A roadtrip through Proctor, Pittsford, Florence, Brandon, Shoreham
By Julia Purdy
Who doesn’t love the romance, intrigue and bucolic setting of a covered bridge? Vermonters are no different – Vermonters cherish our covered bridge heritage, and Vermont’s Historic Bridges Program, launched in 1988, is committed to keeping authentic public covered bridges in service wherever possible with preservation and authentic reproduction of spare parts. The Vermont Transportation Agency partners with cities to inventory and monitor the condition of bridges and provide oversight for preservation and treatment standards with the use of state and federal money.
Below is the second of two self-guided tours by car, motorbike or bicycle. (The first tour was published in the August 3-9 edition and can also be viewed online at mountaintimes.info/the-bridges-of-rutland-county-a-tour.)
Note: These bridges are all one lane wide. Slow down and check for oncoming vehicles and pedestrians before crossing. Turn on the headlights and walk across. Most bridges have small parking spaces on each side. Please respect private property.
North Covered Bridge Loop
This route follows a figure 8. Mileages are continuous unless otherwise noted.
Directions: Follow West Street (Business-4) to the RR Trestle and turn right onto Route 3. In 4.5 miles, turn left near the library and cross Otter Creek over the Marble Bridge (built in 1913 ).
Follow the double yellow line. At 5.1 miles, turn right at the “T” onto Main Street. Continue on Main Street. 5.5 miles turn left onto Gorham Bridge Road. The bridge is located 6.5 miles away.
Bike paths and flat terrain make for a pleasant and easy ride along the railroad tracks and the winding curves of Otter Creek. A historical marker on the bridge explains the important role Otter Creek has played in Vermont history. You will pass several large buildings made of blocks of marble – what remains of the Vermont Marble Company, once considered the largest marble producer in the world. Many monuments and buildings in Washington, DC and elsewhere used Vermont marble stone, processed by European quarrymen and carvers brought here by the company.
Stop 1. Gorham Covered Bridge, Otter Creek, Proctor – 1841, city truss truss, 114′ long, 9.5′ entrance – Nichols Powers and Abe Owen, carpenters.
Located at the junction of Bridge Road in Proctor and Elm Street in Pittsford, Gorham Bridge crosses Otter Creek to a popular fishing spot. The “city trellis” refers to the widely used criss-crossing timber arrangement designed by renowned Connecticut civil engineer and architect Ithiel Town (1784-1844). Just before you reach the approach to the bridge, a stone marker on your left, decorated with British and American flags, commemorates the stretch of the 1756 Crown Point Military Road, which linked the Connecticut River to Lake Champlain, crossing near from here. Note the view across the bridge towards Killington and Pico. This bridge underwent a radical rehabilitation in 2003-2004, which carefully replicated the original decaying structure.
Cross Gorham Bridge with caution! Covered bridge etiquette is to look ahead and take turns crossing the bridge, with headlights on. At the end of the bridge, take a quick left onto Elm Street. At 7.4 miles, cross the Cooley Bridge over Furnace Creek.
Stop 2. Cooley Bridge, Furnace Brook, Pittsford – 1849, Town truss truss, 60′ long, 10’9″ high – Nichols Powers, carpenter. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
This little gem is a local favorite for obvious reasons. The Pittsford Town Trails network crosses Elm Street here, east to west towards Otter Creek. Fishing, snowshoeing, dog walking, cross-country skiing are popular activities. Otter tracks can be seen in the winter snow.
From Cooley Bridge, continue on Elm Street to Route 7, marked by the village farm on the left and Kamuda’s country store, 8.7 miles on the right. This stretch of Elm Street offers panoramic views of the Green Mountains to the east and the Pittsford Ridge to the west, with an unspoilt rolling landscape of hay meadows and woodland in between.
Caution! Before turning north (left) on Route 7 to Kamuda’s store. The line of sight on Route 7 to your right is obstructed! It is suggested that you turn right onto Arch Street and travel a short distance to Mechanic Street, for safe access to Route 7. At 8.9 miles, turn left onto Depot Hill Road.
