Photo Friday – Harrisburg Covered Bridge

Harrisburg Covered Bridge is situated east of Sevierville in north central Sevier County, south of U.S. 411 (Richardson Cove Quad, 164 SW). Located just off Old State Highway 35, the bridge spans the East Fork of the Little Pigeon River.

The community of Harrisburg has contained a bridge at this location since the mid-1800s. Known as the McNutts Bridge, it washed away in 1875. In March of that same year, the Sevier County Court appointed a committee of J.H. Frame, A.E. Murphy, and D.W. Howard to oversee the rebuilding of the bridge. As was common then, local citizens contributed to the replacement of the bridge. Although only $50 could be privately raised, the Harrisburg community provided the wood and labor for the replacement structure. The county donated $25.

The county hired Elbert Stephenson Early to build a covered bridge. Elbert Early (1850-1917), along with several members of his family, moved to the Harrisburg area of Sevier County in the 1870s. Several members of the Early family were skilled carpenters, millwrights, and engineers. They built Murphy Chapel and several residences in the area. In 1877, Elbert Early purchased half interest in the Newport Mill, adjacent to the Harrisburg Covered Bridge, from Alexander Umbarger, a relative of his wife, Clementine (1843-1922).

In the late 1800s, the Harrisburg community grew, and with its several mills, blacksmith shops, a school, a doctor, and a post office, prospered. However, in 1915 the county built a new road that bypassed Harrisburg and the community disappeared.

Over the years, Sevier County has actively maintained the bridge, keeping it open for traffic as many other covered bridges were replaced. In 1952, Bill Baker and a county road crew stabilized the bridge which included the placement of a concrete pier at the center of the truss. As a result, this span functioned as two timber stringers. By the 1970s, the bridge was deteriorated and facing possible demolition when the Great Smokies Chapter and the Spencer Clack Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) raised funds to repair and maintain the bridge as well as seeking listing for it on the National Register of Historic Places. The Harrisburg Covered Bridge was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 for its significance as a rare surviving example of a covered timber truss bridge.

In 1983, the bridge had deteriorated and faced closure, but the county renovated the bridge with new flooring and replaced some of the timber beams, allowing the bridge to remain open but posted it with a 3-ton weight limit.

The bridge, which is 83 feet long, contains a 64-foot timber Queenpost pony truss and an 18-foot steel I-beam span. A covered structure topped with a gable tin roof encases the truss section. The bridge has a curb-to-curb width of 11.4 feet and an out-to-out width of 14.1 feet.

Through a grant from the National Historic Covered Bridge Preservation Program through the Federal Highway Administration and TDOT, Sevier County rehabilitated the Harrisburg Covered Bridge, extensively repairing the bridge in 2004. Lichtenstein Consulting Engineers, of Watertown, Connecticut, developed the renovation plans, and the Ray Bell Construction Company, of Nashville, completed the work. It was reopened for traffic, with a 15-ton weight limit, on 2 December 2004.

Source: Tennessee Dept. of Transportation


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