At about 1 p.m. Saturday, forty-four Covered Bridge enthusiasts gathered on Lyndon's Sanborn Covered Bridge for the first all-member meeting of the Vermont Covered Bridge Society.
The day began cloudy with a cool pre- autumn breeze blowing though the trusses of the old bridge. The first order of business was a frantic search for stones to hold down papers and exhibits. Refreshments were served.
Jim Fearon, VCBS Lyndon Chapter chairman and host of the event, opened the meeting with words of welcome, presenting the VCBS with a resolution from the Town of Lyndon Select Board:
TOWN OF LYNDON, Office of the Selectboard, RESOLUTION
WELCOMING THE VERMONT COVERED BRIDGE SOCIETY TO THE TOWN OF LYNDON FOR THEIR WEEKEND VISIT BY THE TOWN OF LYNDON SELECTBOARD WHEREAS, the Vermont Covered Bridge Society (VCBS) was incorporated in February of 2000 to address concerns about the loss of these important symbols of Vermont's heritage; and
WHEREAS, the mission of VCBS is to preserve, explore and enjoy the unique collection of covered bridges in the State; and
WHEREAS, the number of covered bridges in Vermont has dwindled to fewer than 100 today; and
WHEREAS, while many were lost to the flood of 1927, significant numbers are being lost to modernization and vandalism; and
WHEREAS, as the host community for their weekend visit, the Selectboard welcomes VCBS "bridgers" to the Town of Lyndon, the Covered Bridge Capital of the Northeast Kingdom;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Town of Lyndon Selectboard does commend these volunteers for their efforts in preserving the old bridges hewed from the timbers of long-gone forests.
Dated at Lyndonville, Vermont this 11th Day of September, 2000.
Joe Nelson, VCBS President thanked the Lyndon members who had made the meeting possible; Jim and Mary Fearon, Marge and Francis Converse and all of the others. Nelson then spoke to the group about covered bridge preservation:
"Last August 7, we, the VCBS, were invited to a symposium held by the state's Historic Covered Bridge Preservation Committee; Eric Gilbertson, Warren Trip, Robert McCullough, Susan Scribner and others.
"We were there, myself, Bill McKone, Ed Barna, Doug Porter and John Dostal, to discuss strategies, issues and problems involved with preserving our covered bridges.
"Other participants were representatives from AOT, the Federal Highway Administration, and several construction companies active in wooden bridge restoration.
"Representatives of the VT Agency of Transportation and the VT Division of Historic Preservation have been developing a preservation plan for covered bridges, along the lines of the plan they had developed for historic steel bridges.
"The main item for discussion was the dilemma in preserving historic bridges when they are allowed to deteriorate until repairs result in the replacement of most or all of the original bridge. In some cases historic preservation may be better served by removing the existing bridge intact.
"There was discussion of restoration techniques and testing methods to determine before the contractor begins work just how extensive repairs might be so that informed decisions could be made about how to proceed.
"What should be done with a removed bridge? The bridge could be used as a feature of a park near its original site or possibly be moved to a covered bridge museum.
"The VCBS was recognized by the other participants in the meeting as being a valuable resource to assist in preserving the historic covered bridges. The plan is to work with the towns who own the bridges.
"One way we can help is to work at the grass roots with the towns to encourage them to sign up for the Historic Covered Program so that the bridges will get the basic maintenance they need so they don't deteriorate to the point where extensive repairs or replacement of entire bridges is needed. This works right in with our Bridge Watch Area Program.
"I have copies of the hand-outs provided by the Symposium. One describes the Historic Bridge Program, Another introduces the covered Bridge Preservation Plan and the Covered Bridge Committee. A third document is the Programmatic Agreement between VAOT, VSHPO, VANR, and the FHWA. We need to understand this material if we are serious about protecting our covered bridges.
"We were asked at the symposium what our organization's policy is regarding preservation, but unfortunately we were still in input mode and hadn't yet drafted an official position.
"Well, I have a preliminary draft of a preservation statement here for debate and approval of the membership. When it's in its final form after the full membership meeting, we will have a VCBS policy on preservation.
