covered bridge being in trouble. The powers that be wanted to take down the covered bridge so that a new bridge could be erected. Bridge and Beyond, a local group made to save the covered bridge, hoped to save the bridge.
While we were on Safari in May, our daughter Ruth was at our house. When we got home she had many phone calls because the bridge had been closed. Dick called Fred Balzac when we got home and he said there would be a meeting of the County Legislatures on May 27, 1997. We were up and on the road by 6:00 that morning headed for Elizabethtown, New York. We made it for the 10:00 meeting. It was decided then to remove the covered bridge on June 10, 11 and 12.
As we left the meeting, I looked over and saw Stanley and Arnold Graton exiting the courthouse by a different door than we had used. Dick and I quietly talked to them and Stanley told us he had the contract for removing the covered bridge. At that point, Dick and I felt better about the removal because we knew if a Graton was doing it, it would be done correctly. We didn't tell anyone else that day that we had seen the Gratons there.
The week of June 8th was going to be a very busy one for us. Dick had a slide show to do at the Crandall Library in Glens Falls on the 11th. Dave and Marikka Guay very graciously invited us to have supper at their house. They also had Dave's mom and Dave and Carol Frantz. The lasagna was delicious. Dave and Marikka have three lovely daughters. (Does this sound familiar?) We always enjoy seeing the collection of other people. Dave has made himself a great covered bridge room. After supper we all went to the slide show at the library. After, we went back to the Guay's for dessert. As an added treat, Marikka's Dad was there from out west for a visit. It was very late when we got back to our camp.
The next day Dick and I left early for Jay, New York. We got there in time to see the crane hook into the roof of the 3rd section of the covered bridge to be taken off the river. On this day the two sections on the Town side were to be removed. They were having trouble with the computer in the crane so they were not able to lift the sections to the far side of the river. They were each lifted onto a yard near the bridge site.
We sat on the far side of the river on some nice big boards. There was another man there who lives in the area. There were also two fishermen in the river under where the two sections of bridge had already been removed. They dispelled the old myth about not making any noise when around fishermen. They took quite a few fish out as the crane was making a lot of noise.
The 1st section we saw lifted was the one that was attached on to the approaches. They had a little trouble lifting this piece away from the road. They started to lift and back down it went. They had to do some sawing and then were able to lift it. Stanley was on the roof and hooked up the chains to the steel beams that had been put into the top of the bridge at each end of each section of bridge. The chains were hooked onto the crane. Stanley had no shirt on and later when we went over to the side where the sections had been put, his wife and children were there watching. His daughter, who was asleep in her stroller, had her shirt off just like Daddy. The 1st section was finally lifted off and set down near the river.
We went around to the other side of the river to watch the last section be removed. We had to get back to our camp as Dick had another slide show to do that evening near Albany, New York. We were hoping the last section would be removed while we were still there.
We got to the other side as Stanley was hooking up the chains to the last section. As they started to lift this section, Dick finished a roll of film and had to put a new roll in the camera. I was able to get pictures developed the next day. This section was lifted off the river and had to be lifted over the 3rd section that was already on the lawn. This was quite a thing to see a bridge lifted over a bridge! We left shortly after this section was moved and headed south.
The two sections of the covered bridge were moved over the river to join the 1st and 2nd sections in August when the Bailey bridge was installed over the river. There the four sections will sit until it is decided when (or if) the bridge will ever be put back over the river where it belongs.
This was a very sad picture-taking day for us. The Jay Bridge was a beautiful bridge in a beautiful site. It was the only covered bridge in the Adirondack Mountains. Will it ever be put back? We can all hope so.
One-half of the Jay Bridge has been moved to the park.
The third of four sections of the Jay Bridge is moved
Section three swings over the top of section four of the Jay Covered Bridge.
n October 14, 1997 Janet Corby, Oriskany, NY sent me a Xeroxed copy of an article, "Jay Covered Bridge: Gone Forever?: What happens when history and common sense don't count" from the Summer 1997 issue of Adirondack Voices written by Fred Balzac, president of Bridge and Beyond.
In the article Fred gives a synopsis, by date, of the events leading up to the dismantling and removal of the Jay Covered Bridge (NY-16-01). I will quote just a small part of what he wrote: ..."the swiftness with which the county removed the bridge was . . . awe-inspiring. It's taken Essex County 14 years and reportedly $1 million and it still hasn't come up with an appropriate location for a new bridge to replace the covered bridge, yet the county managed to take out the Jay Covered Bridge--a structure that has withstood floods and ice for 140 years--in just four weeks!
