PERRINES COVERED BRIDGE ULSTER COUNTY NY-56-01
Built in 1844 by Benjamin Wood. A single span of 154′ crossing the Wallkill. Displays a Burr Arch truss. Rehabilitated in 1993. North of New Paltz on Rt. 32, then right on CR 213 for .3 miles. Bridge will be on your left. GPS: N41° 49.052′ W074° 03.306′
PERRINE’S BRIDGE NY-56-01
Perrine’s Bridge was originally built by Benjamin Wood in 1844, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as of April 13, 1973.
It is located in the Town of Esopus-Rosendale between mile markers 81 & 82 on the New York State Thruway, near the junction of State Route 32 & 213, west of Rifton. It is over the Wallkill, a single span of 138 feet in length of Burr Arch truss.
PERRINE COVERED BRIDGE
The Perrine’s Covered Bridge is one of five covered bridges still standing in Ulster County. It is owned and maintained by Ulster County and carries pedestrian traffic across the Wallkill River.
Built by Benjamin Wood in 1844, this 154-foot long, single span structure incorporates the Burr arch design patented in 1817 by Theodore Burr of Torringford, Connecticut. It is one of three authentic Burr arch truss bridges (the other two being the Hyde Hall and Salisbury Center Covered Bridges) and the longest standing Burr arch covered bridge in the state. It is also the second oldest bridge in New York (the first also being Hyde Hall). The total cost to build the Perrine Covered Bridge in 1844 was approximately $2,200.
The Perrine’s Covered Bridge is named for French Huguenot immigrant James W. Perrine, a descendant of Daniel Perrin “The Huguenot”, who owned a tavern/hotel near the bridge site. He was an immigrant from France who settled in Dashville on a farm at the turn of the century. The name Perrine is pronounced with a long ‘i’ and is sometimes shortened by natives of the area so that when they speak of the bridge, it sounds like “Pine’s Bridge.”
Following his father’s death, son James H. Perrine, managed the tavern/hotel. He was the official “bridge snower” for the bridge since his establishment was conveniently located near the bridge. It was his job to keep the bridge floor covered with snow in the winter so sleds could cross, thus the term “snowing the bridge.” Between 1858 and 1860, the tavern/hotel also served as the local post office.
On March 29, 1844, an act was proposed by the New York State Assembly authorizing the supervisors of Ulster County to raise $1,500 to build such a bridge. Two months later, on May 6th, a law was passed providing $700 of state aid for the span. From these facts it is probably safe to assume that construction cost was around $2,200.
The first repairs on record for the wooden span occurred in 1917. In October 1916, the Town of Esopus records show that the town authorized an inspection of the bridge by an engineer, the cost of the examination not to exceed $15.00. On November 18, 1916, the board held a meeting at the bridge and declared it condemned and unsafe for travel. A resolution was adopted to employ a competent wood bridge builder to examine the framework and foundations. The County Superintendent would prepare plans and specifications from the examination, and these plans would be submitted to the town boards of Rosendale and Esopus. The repaired bridge needed to be capable of supporting eight ton. Bids would be advertised, with the lowest being accepted.
On May 29, 1917, James F. Loughran, County Superintendent of Highways was present at the Esopus Town board meeting to discuss the bridge repair project. It was decided to spend no more than $3,000, the cost to be paid equally by each town. Bids went out, and by August 28th it was awarded to T. I. Rifenbarry and son of Kingston, New York for the sum of $3,190. Work progressed for the following two and a half months, and in mid-November the Esopus town board again convened at the site to inspect and approve the completed repairs which mainly involved the flooring.
By the early 1930s, there was again growing concern that the span was weakening. This time, repairmen attempted to strengthen the structure by putting several tons of beams under the flooring, but this only increased the strain on the already weakened arches.
In 1940, the County Board of Supervisors, again being worried about the aging and worsening condition of the bridge, carried a resolution calling for repair and upkeep; however, no money was appropriated for the work. In 1946, the bridge was finally closed to traffic. Through the years sporadic attempts to save the bridge were made – mostly by politicians who looked on the landmark as a vote-getter. “Old Perrie” soon became a veteran of the campaign trails, but the political promises remained unfulfilled.
Finally, in November of 1966 the County Board of Supervisors declared that the bridge was in dire need of repair. Since A.E. Milliken, Architect of Kingston, New York had offered his services (free of charge) for a cost estimate, the board accepted his offer. They resolved to appoint two members of the board, one of each political party, to act as representatives on the “Save the Perrine’s’ Bridge Committee” to help restore the historical landmark. This was moved to adoption with total acceptance. Interest mounted and action seemed inevitable. In early January 1967, a large rally was held at the bridge, commencing a campaign for restoration. About three hundred people attended, including the respective town bridge committees, town supervisors, Boy and Girl Scout troops, the Rifton Youth Club as well as many other groups.
One interesting banner being displayed was aptly timed, considering a recent press release of the Wallkill Valley Flood Control Committee. The banner quoted Proverbs 23:10: “Remove not the old landmarks and enter not into the fields of the fatherless.”
From this point on, the Perrine’s Bridge Committee eagerly dug in. The president, John Grady, was a resident of Rifton and was also acting project director. The organization’s first big task was to prevent the Wallkill Valley Flood Control Committee from removing and relocating the bridge. The Flood Control Committee was claiming the bridge abutments contributed to the flooding of the valley. Fortunately, after much study of the area in question and its flooding history, Kenneth Hasbrouck of the Huguenot Historical Society, checked back in old records which clearly showed that flooding of the Flats in New Paltz had occurred for more than a century before the covered bridge was built, thus the existence of the bridge was not leading to flood.
On January 24, 1967, Mr. Milliken and Mr. Richard Sherman, civil engineer, inspected the bridge as agreed upon and submitted a letter of information to the Perrine’s Bridge Committee. These two inspectors “found it in danger of collapse if action were not taken immediately to replace the temporary supports at the four points where the structure had failed. This is not a difficult or expensive thing to do, but it must be done at once if the bridge is to be saved. The situation was critical. One heavy snow storm might mean the end.” Local residents responded to this urgency. On Saturday, February 4th, temporary repairs to support the decayed ends were done, at no cost, by road crews from the towns on both sides who volunteered men and supplies.
On June 29, 1969, re-dedication ceremonies took place at the Perrine’s Covered Bridge. It was quite the celebration with many area residents and dignitaries in attendance.
When traveling north on the NY State (I-87) Thruway near New Paltz, be sure to look for the Perrine’s Covered Bridge between mile markers 81 and 82 as it can be seen from this highway. But traveling at 65 mph, you will have to look quickly to see it.
Note: On April 25, 2015, the Ulster Legislature authorized $350,000 for restoration and improvements of the Perrine’s Covered Bridge.
Excerpted from Timbers of Time by Patricia Bartel Smith.