Slaughterhouse Covered Bridge
Photograph courtesy of the Central Vermont chamber of Commerce

  Northfield Falls Covered Bridge
Photograph courtesy of the Central Vermont chamber of Commerce

The covered bridges of Vermont are among its most cherished and symbolic historic resources. Five remain in the Village of Northfield, the second highest concentration in the State. All reflect the widespread construction of covered bridges on Vermont's public highways from around 1820 to 1904, one of the highlights in Vermont's transportation history. Covered bridges were roofed and enclosed to protect the wooden structural elements from the weather, which in Vermont can be quite harsh. Little more than 100 covered bridges remain in the State, the result of expanding highway systems, intensive commercial development, and physical neglect. Still, Vermont has the greatest concentration of covered bridges in the country, and in the recent past has become dedicated to their preservation. Vermont law now protects all covered bridges and none can be torn down without the permission of the Governor and the board of Historic Sites.

Three of Northfield's covered bridges stand within a quarter mile of one another. The Upper Cox, Lower Cox, and Northfield Falls Covered Bridges are closely located on Cox Brook Road, as that road passes over the winding Cox Brook, a tributary of the Dog River. The first of these, the Northfield Falls bridge, was built in 1872 of Town lattice truss construction, a type widely used on many early timber bridges and later in building construction. Additionally, it is the longest bridge in Northfield by far, 137 feet long, more than twice as long as any of the others. The Upper and Lower Cox bridges were built soon after the Northfield Falls, both of queenpost truss construction. This group of bridges is further distinguished as the only place in Vermont where one covered bridge can be seen from the portal of another, as is possible from the Lower Cox and Northfield Fall bridges.

Slightly below the Cox Brook bridges stands the Slaughterhouse Bridge. This particular covered bridge, also of queenpost truss construction, is the only one in Northfield that has not been structurally altered. It carries only an occasional vehicle across the Dog River to the abandoned industrial site of a local slaughterhouse, after which it is named. The fifth Northfield bridge, the Stony Brook Covered Bridge, is representative of the end of the era of covered bridge construction in Vermont. Built in 1899, is was the last kingpost truss covered bridge built on a Vermont public highway.

 

The three covered bridges crossing Cox Brook are located on Cox Brook Rd., which leads west from the village of Northfield Falls. From there, the Slaughterhouse Covered Bridge is due south on Slaughterhouse Rd. just east of Rt. 12. The Stony Brook Covered Bridge is southwest of Northfield Center on the south fork of Stoney Brook Rd. east of Rt. 12A. All are accessible to the public. Be cautious of automobiles if you cross the bridges by foot.

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