In the process, the county violated federal law, namely, the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. It also wrongly shut the public out of the decision-making process. And county officials clearly misled and deceived the public, the press, and state officials." To help ensure the Jay Covered Bridge (JCB) is restored and put back over the Ausable River, please write: Federal Highway Administration, Attn: Jane Garvey, Administrator, 400 Seventh Street, SW, Washington, DC 20590.
Demand that the Jay Covered Bridge be returned before a new bridge is built, to ensure that the renovation option is given full consideration as part of the federally funded environmental impact process.
Photo taken the week the bridge was closed.
David Guay, Glens Falls, NY, was good enough to send xerox copies of articles which appeared in the Post Star of March 27, 1998.
[One of the articles was] "Federal funding for Jay covered bridge clears hurdle" [which] heralds the hopes of restoring the historic Jay Bridge (NY-16-01) to its place over the east bank of the Ausable River. A $1 million grant to restore the bridge, dismantled in May 1997, must pass the House and be approved by a joint House-Senate conference committee. If successful, the grant would cover the entire cost of restoring and replacing the bridge, county officials said.
Current county plans only call for restoring the bridge for pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Fred Balzac, leader of Bridge and Beyond, has called on the county to restore at least limited vehicular traffic on the bridge and is urging officials to move quickly if federal funding is approved and not wait two or three years to begin restoring the bridge.
A postcard dated Oct. 21, 1998 from Phyllis Wells, Plattsburgh, NY informed me the Press Republican for Oct. 18th indicated the new transportation legislation (TEA 21) has included $750,000 to rehabilitate the Jay covered bridge. She stopped by the bridge on Oct. 20 and found a sign on it: "No trespassing. Patrolled by State Police." There was also a stone marker on a cement base which says: "Town of Jay's historic covered bridge - built in 1857." This is at the end near the replacement bridge.
Jeff Meyers, Staff Writer for the Press Republican, Plattsburgh, NY authored an article in the Feb. 20, 1999 edition of the newspaper with the title "A gap bridged; Historic, controversial Jay Covered Bridge to be put up." Phyllis Wells sent me the article after I questioned the status of the bridge in the February Newsletter.
The large 6x8 three-quarter photograph by Michael Phillips, which accompanies the article, shows large holes along the sides of the wooden structure, an apparent victim of souvenir seekers or vandals since its removal from its site over the AuSable River almost two years ago. Now the State Police are patrolling the area and have posted no-trespassing signs on the bridge.
Now that Essex County has received $750,000 in federal funding to fix the historic structure, preliminary plans for the project are already under way. County Highway Superintendent Frederick Buck says they hope to have reconstruction begin on the Jay Covered Bridge (NY-16-01) in June 2001 and be completed in 2002.
A public hearing will be held in June or July to decide whether the new bridge across the river will be placed 400 feet below the original site or 1 ,400 feet upstream, the two options decided upon after months of design work. Construction on the new bridge will probably start in May 2001 with completion by October 2002. The bulk of the $5.5 million cost expected for both bridges will come from federal highway funds with Essex County required to add about $200,000 to the federal money for rebuilding the bridge.
Once the new bridge is in operation, the old covered bridge will be placed back at its original site, but would only be used as a pedestrian and bicycle crossing.
The plan represents the best hope not only for saving the bridge, but also for rekindling local efforts to build on Jay's heritage as an historic, scenic, and recreational-river community in the heart of the Adirondack High Peaks region."
The following are highlights of the restoration plan: "Rehab of the JCB could begin AS EARLY AS NEXT SUMMER (2002), after the structural work is bid out and accepted (scheduled for the spring).
"A good deal of the work will be done while the JCB is OFF-SITE, essentially putting the 4 pieces of the bridge back together as one structure
"Engineers will re-use as much of the ORIGINAL MATERIALS as possible - including nearly 60% of the truss diagonals - and then replace as much of what is left with "IN-KIND" MATERIALS
"After the new bridge is installed downstream, the JCB will be MOVED BACK OVER THE RIVER (possibly by a team of oxen) and then fully refurbished
"The JCB will span the Ausable WITHOUT ANY CONCRETE PIERS OR STEEL SUBSTRUCTURE much like it did when it was built in 1857 - 58!
"The county's plan for the bridge includes approach- road work on the Mill Hill side and re-facing of the abutments. The NYS DOTs new bridge project will handle the approach work on the Glen Road side of the river.
Although the return of the JCB over the AuSable hinges on the construction of the new bridge (now scheduled for 2003-04), the county's plan is vital to the PRESERVATION OF THE JCB AS A STRUCTURE because it will initiate work and carry out much of the rehab while the bridge sits in its current location OFFSITE. At an estimated cost of $1.075 million (including 80% Federal funding), the restoration plan represents a substantial investment in the historic structure - long our NO.1 tourist attraction - as well as in the uture of Jay as an historic destination.
