For many years my hobby was taking photos of covered bridges and traveling many states and countries to find one. I have preached in New Brunswick many times and usually when I am there stay with some friends in Hartland, a small town in New Brunswick that has a population of about 900. My first time in Hartland I did not realize the 1,282 foot Hartland Covered Bridge is the longest covered bridge in the world. It was originally constructed by the Hartland Bridge Company, which was formed by citizens on both sides of the St. John River.
The original completion date was to be May 14, 1901, but as the day approached, an emergency forced the first person to cross the bridge twelve hours early. At about 9:00 pm on Monday the 13th of May, Dr. Estey responded to an urgent call to attend to a patient on the west side of the river. Dr. Estey approached the bridge and revealed to the workers, his circumstances. Workers then placed planks so he could drive across the bridge. However, it was on July 4, 1901 the bridge was officially opened with the following tolls charged: three cents for pedestrians, six cents for a single horse and wagon, twelve cents for a double team. A strip of twenty tickets could be purchased for fifty cents.
The bid for $27,945.00 was unanimously accepted by the board of directors from Albert Brewer, of Woodstock. In 1898, the Hon. H.R. Emmerson told the Board of trade delegation that a permanent bridge would cost between $70,000.00 and $80,000.00. The bridge would be eight steel spans. Since the bridge was built out of cedar spruce and hard pine and local businessmen were used, the costs came in at a much lower amount.
It was in 1922 that the bridge was covered and in the early years snow had to be hauled and placed on the floor so the sleds could easily travel on it in the winter.
The Olympic torch was carried through the bridge as part of celebrations of the 1988 Winter Olympics held in Calgary.
Besides being the longest covered bridge in the world, it is a wishing bridge. When you enter the bridge, you make a wish, close your eyes, cross your fingers and hold your breath. Make certain you are not the driver! If you can do this for the entire length of the bridge, your wish is very likely to come true.
This tradition is as old as the bridge. Sometimes it is varied by simply saying that you will have good luck if you can hold your breath until you have crossed the entire length of the bridge. A legend has already developed during these years that it is a kissing bridge. This is said to have come about during the years when this covered structure was used mainly by horses and wagons. It is said that young men trained their horses to stop about half way across the bridge. The horse would wait until the couple shared a couple of kisses and then it would continue to the other side of the bridge.
Today, you can see many couples going to the bridge to share a kiss and receive the special feeling of their love with the spirit of the grand old bridge. We are certain that the bridge’s spirit will look favorable on these couples.
A good example of this was in September 1993, when Charmaine Laffoley and David Hunt of Toronto became the first couple to be married on the bridge.
My wife and I have been across it a number of times, but before I learned of the kissing tradition. Next time!