Wertz’s Covered Bridge, also known as the Red Covered Bridge, is a historic wooden covered bridge located at Bern Township and Spring Township in Berks County, Pennsylvania.
The bridge, a 204-foot-long, Burr Truss bridge, crosses the Tulpehocken Creek and serves as the walkway entrance to the Berks County Heritage Center, which also includes the historic Gruber Wagon Works.
The bridge was constructed in 1867 and took the name of Wertz’s Bridge, named after Wertz’s Mill, which was a prominent mill located 0.3 miles downstream on the west bank. About 1916 Wertz’s Mill was destroyed by fire and today little remains of the mill.
Wertz’s Bridge was the second longest single span covered bridge built in Berks County, only to be superseded by the 240 foot Stoudt’s Ferry Bridge (1856-1948). Today Wertz’s Bridge has the distinction of being the longest remaining single-span covered bridge in Pennsylvania.
In 1936, by an act of legislature, all the bridges on State highways in Pennsylvania were taken over by the Pennsylvania Department of Highways. Several years after this, the State painted the bridge white. However very little repairs were done to the bridge, and the bridge became neglected. There became a period of time when both the State and the County rebutted ownership of the bridge. The County regained possession of the bridge on May 27, 1954, only after the State said that if officially gave up ownership on October 1, 1953.
On April 10 barricades were erected at both ends of the bridge. During the next four months, the County spent $1438.79 on Wertz’s Bridge. Four steel cables were connected to the west end of the bridge for support, several wooden bracing beams were replaced, and some floor planks were replaced. After this reinforcing, the bridge was opened to traffic on August 3, when the Warren Street Bypass traffic was rerouted for the construction of a cloverleaf at the intersection of the West Shore Bypass. For the next three months a policeman was on duty at the bridge during the rush hours of 6 AM to 9 AM and from 3:30 PM to 6:30 PM to allow only two cars through the bridge at a time.
Wertz’s Bridge was closed for good on October 23, 1959 when the Warren Street Bypass was reopened. The main reason given for the closing of the bridge was additional structural failure in an arch at the upper stream northern corner of the bridge. Barricades were erected and signs posted to direct traffic to use the Van Reed covered bridge located one mile upstream.
In April of 1960 the county commissioners considered dismantling the bridge and selling the 150 tons of wood. The erection of a newer and more modern bridge in the nearby vicinity was discussed.
In July of 1960 the county commissioners had offered Harry Lomis of Eden, New York, a contract to buy the bridge. Mr. Lomis was in the market to buy a covered bridge, but decided against buying this one.
The bridge was reinforced and painted red again by the County in 1962 at a cost of $648.58.
The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 17, 1978. From June until December 1984 the bridge was restored. The siding was replaced, several floor boards were replaced, it was jacked up, realigned, tightened, camber restored, and the rotted arch ends were replaced along with cedar roof shingles.
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