Chelsea is currently reviewing bids for the much-needed repair work on the town’s only covered bridge. The Moxley Bridge, a 19th century “queen post” truss bridge, sits at the northern end of a tightly packed cluster of six historic covered bridges that span the First Branch.
Constructed in 1883, the bridge requires modest repairs to the lower portions of its truss and bearing blocks, which have begun to rot, according to J.B. McCarthy, a longtime bridge maintenance engineer with the Agency of Transportation. “It’s getting a new deck and some repairs to the chords [which are] the bottom pieces of the timber truss,” said Mc- Carthy, who says that although the repairs are estimated to cost approximately $56,000, the repairs required for the Moxley Bridge are relatively minor for a 200-year-old bridge.
“It’s not a big job compared to some of the other bridges that we do,” said McCarthy, “Some of them, we have to take the whole bridge apart and go member by member,” he said, referring to the process of laboriously checking for insect damage from the powderpost beetle, which can wreak havoc for timber-framed structures.
“That’s something you don’t see until you take apart the joints,” McCarthy said. “The stuff [inside] is just powder.”
A total of five bids were submitted to repair the 57-foot queen post structure, from Hook Construction; Randall Hoyt; Blow & Cote; Thompson Timber; and Wright Construction respectively.
Tests of Time
Like all of Vermont’s covered bridges, the Moxley Bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places, earning its 1974 nomination for comprising part of “one of the most concentrated groups of covered bridges in Vermont,” according to documents submitted to the U.S. Department of the Interior.
“They’re very well built,” said McCarthy in a telephone interview. A 38-year veteran of the AOT, McCarthy admires the 19th century ingenuity required to construct much of Vermont’s covered bridges. “A lot of them are quite clever in terms of the joinery and how they tie the members together.”
The Moxley Bridge is itself unique and ingenious in several ways. Its eastern abutment is constructed mostly from dry-laid stones that were meticulously fitted together by hand after being carefully placed atop an outcrop of bedrock. Another unique feature, due mostly to engineering necessity, is the bridge’s shape.
In order to adequately meet the angles of the river crossing, the bridge’s queen post trusses, which use two vertical beams to help support the roadway, are skewed ever-so-slightly, forming a very subtle parallelogram whose sides span the First Branch.
“They’re good examples of workmanship from the past,” said McCarthy. “Some of these things were built in the 1800s. They’ve stood the test of time.”