Preservation, Road Trips

The Bean Blossom Covered Bridge

One of Indiana’s best-known covered bridges isn’t actually in our famous covered-bridge region (Parke and Putnam Counties). Rather, it’s in a deep valley in scenic Brown County, near the tiny town of Bean Blossom.

Bean Blossom Covered Bridge

And it’s the oldest covered bridge in the state, built by Joseph Balsey in 1880. While so many of Indiana’s covered bridges use the distinctive curved Burr arch truss, this one is built as a Howe truss.

Bean Blossom Covered Bridge

This bridge used to be on the main road from Bean Blossom to Nashville, at least until State Road 135 came along and bypassed it.

Imagery and map data © 2017 Google.

SR 135 has an interesting history here, so allow me this sidebar to tell it. When it was added to the state highway system in 1930, as SR 35, it had two segments. The first led from Indianapolis to Morgantown a few miles north of Bean Blossom. The second picked up in Brownstown, about 35 miles southeast of Nashville, and led to Mauckport on the Ohio River. That left out all of Brown County plus a little of two other counties.

By 1931, 35 was extended through Bean Blossom. You could keep driving straight and cross this covered bridge to reach Nashville, but it wasn’t state highway. Instead, 35 was routed west a few miles down what is now SR 45 to Helmsburg and then along the Helmsburg Road to Nashville, where it became Main Street. This persisted through 1934, when the modern alignment was built as a brand new road between Bean Blossom and Nashville. By 1936, US 35 had been extended into Indiana, leading SR 35 to be renumbered SR 135.

And so at no time was this bridge part of the state highway system. I don’t blame the state for not routing 135 over this bridge — the road leading away from it to the south is quite steep. The new road was built up high enough to solve that problem, as the photograph I shared yesterday shows.

Bean Blossom Covered Bridge

On the day we visited this bridge, as we left heading south we found the gravel to be mostly washed away and the dirt surface to be washboarded. My front tires had trouble keeping traction as I coaxed it up the hill.

Bean Blossom Covered Bridge

But I experienced that trouble only after we had lingered here for a while. This scene is probably much the same as it was going on 140 years ago when Balsey was building this bridge. It was lovely to soak in a little Indiana as it was.


12 thoughts on “The Bean Blossom Covered Bridge

  1. It is remarkable that the bridge has survived all this time. I wonder if there is any kind of fire suppression for this bridge? Being set on fire by vandals is the fate that some of the few covered bridges in Illinois have met. So some of the ones that have been restored actually have fairly discreet sprinkler systems. I bet getting up that hill with a horse and buggy could be an adventure.

    • It’s on a little-traveled road in a county that values all things old and rustic. Arson has been a problem with covered bridges in Indiana, too. My favorite covered bridge, at Bridgeton in Parke County, was torched in the mid 2000s but was rebuilt. I’ve only ever managed to photograph the new bridge:

    • This is where photographers have to share responsibility. In the Bay Area there are sites scattered around that have been abandoned for decades if not more. Out of the way sites that very few knew unless they stumbled across them. However, some have been discovered by today’s photographers who then post pictures. Guess what, a year later the place is overrun with people with some of them having destruction on their minds.

      My first hand experience is the Federal governments reserve fleet sitting in Suisun Bay. Some ships dating back to Dec.8,1941. The Hornet Museum has been allowed out there to harvest parts before scrapping. A photographer came along who took some great artistic photos and then posted them. This prompted two people to trespass onto a government installation and board the ships by canoe in the dead of night. Spent a weekend and posted photos.

      Wasn’t long before the Navy spotted the online photos and then they alerted the FBI, Dept. of Justice and Dept. of Transportation. They originally thought the Museum was responsible but in the end cleared us. However, we lost one full year of going out to the ships because of that episode.

  2. Hey Jim –

    Though I’ve yet to visit it, I’ve long been intrigued by this bridge for its unusual variant truss type. The World Guide classifies it as a “Modified Howe” I’ve heard others use the term Howe-Single.

    Having helped replicate a Howe I find the omission of Counter Braces to be a confusing choice in that conveyance of loads aside, they are just a useful tool in the development of camber as the truss is framed and assembled.

    What Howe like details other than vertical rods does it hold?

    Have you pictures of the connections you might be willing to share?

  3. kenny popp says:

    We visited the bridge and it as very cool, but the south end needs attention. the steel drain in the rock approach road is full of rock and needs to be cleaned out and the dirt and rock cleaned out of the bridge deck, before it rots the wood. any thoughts on who to contact? KP memphis ind.

  4. Pingback: 8 Incredible Weekend Getaways in Indiana (by a Hoosier)

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