The town of Hartland, N.B., is celebrating its claim to fame this week as the structure marks a major milestone — the world’s longest covered bridge has now been covered for a century.
“People come from all over the world to walk across our bridge, kiss their sweetheart in the middle of it, make a wish, or the really brave ones hold their breath as they cross the bridge,” said Gaby Mann, Hartland’s manager of tourism and community development.
The bridge was originally built in 1901 but was covered in 1922.
“So immediately our bridge went from a bridge over the Saint John River to the longest covered bridge in the world,” said Hartland Deputy Mayor Stewart Fairgrieve.
The bridge has stood the test of time and is not too different from when it was first built, including how drivers cross it.
“It’s just a local courtesy thing that if there’s oncoming traffic you wait for them to complete their drive across the bridge before you enter, and that’s just how it’s always been,” Fairgrieve said. “People wonder why we don’t have lights at the end of the bridge … we think that would take away from its historical feel.”
The bridge’s historical charm continues to draw people to the community.
“We just had to take a break and pull off the highway and the next sign said: ‘World’s longest covered bridge’ and we were like, have to see that,” said Willo Halak, who was visiting from Ontario.
“I read about it in a book and it sounded like a good place to make a stop and see what the covered bridge was all about,” said Brian DeHaan, from Edmonton.
“Just the fact that it’s the longest one in the world, like it says on the plaque, and the fact that they’ve been able to save it — it’s never been burnt down, torn down, or destroyed,” said Stephen Lancaster, who was visiting from Ontario.
Those who cross the bridge can’t help but recognize a connection to the past. The covered bridge is also a large part of Hartland’s identity.
“I think they’re an important part of our heritage here in the Maritimes, in Maine, in Quebec as well,” Mann said. “They harken back to a time when things were built to last rather than being constantly maintained.”
Events will be taking place at the covered bridge during the upcoming long weekend. The bridge will also be closed so people can walk through it.
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