Frederick Turnpike Covered Bridge
WORLD GUIDE #
||1850 or earlier
The first evidence of a covered bridge over Gwynns Falls on the Frederick Turnpike comes from the Baltimore Sun on March 25, 1850. An ad was placed for the Mount Olivet Cemetery, just west of the city limits and mentions the covered bridge over Gywnns Falls. At the time, the Baltimore city limits on the west side did not extend nearly as far west as it does today. The old limit was near where the current Frederick Road meets West Pratt Street. Maps of the mid 1850s often refer to Gwynns Falls as Gwinns Falls, which probably stems from the name of one of the area's first settlers, Richard Gwin. Mount Olivet Cemetery remains on the north side of Frederick Road just west of Gwynns Falls. In part the Sun article read:
The location (Mount Olivet Cemetery) is about one mile beyond the city limits, immediately on the Frederick Road. The superintendent, Mr. Wesley Disney, resides on the premises, and will pay every attention to visitors, and receive applications for lots. The entrance gate is on the hill immediately after passing the covered bridge over Gwynn's Falls, about one quarter mile beyond the turnpike gate.
The Catonsville Railway, a horse drawn car system, was constructed in the early 1860s. The first stretch of the track was to be laid out over the Frederick Road from the west side of the city to Catonsville. The Baltimore Sun reported on November 27, 1860 that the "survey for the track has been completed and work is ready to begin." On March 20, 1861 the Sun announced the new railway is anticipated to be completed in August:
The route will lie over the Frederick Turnpike. The covered bridge over Gwynn's Falls will be removed, and give place to a neat and substantial iron bridge immediately south of the present bridge. It will be raised considerably above the grade of the old bridge, to avoid the steep hill on either side.
The Sun reported on March 28, 1861 that "an iron bridge of 80 feet will be thrown up over the stream," and on May 24, 1861 that "the bridge for Gwynn's Falls is nearly completed, and will be put up during the summer." Yet another article on October 14, 1861 said "the abutments for the new iron bridge are already completed. The iron work for the bridge is already on the ground and will be put up in a short time." The new iron bridge was finally completed on November 28, 1861. It was built by Bollman and Tegmeyer and was named "The Wilkens Viaduct." The November article also mentioned "it will supply the place of the old covered wooden bridge so long used for the turnpike crossway." Delays obviously took place for the railway's first car was not placed on the tracks until July 24, 1862.
Ironically, the removal of the covered bridge may not have been the best of ideas. By December of 1866 the bridge was lost to a freshet and bid proposals for building a new bridge were advertised. The ad included accepting proposals for an iron bridge and a wooden covered bridge, spanning 100 feet long and 30 feet wide. A temporary bridge was constructed but was taken down by the freshet of mid-August, 1867. On August 17, 1867 an article about the 1867 freshet in the Baltimore Sun confirmed that the bridge lost in 1866 was replaced with an iron bridge, not another wooden covered bridge:
On the line of Gwynn's Falls creek, in the western suburbs, the damage was very great. The temporary bridge on the Frederick road, over the stream, was torn away at 2-1/2 o'clock yesterday morning by the rush of waters and floating timbers from above. The same bridge was washed away at the last previous freshet, and stout stone piers, thirty feet or more in height, are in course of erection, upon which it is designed to construct a permanent iron bridge."