(Top) Cranes set the first span of the restored Bridgeton Bridge framework in place Monday morning.
(Bottom) Hundreds of school children lined the banks of Big Raccoon Creek at Bridgeton Monday morning and observed the placement of the newly constructed double span covered bridge. They were all excited to be out of school for the day in order to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness history in the making.
By DIANE DIERKS
Thousands of excited onlookers stood in the streets and on the banks of Big Raccoon Creek at Bridgeton Monday morning to see spans of the new wooden bridge put in place.
People arrived before sunrise to stake out prime viewing locations. Fortunately, the early morning rain subsided and a gentle breeze kept workers and the crowd cool all day.
At 8:30 a.m. two cranes from Indianapolis rolled into town and took their positions on each side of the concrete bridge that runs parallel to the foundation of the covered bridge. The faces of hundreds of school children lit up as the huge cranes came to life. Children as far away as Lake County made the trip.
As the cranes lifted each span of the new bridge, the crowd held their breath and then erupted into cheers as the spans touched down on the stone foundations. The moment was surreal as the gigantic bridge spans hung in midair during the transfer and workers stood below, guiding them into place by hand, ensuring accuracy to the exact inch. Some people were "misty-eyed" during the move. They told stories of their involvement with the restoration and shared memories of this very special place in Parke County.
Now resting on freshly mortared stone, the new wood stands in contrast to the weathered foundation of the original bridge. The final steps of the long process that began in April, 2005, will conclude with attaching the roof and siding and installing the floor and windows. Contractor Dan Collum of Square and Level Construction hopes to finish the bridge in time for the 50th annual Parke County Covered Bridge Festival, so tourists and residents will be able to celebrate the restoration of this magnificent landmark.