After being closed to vehicular traffic almost forty years ago and having been neglected since that time, a Jackson County landmark is now undergoing a major restoration.
One mile east of Medora, Indiana in Jackson County, a national landmark is under restoration. The Medora Covered Bridge was built in 1875 by famed Indiana bridge builder Joseph J. Daniels. The bridge is one of several in Indiana that used a Burr truss triple arch design. The bridge is over 430 feet long, making it the longest surviving covered bridge in the United States.
Project Engineer Brad Isaacs says another feature that makes the bridge stand out is that the majority of the original elements of the bridge are still intact.
“I am guessing that probably 80% to 85% of the structure is original,” he said. “80% would probably be a good estimate on that. And that is our goal, preservation of as much historical material as we can.”
The project calls for new siding, roof shingles, and structural restoration to maximize the bridge’s historical preservation. One group that has been actively involved is the Friends of the Medora Covered Bridge and Area.
President Morris Tippin says that the restoration project has big potential benefits for the Medora community.
“It could mean a lot,” said Tippin. “It could be an economic stimulus for the area with people coming in, spending money here, spending time here and that sort of thing, and just kind of promoting the area here.”
The Friends of the Medora Covered Bridge has also been lobbying to add security cameras. Town festival chairman Bill Drees says since its closure to car traffic in 1972, the bridge has seen several incidents of vandalism.
“We’ve had problems since I was on the police department in `74 with vandalism,” he said. “People taking sides off, stealing the boards, and things like that. They would have to keep watch on it and I would have to patrol out here several times a night when I was working on the police department.”
The project has also drawn the attention of state officials, including INDOT chief of staff Robert Zier, who visited the site earlier this year. Zier also carried out a plan to improve the park area near the bridge.
“Mr. Zier did not waste any time,” said Issacs. “He stepped up and he said,’ I think that’s an absolutely wonderful idea.’ He says ‘When I get in the van, I’ll make a phone call and take care of it.’ Mr. Robert Zier has kept his word and we have concrete picnic tables coming this spring for the rest area.”
The restoration is set to be complete in the spring of 2011.