Theodore Burr Covered Bridge Society of Pennsylvania, Inc.

Annual Christmas Dinner and Meeting

December 10, 2016


President Tom Walczak called the meeting to order at 1.00 p.m. welcoming everyone to our Annual Christmas dinner.

NEW MEMBERS AND GUESTS:  Guests included Uriah Orland (Janet Orland’s youngest son) and Stacey Drywal (Judy Talmonti’s daughter).  New members Anita and Bob Ford attended.


Treasurer Bob Kuether read the monthly treasurer’s report.  We had no new members join in November.  Total membership as of October 31, 2016 is 289 members (18 more than 1 year ago).  Many more renewals have come in since then.  Treasurer’s report was approved as read.


Tom reminded everyone that donations were being accepted today for our Bridge Preservation Fund.  Donations can be placed in the covered bridge model on the table in the front of the room.



Clyde and Alda Sheib - Luminaries at Kennedy Bridge (PA-15-13 #2) will be held Friday/Saturday evenings, December 16-17th at dusk. The bridge has been decorated with wreaths on each portal. 

Joe McCarthy hiked a trail Thanksgiving weekend in VA where he saw a romantic shelter.  He and Arnie (his father-in-law) also visited Sheeder-Hall (PA-15-12) to see the damage.  It’s in bad condition, rotted timbers, but will be totally fixed.  His company will bid on the job.  His company won the bid for the Blenheim Bridge (NY-48-01 #2) rebuilding.  They have been contacted already by the Guinness Book of World Records as it will be recorded as the longest single span covered bridge in the U.S.  The work will require 22 truckloads of timber.  He showed several pen and ink drawings of the bridge which is a 210’ clear span bridge.  It will take one year to rebuild – 6 months in their facility and 6 months on site.  It is expected to be ready to be raised December 1, 2017.  It will be used for weddings and other special events.

Pam Mailey helped out with the country store at Knoebel’s and the Harrisburg Christmas Show.  She reported that sales were about $1,200 at the Christmas Show and that she had a lot of fun at both events.  She encouraged others to volunteer to help at events.


President Tom Walczak reported that Knox  (PA-15-15#2) is now open to traffic.  He visited McClelland Bridge (OH-15-02 #2) in Columbiana County, Ohio since the last meeting.  The work on the bridge is finished with exception of landscaping and roadwork still being done.  Mostly new timbers were used in the rehabilitation.  It looks very nice!

First Vice President, Jim Smedley – He and Gloria attended the NYSCBS dinner on November 13th.  While in NY they stopped by Downsville Bridge (NY-13-01 #2), Fitch’s (NY-13-02 #2), Hamden (NY-13-03 #2) and from a distance through the bare trees and using a zoom lens were able to get photos of the new Tuscarora Club Bridge (NY-13-05 #2).  They also visited 12 covered bridges in southeast Ohio the end of November.  The nicest bridge was Helmick Mill Bridge (OH-58-35), but graffiti in the bridge and on the rocks below the bridge destroyed the scenery.  Foraker Bridge (OH-56-14) was recently rehabilitated and looked really nice as did Rinard Bridge (OH-84-28 #2). For the most part, the bridges were in fair to good condition with the exception of the three mentioned above.

The deadline for PA Crossings Newsletter is February 5th the day of our first meeting next year. 

Second Vice President, Ray Finkelstein - With Linda’s knee replacement, he did not have time to visit any bridges other than Bogert’s (PA-39-01) where he takes a walk.  He thanked everyone for all for the well-wishing cards that were sent to Linda.  He did two presentations one to the Emmaus Historical Society (about 40 plus in attendance), the second in the Lower Macungie Library with about 15 in attendance.   He will have all the information, such as the hotels and bridges we will visit on the 2017 Safari by the February meeting.  The dates are June 3rd thru the 5th (Saturday thru Monday).  He and Linda took a trip in September and he has a few motels in mind but nothing has been finalized.  Ray helped at the Farm show on Saturday.  He had some laminated cards for anyone interested to keep in their wallet or cars when they meet people interested in covered bridges.  They can also be dropped at locations like restaurants, libraries, supermarket bulletin boards or any public area that you see business cards or local notices being left (or use our business card). 

Third Vice President, Steve Wolfhope attended the decorating event at Poole Forge Covered Bridge (PA-36-01).

Fourth Vice President, Tim McLaughlin visited several bridges with his wife Connie.  These included Smith’s (DE-02-01#2), Speakman #1 (PA-15-05), Knox, Rapps (PA-15-14), Kennedy (PA-15-13#2), and Sheeder-Hall.  Sheeder-Hall is closed with horrible damage resulting from the recent overturned vehicle accident.  This morning they visited Bitzer’s Mill (PA-36-04).  Work is proceeding there – roof has been raised about 18 inches, roof skeleton was on, no covering/siding yet.  They are heading to OH for New Year’s and a family event and hope to visit bridges in Western PA and Eastern OH.

