PERKASIE — When the South Perkasie Covered Bridge restoration begins, the company contracted to do the job will put metal beams in lengthwise and jack the bridge up off its foundation abutments.
“They literally go through piece by piece and evaluate the bridge, number all the parts and they take out what needs to be fixed and they either try and repair it with the wood we have in hand or they would have replacement parts for it,” said Scott Bomboy, chair of the Perkasie Borough Historical Committee.
“There's hundreds of pieces to that bridge because it's all wooden pegs where's everything's connected. There's really no nails in it,” he said in a phone interview.
Part of the work is to inventory all the parts of the bridge, he said.
The bridge, which was built in 1832 and moved in 1958 by Perkasie Historical Society to Lenape Park, is the third oldest covered bridge in Pennsylvania and third oldest Town Lattice bridge in the United States, he said.
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission announced Sept. 9 that Perkasie Borough will be getting a $100,000 Keystone Historic Preservation grant for the bridge preservation project. More than $100,000 in matching funding was also raised locally by a committee consisting of members of Perkasie Borough, Perkasie Historical Society and the Bucks County Covered Bridge Society.
About half the money raised locally was from corporate sponsors, with the rest from grass roots donations, Bomboy said.
“We knew we had a really good chance for the grant if we had the match in hand when we applied and if the match in hand was not from the borough directly,” he said. “They want to see public involvement in the project and public commitment.”
The bridge restoration is expected to be done in the spring and take two to three months, he said.
A request for proposals to get bids on the project was already prepared, but will now have to be amended to have the bidders come out and take a look at the bridge to include new damage from flooding associated with Tropical Storm Isaias in August, Bomboy said.
“There's only a short list of people who actually do this kind of work,” he said. “They'll come out, they'll look at the site, they'll talk to our structural engineer and they'll come up with a game plan.”
The fact that the bridge is on dry land instead of being over water is an advantage in doing the work, he said.
Major supporters in the local fundraising for the project include American Heritage Federal Credit Union, Free Will Brewing, Penn Community Bank, Pennridge Developoment Enterprises, the Perkasie Historical Society, the Perkasie Industrial Development Authority, and Univest, a Perkasie Borough release said. Community sponsors include Covenant Bank, Dunkin' Donuts, Landis Supermarket, McDonald's, The Perk, the Perkasie Lions Club, the Perkasie Owls, the Pezzanite Family Charitable Trust and QNB.
“Our community saved one of our nation's best-preserved covered bridges more than 60 years ago, and our community's renewed support for the bridge will preserve it for generations to enjoy,” Bomboy said in the release. “The PHMC's grant award reflects the love of our residents and local businesses for our covered bridge.”
“The Perkasie Historical Society is pleased and thankful for the Keystone grant to help preserve the historic 1832 South Perkasie Covered Bridge located in Lenape Park. We would like to thank all the local citizens and businesses for all of their donations that provided the support needed to obtain the grant,” Perkasie Historical Society President Lee Metzger said in the release. “The bridge has become a symbol of Perkasie and a popular site for keepsake photos of wedding parties and other events. The Society saved the bridge from demolition in 1958 and raised the funds to have it moved to its permanent location in Lenape Park where it was dedicated to the borough a year later. It is the oldest covered bridge in Bucks County.”
Along with restoring the bridge, which was originally on Main Street over Pleasant Spring Creek, to its 1958 condition, the project plans include adding a guided visitor experience with information about Bucks County's 11 other covered bridges.
The county was “notoriously cheap,” which turned out to be a good thing when the bridge was taken out of service, Bomboy said.
“They were not good at maintaining their covered bridges, which is a good thing historically because it's like a bridge from the 1800s, which you don't see anymore,” he said. “You don't see a lot of bridges with a lot of original woodwork.”
The Perkasie grant was one of 52 totaling $2.6 million, a PHMC release said. It was the only one for a project in Bucks County.
“We are pleased to support these important projects from across the Commonwealth. It is rewarding to impact communities in 24 different counties,” PHMC Executive Director Andrea Lowery said in the release. “The selected projects represent the breadth of historic resources that Pennsylvanians value — from cornerstone buildings in their downtowns, to covered bridges and significant archaeological sites. This investment ensures that Pennsylvania's cultural memory will be preserved for future generations.”
Funds for the grants come from a portion of the state realty transfer tax revenue.
“Covered bridges revive memories of an earlier, simpler time in our history. As time goes on, fewer of us remember traveling over these bridges, but by restoring them, future generations can experience these relics of our past and see the workmanship that went into them,” state Rep. Craig Staats, R-145, one of Perkasie's grant application sponsors, said in a release. “I am gratified that the PHMC is awarding this grant to Perkasie to help in restoring an important piece of Perkasie's history.”
Information about the bridge, its history and the restoration project is available at savethebridge.com. Following the announcement of the state grant, a second local fundraising drive is being started for the costs of paint, masonry work and a new sign.