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"Volunteers replace roof on historic bridge" - Gazette.Net, June 11, 2009

Thurmont, Maryland

by Katherine Mullen | Staff Writer, Gazette.Net

Dean Fitzgerald knows a lot about the Roddy Road covered bridge north of Thurmont, even though the names of those who crafted it in 1856 are lost to history.

As a boy growing up in Thurmont, Fitzgerald said he swam and played in Owens Creek with his siblings under the historic, wooden bridge — one of only three covered bridges in Frederick County dating to the 19th century.

"It has lasted and it continues to serve our community," Fitzgerald said. "Build something right and it will outlast anyone alive."

On Saturday, Fitzgerald and a team of more than 20 volunteers pitched in to remove the flimsy, rusted metal roof that was nailed to the bridge, and replaced it with a standing seam metal roof made from sheets of galvanized steel and clips that interlock.

The new roof should last 100 years, Fitzgerald said, and must be painted in 10 to 15 years.

In a letter to the Frederick County Board of Commissioners in March, Fitzgerald wrote that he and his wife would replace the roof at no cost to county residents because they see it as a way to give back to the community and nation when it is needed most. He said the cost of materials for the project totaled $1,365.

Fitzgerald is president and CEO of Fitzgerald's Heavy Timber Construction Inc., a consulting and contracting company in Thurmont that specializes in new timber-frame construction and historic restoration. The company had previously restored all three of the county's covered bridges—Roddy Road, Utica Mills and Loys Station.

The team of employees, friends and acquaintances started the daylong task of replacing the metal roof at 7:30 a.m. Two hours later, the old, worn-out roof installed in 1978 was gone, leaving behind a wooden lattice-work structure.

Standing on the bridge's 40-foot single span, Fitzgerald said the bridge's construction is basic and features trunnels, or wooden pegs that swell and contract with the bridge depending on temperature and barometric pressure.

"If you really pay attention, you learn a lot from the building," Fitzgerald said.

The bridge was fashioned out of heavy, strong oak, some chestnut and black locust, which Fitzgerald calls "Mother Nature's pressure-treated lumber." Douglas Fir trees provided the wood for the bridge's burgundy-painted siding.

Tacked on the mouth of the bridge is an inventory form for state historical sites written in 1977. It describes the Roddy Road bridge as being Maryland's smallest covered, wooden plank bridge resting on five steel stringers with two stone abutments.

Today, the bridge is a popular thoroughfare for people driving to Emmitsburg or to access U.S. Route 15, said John Kinnaird, who was taking photos of the roof installation for Thurmont's Web site.

"Every time you come down here, there's people coming in both directions," he said.

But when the bridge was first constructed, "these were the roads people traveled before they put Route 15 in," Kinnaird said of Roddy Road and Roddy Creek Road.

The roads were closed to vehicular traffic on Saturday, though groups of cyclists and walkers still managed to pass through the construction.

Chris Haugh, special projects manager for the Tourism Council of Frederick County, also stopped by with his son on Saturday to watch the new roof installation.

Tourists come from near and far to see Frederick County's covered bridges, Haugh said, and the tourism council offers a suggested driving tour of the Roddy Road, Utica Mills and Loys Station covered bridges.

All three of the county's covered bridges are drivable and walkable, Haugh noted, unlike the other five covered bridges in the state. Having the Roddy Road bridge's roof replaced is a bonus to the work of the tourism council in encouraging visitors and residents to explore the county's scenic byways, such as U.S. Route 15, Haugh said.

"It helps us big time," he added.

Click on images below to view at larger size.


Workers remove the old roof from the Roddy Creek covered bridge. Fitzgerald's Heavy Timber Construction Inc. lead the effort, along with 20 volunteers.   (Bill Ryan photo)

Workers remove the old roof from the Roddy Creek covered bridge. Fitzgerald's Heavy Timber Construction Inc. lead the effort, along with 20 volunteers. (Bill Ryan photo)
Dillon Fitzgerald crawls on the old roof at the Roddy Creek covered bridge in Thurmont on Saturday to help with its removal. (Bill Ryan/The Gazette)

Dillon Fitzgerald crawls on the old roof at the Roddy Creek covered bridge in Thurmont on Saturday to help with its removal. (Bill Ryan/The Gazette)