The Battle for "Bunker Hill" - myfoxcarolinas.com

The Battle for "Bunker Hill"

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Bunker Hill Covered Bridge in Claremont, NC was built in 1894. Bunker Hill Covered Bridge in Claremont, NC was built in 1894.
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CLAREMONT, NC - In 1894, a new bridge was built in Claremont. It was actually a mandate from the county to local land owners. At the time, it is doubtful anyone could have predicted the structure’s historical significance.

“It’s one of the last remaining intact covered bridges in North Carolina,” said Melinda Herzog, Director of Catawba County Historical Association (CCHA). “In fact, it’s really the only covered bridge left in North Carolina that is in its original condition on its original site.”

The bridge is also important to civil engineers around the world.

“The bridge is unique because it was also designed by a very important figure in engineering history, and that’s Herman Haupt,” said Herzog. “He designed, in the early 1800’s, a new mathematical system of calculating bridge loads that makes this bridge a National Civil Engineering Landmark. It’s the last one of that design standing in the United States.”

Despite its history, the bridge has had its share of recent problems.

“Being over a hundred years old, the bridge of course shows signs of wear,” said Joshua Cummings, Director of Marketing for the Catawba County Historical Association. “One thing would be to check the footing that actually holds the bridge up off the water…we have to preserve that wood and make sure the wood can still hold itself up. So, we have many a man hours here looking over different parts of the bridge making sure that we can maintain it.”

The structure has survived multiple floods, including one in 1916 that wiped out almost every other bridge in Catawba County. The floods of 2013 were not as kind.

“There was severe damage to the underpinning of the bridge,” said Herzog. “Both the scour walls and the dry stack stone embankment walls that protect the footing of this bridge.”

The CCHA has received a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to repair the bridge. If bad weather returns, the bridge could risk further damage.

“Any significant rain could be enough to undermine the soil beneath the bridge abutments, and the bridge could slip into the river,” Herzog said.

Soon, work will begin to repair the footing, and then the focus will shift from weather-related destruction to the manmade variety.


“Vandalism, of any kind, graffiti, is a huge thing here that we try to protect against and repair,” said Cummings.

Melinda Herzog hopes the bridge remains for generations to come.

“With care and maintenance, it can be here for another 100 years,” she said. “And, so we really want to see this preserved and it can be preserved with the help of the public.”
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