Description of Historic Place
The Hartland Covered Bridge crosses the Saint John River between the Town of Hartland on Main Street and the local service district of Somerville. Concrete ramps enter an extremely long covered bridge, 390.75 metres (1282 feet) in length, with an adjoining walkway of the same length that has been described as being a covered bridge of its own. The Hartland Covered Bridge is part of the New Brunswick Highway system.
The Hartland Covered Bridge is the longest such bridge in the world and one of the most recognized structures in Canada. It is significant both for its structural qualities, its contributions to transportation in the area and as a symbol of the heritage of covered bridges in New Brunswick.
The bridge is recognized for both its individual merits and as the longest covered bridge in the world, as well as for its representation of typical covered bridge construction in New Brunswick. While not originally covered when completed in 1901, necessary repairs in 1919-21 due to excessive spring flooding resulted in the stone and timber piers being replaced with concrete ones and in the entire bridge being covered. By 1946, it had been declared the undisputed longest covered bridge in the world. Notwithstanding, its construction represents typical covered bridge design in New Brunswick, reflected in the use of heavy-timber Howe Trusses structures and concrete piers. Covered bridges were simple, economic and completed quickly to be functional. The large timber was abundant, another reason why structures like this significantly represent a period of time in the forest sector. Piers are shaped on the upriver side to aid in breaking the ice flow and withstanding the force behind the ice during spring freshet. The maintenance of the weathered unpainted materials is an ongoing effort, another reason that construction of covered bridges has decreased.
The Hartland Covered Bridge is also recognized for changing the transportation and trade dynamic between Hartland, Somerville and the rest of the region. Prior to the construction of the bridge, citizens from Somerville were forced to travel many miles on poor roads to other communities to take their products and wares to the railroad when these were directly across the river at Hartland’s railroad station. Twice, representatives from both sides of the Saint John River went to the government to generate interest in building the bridge; both times they were refused. The desire of the people for the bridge was unwavering; bonds were sold to construct the structure. The bridge joined the shores allowing farmers access to a market for their yield through the railroad and the town gained an increase in retail. Convenience and access brought professionals, such as a physician, a dentist and other businessmen, as well as trades, a military post and services such as telephone. Social activity and entertainment also increased, prompting an even greater influx in the town’s population.
The bridge also serves today as an important tourism destination, as well as symbol of New Brunswick’s heritage of covered bridges. Many of the wooden covered bridges are being replaced by steel or concrete ones. The craftsmanship, manual skill and labour, and the architectural design of the Hartland Covered Bridge have enabled it to endure for more than a century. In 1980, the bridge was commemorated as a structure of National Architectural Significance. It is a symbol of our past and a symbol of our heritage.
Sources: "Hidden History of Hartland", by Doris Kennedy, located at Hartland Town Hall ; "The Bridge", by Doris Kennedy & John Glass, located at Hartland Town Hall.
The character-defining elements of the Hartland Covered Bridge include:
- its location spanning the Saint John River between the Town of Hartland and the Local Service District of Somerville;
- the bridge’s length at 391 metres (1,282 feet), making it the longest covered bridge in the world;
- the bridge’s commemoration as a structure of National Architectural Significance;
- illumination by an interior electric light system;
- the covered pedestrian sidewalk on the downriver side.
The elements that are representative of typical covered bridge construction in New Brunswick include:
- the 7 heavy-timber Howe Truss spans;
- the concrete piers supporting the trusses, with their tapered shape on the upriver side to break ice flows;
- the shingled gable roof;
- no roof overhangs on the gable ends and roof eaves;
- lack of ornamentation;
- the vertical unpainted weather board siding material;
- the plain ends with arched portals finished with weathered boards and thin white painted trim boards.