"The Vermont Covered Bridge Society Preservation Policy begins with the statement: 'The value of an historic covered bridge lays in the workmanship, methods and joinery of the original builders and the timber from Vermont's old forests used in the construction. This historic integrity must be preserved.'
"Copies of the proposed statement are here along with copies of some of the handouts from the August 7 Symposium. I'm asking all interested people here to come take copies for themselves when this business portion of the meeting is concluded. Please get back to me with your comments and suggestions.
"We Are beginning to work on the agenda for an all-members Annual Meeting in [November]. Every member who can't attend will be mailed a package including a ballot. On that agenda for approval will be the Statement of the VCBS Preservation Policy, approval of the organization's constitution and by-laws, and among other items, the election of officers. For this last we need a Nominating Committee."
Ron Bechard, Nomination Committee member spoke about the committee and asked for volunteers. Two volunteers came forward; Marge Converse and Ruth Nelson. More volunteers, including a chair person, are needed to prepare for the Annual Meeting to be held in November.
Bill McKone, VCBS Secretary spoke of his research grant application and his efforts to promote a covered bridge museum:
"Two significant initiatives that are underway are the VCBS application for $200,000 in research grant money under Senator Jeffords' Historic Covered Bridge Preservation Act and efforts to establish a covered bridge museum. We have been told that the decision will be made on the research grant "mid- September". The application for an additional $200,000 for the covered bridge museum has to be submitted by early November, but requires participation in a training session for the application process later in September before it can be prepared. This is for federal funding under the "free- standing Transportation Enhancement program" which will have at least $3.2 million available for grants on an 80/20 matching basis by summer 2001.
"Preliminary discussions on the acquisition of the Windridge tennis camp facility in Jeffersonville have been very encouraging. It appears that we could lease the property with its large indoor tennis building, dormitory, and 20 acres of flat land on the edge of the village on favorable terms costing less than $10,000 a year with an option to buy at the end of 5 years.
"This is a uniquely suitable property located centrally to a cluster of historic covered bridges in and around Lamoille County and within walking distance of two such bridges. Funding of such a museum would be greatly facilitated if we are able to apply any excess funds remaining from those earmarked for the repair of the Cambridge Junction/Poland bridge, but the stipulations on the use of that money have not yet been provided to the VCBS."
Mr. McKone followed with an interim Treasurer's report, the full report to be given at the Annual Meeting:
"The VCBS is currently solvent and able to meet its financial commitments. Using very broad figures, we have taken in around $3,000 since our formation in February of this year. About half of this has come from memberships, including several life memberships at $100 each, and the remainder from generous contributions of up to $500 from our members. We have spent roughly $2,000 of this money on items such as registration as a non-profit organization with the IRS ($150 one-time fee), necessary office supplies, and the production and dissemination of information including the "Bridger", our newsletter. A more detailed financial report will be made available to the membership at the annual meeting later this year. We will, of course, welcome any input from the membership on any aspects of the financial operations of the VCBS."
Kathy Knight, Membership Committee chairperson, reported on the VCBS membership. Membership Report:
As of the last roster update, VCBS has 99 memberships. Of the 99 memberships, 63 are from Vermont. Thirty-six reside in 14 other states. [NY (13), PA (4), IN (3), MA (3), FL (2), OH (2), and NH (2). CT, NC, WA, SC, ME, MO, and VA have one membership each.]
Of the total, five are life memberships, and three are honorary life memberships.
There have been 17 donations: Hale (7), Palmer (4), Tasker (2). One each: Powers, Town, and Burr, and one donation of $500 (the equivalent of two Whipples).
(The counts are memberships, not members; family memberships were counted as one.)
Jim Fearon spoke of Lyndonville's bridges
David Guay presented the VCBS with a bound portfolio entitled "Paper Mill Covered Bridge, Reconstruction Record, February - 2000 Thru July - 2000." The collection contains 78 color photographs; eight by John Dostal and 70 by David Guay. Also included are nine historic photographs of the Paper Mill Bridge from the collection of Richard Wilson. Joe Nelson gratefully accepted the gift for the VCBS and placed it for viewing by members at the meeting.