3. Stop n°3. Depot Bridge, Otter Creek, Pittsford – 1840 (restored 1974), Town truss truss, 121′ long, 10.5′ high. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Depot Bridge monitors the lush floodplain of the aptly named Otter Creek each spring, making Depot Bridge inaccessible. Ducks, great blue herons, songbirds thrive here. Yes, there was once a railroad depot here…
At 9.7 miles, at stop sign, turn right onto West Creek Road. A beautiful drive, with Pittsford Ridge and the Taconic Range to the west… Soaring elms, thick maples, lush pines, sparsely populated. At 11.1 miles, go through a very narrow underpass under a railroad spur that was once used for quarrying. After the underpass, turn right. At 11.6 miles turn right again onto Kendall Hill Road and at 11.8 miles come to the Hammond Covered Bridge.
4. Stop 4. Hammond Bridge, Otter Creek, Pittsford – 1843 – 139′ long – Asa Nourse, carpenter. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the Great Flood of 1927, the bridge was swept from its abutments and floated 1 1/2 miles downstream, intact. Townspeople put the bridge on barrels and brought it back upriver to its original location, where it now stands, though the modern highway bypasses it and the bridge is closed to the traffic. A historical milestone tells the story. Also note the nearby Crown Point Military Road marker.
Continue on Kendall Hill Road to Route 7 North to Brandon. At 19.3 miles, arrive at Brandon City Park. Go around the park and continue through the business center. At 19.6 miles, turn left onto Pearl Street. At 20.8 miles, arrive at the Sanderson Covered Bridge.
5. Stop No. 5. Sanderson Bridge, Otter Creek, Brandon – 1840 – Town Truss – 132′ long, 9.6′ high. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 2001, this bridge was deemed at risk of “imminent failure” and was authentically rebuilt in 2002/2003. In 2019, it was severely damaged by a truck that was too high trying to cross it. Now, prominent signs at both ends tell drivers not to trust GPS and to turn around before trying to enter the bridge. The covered bridge openings, when built, were sized to accommodate a loaded haystack.
To return to Route 7, continue over the Sanderson Bridge. At 23 miles, turn left onto Short Swamp Road. At 24.1 miles turn left onto Hack’s Sawmill Road, then left again 24.7 miles onto High Pond Road. Continue on High Pond Road, 26.1 miles, STOP.
Here you can (A) turn left back to Brandon and Route 7 via Union Street, or (B) continue south on Florence Road to Pittsford.
If you choose option B, at 30.2 miles you will be back at Kendall Hill Road and the Hammond Bridge. Turn left on Kendall Hill Road to merge onto Route 7. Turn south (right) to arrive at Kamuda’s store at 32.4 miles.
Continue on Route 7 to Rutland.
For RR buffs
6. East Shoreham Covered Railway Bridge, Lemon Fair River, Shoreham – 1897 – Howe Beam – 109′ long, 21′ high – Rutland Railroad Company. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER). Property of the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation.
43°51’33″N – 73°15’22″W. Start at the junction of US-7 and VT-73 mi. north of the center of the village of Brandon. Drive west along Otter Creek on boardwalk-like Route 73 to the junction with Route 30 at Mile 6. Turn right (north) on Route 30 and drive to center of Whiting. Turn left (west) on Shoreham-Whiting Road and follow Richville Road to Shoreham Depot Road for 12 miles. Turn left (south). Caution: blind hill! Continue down the hill. Access to the bridge is on the right, marked with a Vermont Fish & Wildlife Management Area sign.
The East Shoreham Covered Railroad Bridge is one of only two covered railroad bridges remaining in Vermont. Until 1951, it carried the Addison County Railroad to Larrabee’s Point in Shoreham, where the train crossed Lake Champlain on a pontoon bridge to Ticonderoga, New York. Access is an easy walk via a footpath on the old railway line from a small car park just north of the bridge over the Lemon Fair. The origin of the river’s name remains a mystery; in spring its shallows are filled with wild yellow irises.
To return to Brandon via the scenic route: Proceed south on Shoreham Depot Road to Fisher Road 13.7 miles, left then left again on Murray Road 14.3 miles. Continue on Murray Road to Route 30, then turn South (R) to the junction with Route 73 towards Brandon.