A bridge to the past

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By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

Messenger photo by Linda Dillman
The Dietz-Bergstresser Bridge is a scenic destination for Canal Winchester residents and visitors like Elyse Whitmer, right, and her sister Erynn, left.

When horsepower truly meant four legs and a tail, and covered bridges dotted the landscape, Canal Winchester farmers, residents and businesses banded together to ask the county to build a bridge across Walnut Creek.

Named in honor of Daniel Bergstresser and Samuel Dietz, who helped lead a successful drive in the early 1880s to petition the Franklin County Commissioners for a bridge, it was dedicated in March 1887.

Citizens wanted an economical way to transport agricultural products across the creek to the nearby canal and railroad. A $2,650 contract was awarded to the Columbus Bridge Company, which used a patented truss system consisting of pine and oak.

“Other bridge projects were in progress in Franklin County and, in a fit of economy, the commissioners opted for a wooden rather than an iron bridge, which would have been more costly,” wrote Frances Steube and Lillian Carroll in “Canal Winchester Ohio—The Second Ninety Years.”

According to the Steube/Carroll book, the bridge was erected with 134 foot triple truss, 119 foot clear span, 16 foot overall width with a 13 foot roadway. It was the last wooden bridge constructed in Ohio and today is the last covered bridge in Franklin County.

When the road crossing the bridge was turned over to the state in the early 1930s it officially became State Route 674. In the 1950s, the road was redirected and bypassed the covered bridge.

In 1974, the bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. An Ohio Historical Marker, erected in 1992, is located near the bridge at the corner of Ashbrook Road and Washington Street.

“In 1987 at the 100th birthday celebration of the bridge, John Circle, county engineer, first mentioned his intention to turn the bridge over to the ownership of Canal Winchester,” wrote Steube and Carroll.

Three years later, a company specializing in bridge restoration evaluated the condition of the Dietz-Bergstresser Bridge. In the summer of 1991, work involving the replacement of rotten timbers, deck repair, new siding and new shingles was finished and the bridge was officially turned over to the town of Canal Winchester.

Mayor Mike Ebert said the bridge has a lot of meaning and memories for many city residents and former residents often revisit the covered bridge when they return to Canal Winchester to visit family or attend an event.

“Those old enough at the time to leave the watchful eye of their parents would spend hours in the hot summer at the covered bridge swimming or fishing,” said Ebert. “I’ve heard there were some pretty good catches below the old bridge. The covered bridge will be in need of planned repairs within the next few years. Replacement of some side and floorboards will be the focus of the repairs.”

According to Steube and Carroll, at one time there were several nearby covered bridges. The Waterloo/Shade bridge on Waterloo Road was built in 1883 and taken down in 1980. A bridge on Diley Road (Loucks bridge) on the outskirts of the village of Waterloo was closed in 1981, dismantled and moved to Texas.

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