Warren, Vt. - Friday, October 6, 2000, the day set aside for the opening of the old covered bridge began dull and rainy. The weather didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the gathering, however, for people had been arriving mostly on foot, some by car, until by noon there was a goodly crowd of townsfolk. Roger Hussey added to the celebration, strumming his banjo, bellowing the song "Stand By You" with his own words.
The bridge stood newly refurbished, crisp, clean and empty, a wide green ribbon stretched across the portal. John Norton, Selectboard chairman, stepped up to the microphone:
"[Today is the day we]...reopen the Warren Bridge," said John Norton,"It's been closed now for two years, since the Fall of 1998. If this was 1880 when Walter Bagley built this bridge, you could all settle in for a long afternoon of oration while I give you a two and a half hour talk and then a couple of plenipotentiaries and dignitaries would talk for awhile; but we live in a different time now, so I'll take about four minutes!
"This project began shortly after the flood. We took a look at the bridge to see if it's been damaged and the bridge inspectors came down and found some rot in the upstream truss. This is one of two bridges in the state where both sides of the truss are enclosed, so without taking off the siding you can't tell what is going on. When they took a look, we had a serious problem.
"So we hired Jan Lewandoski and his team. His first task was to find a proper timber to replace the bottom chord; a single stick sixty - six feet long. Jan found the tree, and had it milled twelve-by-twelve; it's the largest piece of natural timber he has ever had to install."
Norton spoke of the team discovering extensive rot in the downstream truss in the course of dismantling the bridge for repairs resulting both trusses being rebuilt. We have a seventy percent new bridge, Norton said. The total cost of the repairs came to [$122,500], he said. "That is a big piece of change for a small town. We would never have been able to do it without funding help from the Preservation Trust of Vermont and from VTrans, who will fund about 90 percent of it."
Mr. Norton concluded with thanks to VTrans, to Warren Trip, Scott Newman and Scott Gurley of the AOT's Historic Preservation Division, to Structures Engineer J.B McCarthy, to Jan Lewandoski of Restoration and Traditional Building Co., to his team Paul Ide, Don Estes, Linden, and Lilia Ide., and to Phil Covelli, Town Administrator, who arranged the funding and "stayed on top of it." He then introduced Governor Howard Dean:
Said Governor Dean: "Thank you for asking me to come, this is really fun...this is kind of a neat bridge because you all, the people of Warren, decided what you wanted and were able to get the funding from the state. In the last few years, the Agency of Transportation, now known as VTrans, has really made an effort to work with local people to see what they wanted, and not what we tell them what they had to have, and this is a really good example of it, while we were able to pay for it, but really the whole state gets a benefit out of it, it's a tourist attraction, it's a beautiful bridge, it's part of our heritage.
"I think it's a good model for a partnership between the State and the Federal Government, and local folks. Non of this happens without local leadership. I say this a lot, but the State is happy to kick in for really good projects that local people bring to our attention. But it is only when local people are doing the work and leading the charge and figuring out what it is that they want and really putting some energy to it, that makes it worthwhile for the State to invest money, and this was one of those cases where there was a lot of energy around this, a lot of commitment.
"I'm sure your hearts sank when you ripped off the other side of the bridge and found a lot of rot in it. But we knew you were going to do the right thing and you did, and it's really a beautiful job. So thank you very much."
Kathryn "Kit" Hartshorn, longtime Warren historian, came forward and cut the ribbon, opening the bridge to the cheers of the crowd. The first vehicle to cross the bridge was a Model-T Ford Station Wagon owned and driven by Selectman Ken Blair, Governor Dean rode over the bridge as passenger.
[Editor's note: The Village Bridge (WGN 45-12-14) was built in 1833 to span the Mad River using a multiple-kingpost truss with Burr-arch.]