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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.