(David Guay had also contributed 15 floppy disks containing the history of the reconstruction of the Paper Mill Bridge in his digital photographs.)
Dick Roy, VCBS member and Vice President of the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges, and Dick Wilson, VCBS member and President of the New York Covered Bridge Society, congratulated Joe Nelson and Bill McKone for forming the Vermont Covered Bridge Society.
Adam Sbardellati, Vermont member of Senator James Jeffords' staff to was introduced. He spoke briefly about funds being ready for the stabilization and restoration of the Cambridge Junction Covered Bridge. There will be more funds available for restoring covered bridges in Vermont, but people need to speak up, he said.
Business Meeting closes, Adventure Program begins
Jim Fearon closed the business meeting and invited the attendees to join in the day's planned activities; informal unguided tour of the town's five covered bridges, and a visit to the Shores Museum guided by the Lyndon Historical Society.
Old Fashioned Vermont Chicken and Biscuit Supper
At approximately 5:30 p.m. forty-four Meeting attendees gathered at the Grange Hall on York Street for the scheduled Vermont style chicken and biscuit supper. Before the serving began, Dick Roy brought in five gifts to be used for an after-supper drawing. $107 was collected and donated to the Vermont Covered Bridge Society. John Weaver offered two of his covered bridge paintings for silent auction, the receipts of which were to be donated to the VCBS.
At about 7:00 p.m. the meeting attendees gathered at the Cobleigh Library for a slide show of 104 photographs of Vermont's historic covered bridges presented by Joe Nelson. Rather than an accompanying lecture, Mr. Nelson asked this audience of veteran covered bridge enthusiasts to join in with the showing by calling out the identity of each bridge and to tell what they knew about each. There was an enthusiastic sharing of knowledge. The slide show ended shortly after 8:00 p.m. nearly in time for the dance at the Grange Hall.
On Sunday, September 17, the Lyndon Event concluded with a tour of the covered bridges of the Northeast Kingdom, four car-loads attending
The Vermont Covered Bridge Society
Sunday Tour of the Bridges of the Northeast Kingdom
ORNE BRIDGE IN IRASBURG
This new bridge was opened in November of 1999 and is very similar to the original which was burned on Halloween. The original was built in 1879 or 1881 using a Paddleford design. The bridge is 87 Feet long and contains 14 panels representing the 14th state containing 14 counties. Located near the junction of route 14 and 5 near Coventry.
LORDS CREEK BRIDGE
This is a privately owned bridge near the Orne Bridge built in 1881 using the Paddleford design, and is 50 ft. long. The bridge used to span Lords Creek south of Irasburg village and was moved in 1958 by Joseph LaBond to his farm.
RIVER ROAD BRIDGE IN TROY
Built in 1910 this 92 foot Town Lattice over the Missisquoi River is unusual in having three horizontal timbers per truss rather than the usual four and one "treenail" pegging each joint rather that two. The bridge is located near the junction of Rts. 105, 242, and 101 come together.
GREENBANKS HOLLOW BRIDGE IN DANVILLE
A longish queenpost of 74 feet, this bridge was created in 1886 after a fire destroyed a mill, store and bridge on Joe's Brook. A fire destroyed a mill, store and bridge on Joe's brook. Located in South Danville. THIS BRIDGE IS OPTIONAL AND WILL BE SEEN AFTER RETURNING TO LYNDON IF THERE IS INTEREST.
The Vermont Covered Bridge Society wishes to thank all who participated in our first All- members Meeting and all who made it fun. We very much appreciate the hard work put in by the VCBS Lyndon "Northeast Kingdom" Chapter and the contributions made by so many others. Special thanks are given to Jim and Mary Fearon, Francis and Marge Converse, David and Marika Guay, Dick and Jeanette Wilson, Dick and June Roy, the guides at the Shores Museum, the team at the Grange Hall, and to the Town of Lyndon Selectboard.