Many thanks are due to the county Board of Supervisors for keeping their commitment to preserve and restore one of Essex County's true treasures. The county Dept. of Public Works and the engineers it has retained have developed this plan with much thought, care and creativity and are to be congratulated.
Please share your views on the project with the county (and, by extension, the Federal government) by writing by Dec. 11 th to:
Frederick Buck, Superintendent
Essex County Dept. of Public Works
HCR #1 Box 327, Route 9
Elizabethtown, NY 12932
Please write of your support for the restoration of the JCB even though the deadline has passed. Your views can always be forwarded by the county after Dec. 11th, so your voice does make a difference!
In the construction business, contractors get what are called "Dodge Reports". What these are, are notifications of upcoming construction jobs that will be bid on by general contractors. The construction company that member Marikka Guay works for received one on 9/27/02 regarding the Jay CB ( NY-16-01). Here are some specifics of that bid notice.
NOTE: At the time of printing, there has not been any news of who was awarded the bid to restore the bridge.
On 7/18/03, the job of restoring the Jay CB (NY-16-01) was awarded to Alpine Construction LLC, 41 Lake Street, Stillwater, NY 12170. The successful bid amount for the resto- I ration was $1,481,452. The target start date is listed only I as 08/2003.
The description of the work to be done is as follows. "restoration of covered bridge/timber structure (bicycle & pedestrian bridge) - approximately 49 meters (160 feet)--replace timber members -- replicate joint details -- cast iron castings -- create parking spaces -- sidewalks."
This information was obtained from a construction industrybid notification process called "Dodge Reports" which came from co-editor/member Marikka Guay
In an e-mail received from member Phyllis Wells is the information with a headline that read; "Funds will help restore Jay Covered Bridge" and it appeared in the Press Republican, of Plattsburgh, NY dated July 10, 2003. The U.S. Dept. of Transportation's National Historic Covered Brdige Preservation Program has been tapped for a $340,000 grant to help restore the Jay CB, according to Rep. John M. McHugh. Restoration efforts at the covered bridge include a permanent modern structure to be built on a new alignment, allowing the covered bridge to be reset on I the original abutments, as well as a fire detection system to I be installed. The bridge will also be coated with a fire retardant surface. The grant is in addition to the $750,000 in transportation funding McHugh secured for the project in 1998. The restoration work covered by the grant is part of a federal-state-county plan to return it into a pedestrian bicycle crossing.
In an e-mail from Richard Wilson is a story that appeared in the Lake Placid News and was written by Lee Manchester. The job of rehabilitating the Jay CB (NY-16-01) was awarded to ALPINE CONSTRUCTION of Stillwater, NY.
Alpine's bid was lower than it's closest competitor by more than a quarter million dollars. $652,184 was the amount chosen.
Because Alpine's bid was so much lower than the next lowest bid, offices of the Essex Co. DPW had to consult with Alpine to make sure nothing had been overlooked in its estimate of the job's costs. The second factor that had to be checked was if they were qualified to do historic preservation and restoration work on covered bridges. The third, delay in naming the contractor who will restore the bridge was purely bureaucratic. Even though Essex Co. had made its choice weeks earlier, the decision was not final until it worked its way through the state DOT.
Jay town Supervisor Tom O'Neill said that some of the work on the project will begin almost immediately. "Alpine says they have to cut their timbers in November."
Restoration engineers have said that, because of damage by salt & water carried onto the bridge by vehicles each winter, the entire floor will have to be replaced, along with 80 percent of the lower support members and half of the upper members. The bulk of the restoration work will be started in April 2004.
Rehabilitation of the bridge should be completed by the end of 2004. The restored bridge will remain where it is on the banks of the Au Sable River until a new two-lane vehicular bridge is built 400 feet downstream over the next couple of years. When the new bridge is completed, the temporary one-lane bridge now spanning the river will be removed. At that point the covered bridge will be put back in its place. The restored covered bridge will only be used to carry bicycles and pedestrians.
In another article sent by Phyllis Wells that appeared in the Press-Republican of Plattsburgh, NY dated Dec.18,2003 reported that the Jay CB will be dismantled for repair and reassembly in the next year. "Workers are swarming over the wooden edifice, carefully pulling it apart." They started this week at taking the bridge apart in the town park where it has been stored. "The bridge is being dismantled and large timber is also being cut to replace members that need it", said Frederick Buck, Essex Co. Public Works Super- intendent. The bridge will be put back over the river after the new vehicular bridge is completed sometime in late 2005. Alpine is just doing the restoration work, but not the resetting of the bridge. "We're going to reuse all the materials to reassemble it", said Project Superintendent Guy Henke
Photo taken the week the bridge was closed.