Recording Secretary, Gloria Smedley - no report.

Corresponding Secretary / Program Chair Pamela A. Heisey was absent but sent greetings and holiday wishes to all.

Treasurer Bob Kuether announced he will need volunteers for taking down decorations at Poole Forge.  He recently picked up book donations from Jersey Joe’s home and books were delivered to him by Brian McKee.  He plans to hold a silent auction for books only at the February meeting. 


Historian Fred J. Moll shared two articles in the Reading Eagle about Dreibelbis Bridge (PA-06-07): 

1.  Berks’ Most Haunted Places-Reading Eagle, October 23, 2016.  A story is told of how a man was riding a one-horse sleigh on what is now Route 143 during a snow storm.  As he turned into the bridge the runners of the sleigh hit the dry floorboards of the bridge, the sleigh turned over on its side, and the reins wrapped around the neck of the driver and his head was snapped off.  The most lurid account of this story claim that his head was never found, and on dark nights, to this day, misty forms and thumping sounds of a headless man stumbling through the bridge can be heard. 

2. Landmark Bridge set for Renovation-Reading Eagle, November 26, 2016. Article about the renovation of the bridge. He attended two meetings about the bridge.  The first meeting was on November 10, 2016.  Plans were discussed around a large table at the Greenwich Township Building.  Two plans were considered: Plan One involves taking the bridge apart, assessing the condition of truss, replacing bad wood, and putting the bridge back together on four new abutments.  Plan Two involves above with steel beams added to bridge. P. Joseph Lehman is leaning toward this second plan. Two advantages with this plan are less wood would have to be replaced, and the bridge would last a longer time, hopefully another one hundred years.  With the first plan, after 15-20 years or so, most likely more wood would have to be replaced, and the person in charge of the bridge at that time might not want to repair the bridge or just tear it down.  So we are talking about a bridge with steel beams lasting a longer time and having more original wood.  Also with plan two the load limit would be increased from 3 tons to twelve tons, suitable to be used by emergency equipment.  Either way all the abutments are bad and will be replaced.  Examples of other stone abutments that were built by P. Joseph Lehman were shown.  They were of Martin’s Mill that had a concrete wall backing with a stone facing.  Fire retardant is to be applied to the interior of the bridge.  No security lights are in the plan.  Headache bar is definitely planned for both ends of the bridge.  Also mentioned were the two houses, their out buildings, and a grist mill and a saw mill, which are next to the bridge and considered to be part of a community called Dreibelbis Station.  These properties are to be protected during the reconstruction of the bridge.  Hopeful they will be saved in the future by some other funds.  The project is expected to start either in the fall of 2017 or the beginning of 2018 and will take about one year to complete.   He mentioned that as much of the original wood should be used so that the bridge would still be considered an authentic bridge.  The second meeting was held on November 22, 2016.   A notice was placed in the newspaper and the meeting was open to the public.  It was not really a meeting, just easels setup around the room with photographs and drawings of what was going to be done.  Penn DOT men were there to answer questions that people had about the project.  Fred, Ray Finkelstein and Dave Green attended this gathering.       


REPORTS OF ILLNESSES OR DEATHS: Andy Rebman, TBCBSPA member and President of the Indiana Covered Bridge Society, had a serious fall from his attic onto the concrete floor of his garage breaking his ankle in several places.  He underwent surgery to repair it.


NEW BUSINESS – Jim reported we have only 25-30 2017 calendars available!

COVERED BRIDGE ITEMS:  Greg Williams showed a 12” covered bridge model he obtained for his train garden.

APPROVAL OF MINUTES:  Minutes were approved as presented.


Various raffle items and door prizes were distributed.  Tom reminded everyone to pick up their card bags on the table at the front of the room.  He thanked Bob and Judy for her efforts in coordinating and organizing today’s event and for her, Desi and Ed’s work on the favors and raffle items. 


NEXT MEETING: Our Next Meeting will be held on Sunday, February 5th at St Paul’s Episcopal Church.  The program will be “Restoration of Five Eastern Pennsylvania Covered Bridges in Recent Years by Lancaster County Timber Frames, Inc.: Knox, Rapp’s, Speakman #1, Neff’s Mill and Siegrist’s Mill” by Joe McCarthy.


ADJOURNMENT: The meeting was adjourned at 2:15 p.m.  Tom expressed best wishes for a Happy New Year and Merry Christmas to all.


Respectfully Submitted by Recording Secretary, Gloria Smedley

December 11, 2016