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Pennsylvania's Covered Bridges (Images of America


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"Fred Moll was a young man from Reading when he first came to Lancaster County for a road rally in the 1960s.
The nighttime event took a course through three covered bridges, he said, and although he couldn't see them very well in the darkness, ""it sounded so cool to go through them, I wanted to see them during the day.""
So Moll soon headed back to Lancaster to get a gander at those bridges -- and that started a lifelong interest in their history and construction.
Now, a half-century later, Arcadia Publishing is releasing Moll's latest book, ""Pennsylvania's Covered Bridges,"" which celebrates the stylish feats of engineering with more than 200 vintage images.
""The majority of the bridges that are in the book are no longer standing,"" Moll said.
The book, which is scheduled for release Monday, is part of Arcadia's ""Images of America"" series. It is dominated by black-and-white photos, although Moll also has provided text detailing the history of many of the bridges.
""I wanted to learn more about the people that built them and how they were built,"" he said.
""They measured these pieces of wood with rather crude instruments. They didn't have digital equipment; they didn't have electric saws or cranes. Everything was done by hand. That's fascinating to me.""
The first covered bridge was built in Pennsylvania in 1805. In their heyday, more than 1,500 of them crossed streams and rivers in the state.
Although just over 200 remain today, Pennsylvania still has the nation's highest number of covered spans.
But Moll said he's worried that the remaining number will dwindle.
""It really hadn't hit me until we hit this recession,"" he said. ""They remained fairly constant for the last 50 years. But now, funding for taking care of the bridges has been cut. It worries me what the future holds in store.""
In Berks County and throughout much of the state, ""they're not being taken care of very well any more,"" Moll said.
""In Lancaster, the people in power realize what an attraction they are, and they keep their bridges in pretty good shape. But throughout the rest of the state, I worry that we're going to lose more bridges.""
Moll is the historian for the Theodore Burr Covered Bridge Society and is a member of the Historical Society of Berks County and the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges. He has written five books on bridges, and many of the photos included in this latest volume are from his private collection.
""There are a lot of different types of bridges around. Iron, concrete, what have you,"" he said. ""Covered bridges have always sparked people's interest because you can be surrounded by them. It's like entering a historic building, a whole structure.
""You're engulfed in the bridge itself."""
Lancaster New Era, Tom Knapp

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