[EDITORS NOTE - This story was written by Betty Schellmann on October 19, 1957. She never did anything with the story. Linda McNamara gave me the story for the Courier. I thought it was interesting as it is from the eyes of one of our Charter members. I have not changed the content of the story, but keep in mind that Betty is talking about Jay, N.Y. and not Upper Jay which is south of Jay. The Jay Covered Bridge is still on land, waiting for the new bridge to be built.]
A party of four left Chaffee, New York at 8:00 a.m. to see some of the beauties of the Adirondacks in the Lake Placid area. The driver, myself, had a dual purpose in making the weekend trip. The listing of "Covered Bridges in Use in New York State" issued by the New York State Department of Commerce indicated a covered bridge was located near the Whiteface Mountain and the popular North Pole region. It was my desire to see and photograph one more covered bridge before the year ended. All things considered it is rather an ambitious hobby to attempt to visit all the bridges listed as they are several miles away from Chaffee with the exception of the Cowelsville bridge. In addition to the distance, they are rapidly disappearing each year.
The weather was crisp and a bit damp with a hint of snow in the offing. The Thruway proved to be a boon to us and we literally ate up the miles between Batavia and the Route 8 turn-off at Utica. The sun teased us as we traveled between short rain showers. Much to our surprise there were still traces of Autumn grandeur in the woodlots along the Thruway and in the Mountain forests. We soon passed through Rome, Lake Pleasant, Indian Lake, Speculator, Lake Piseco, etc. and neared Jay around 4:30 p.m.
An obliging gentleman along the highway sent us on to Upper Jay, Essex County where the bridge stood. I noticed he did so with visible pride and very specific directions as though having done so many times previously.
Upper Jay was a lovely, modest, country settlement built around a village square. The village square contained many trees and the old-time band stand. The places of business and Churches lined the square.
As it was getting hazy, in addition to the slight moisture, I entered the combined general store, post office, souvenir store and sports goods supply store to purchase more film and any postcards available of the bridge. The atmosphere of the general store was very friendly and warm and I would have liked to linger a bit longer to hear the comments they made about the snow they had had on Whiteface and about the approaching deer season. But, I hurried to the car and drove around the square and down the hill to the bridge.
Before spying the bridge we were struck with the sight of a huge, red-brick building, three or four stories high with a rounded tower and bell. I believe it had been a factory at one time and was now a public building, probably a town hall. Across the river, nestled together like an old-fashioned English settlement were several small brick buildings which were now used as tool sheds and storage buildings. They were very quaint and I swear during earlier times must have been homes.
These brick structures were in keeping with the old, simple, weather-beaten bridge. It spanned the turbulent East Branch of the Ausable River which had a section of solid rock strata and a boulder strewn channel. It was evident that at one time the river had been very violent and had damaged a former bridge whose ghost piers were still visible. The entrance to the bridge was a square effect and give the appearance with its wide casings of entering a home doorway.
The floor planking of the bridge seemed in a very good state of preservation and as I walked through its dark tunnel with its few small windows my footsteps resounded hollowly. The interior beams seemed sturdy and I could see little evidence of its having been replaced or reinforced in any way. The bridge was a one-way passage and a sign posted at the entrance requested that all traffic entering sound a warning.
Although built in 1857, a century ago, the bridge showed slight weathering and strain. The exterior walls of heavy planking have rotted and broken off in a few places at the base. Its central section has been given the added support of structural steel trusses.
Reluctantly, I re-crossed the bridge and as I joined the rest of the party, I took a quick, panoramic, mental picture of the Upper Jay Covered Bridge posed against the rugged mountain backdrop, the partially concealed valley, the threatening snow clouds, the prosperous farm house, the brick houses, the two diverging roads and the angry river bearing down upon it. Everything seemed to try to overpower, but I had the feeling it could stand firm and confident another 100 years if necessary.
For me the main purpose of the trip was accomplished, and the subsequent trip to Lake Placid and our stay there, our trip through the Mountains and home, were overshadowed by the Covered Bridge and its battle against the elements and human progress.
This old Chrome post card from the 1950's shows the brick structure that was next to the bridge. This post card is post marked 1960.
JAY Covered Bridge as it is today resting on dry land next to the bridge site. When the new bridge is built downstream, the covered bridge will be put back across the river.