Between the mid 1800s and early 1900s, covered bridges began to appear over Maine’s mighty rivers, allowing travelers in horse drawn carriages to forge rivers without getting swept downstream. These wooden structures had roofs added to protect them from the elements. At one time there were 120 covered bridges in the state of Maine, but fire, flood, ice, redevelopment and the great freshet of 1896 have removed all but eight. Two other covered bridges, recently lost to fire and flood, have been reconstructed and are considered to have historical importance. On March 26, 1983 the Morse Bridge in Bangor was destroyed by fire; there are no plans to rebuild it. The remaining covered bridges—Artist's Bridge, Babb's Bridge, Bennett Bridge, Hemlock Bridge, Lovejoy Bridge, Lowe's Bridge, Porter Bridge, and Robeyvlle Bridge—are scattered throughout the state.
The roof and siding of a covered bridge—designed to protect it from the elements—give this structure its familiar outline. Some are thought to be more picturesque than others—Maine’s Artist’s Covered Bridge over the Sunday River in Newry, for example, has always been a favorite, and someone has said that artists have daubed more paint on their canvases depicting the structure than was ever slapped on its venerable sides. Other bridges look a little like barns unexpectedly left stranded across a stream.
The bridges were covered for one reason—to keep the rain and snow from the massive working timbers. The alternate wetting and drying out of uncovered wooden structures would have resulted in rot and failure decades sooner.
Many people think of covered bridges as quaint relics of the past. Others become expert in describing the manner in which they were built. But, in either case, they represent the inventiveness and know-how of our forefathers, and it seems fitting that they should be saluted for their engineering as well as their charm. In several cases, modern steel and concrete structures have been built nearby to serve the traffic formerly carried by these bridges. These "retired" covered bridges serve as reminders of the skill of Maine's early bridge builders, including Palmer, Paddleford, Burr, Town, Long and Howe.