You don’t have to travel to New England to visit a historic covered bridge. Join members of the New York Covered Bridge Society at Perrine’s Covered Bridge from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, October 13 and learn about this important historic structure.
The construction of three covered bridges – Perrine’s, Phillies and one in the Village of New Paltz – across the Wallkill River within 15 miles in the same decade all helped connect the area to communities beyond, when a network of new roads was also being laid out. While other important covered bridges at New Paltz and Gardiner are long gone, Perrine’s Covered Bridge remains an important part of Ulster County’s history.
Just four miles north of New Paltz on Route 213 in Rifton is Perrine’s Covered Bridge, the longest-standing Burr arch covered bridge in New York State. The site of Perrine’s Covered Bridge had been in the Town of New Paltz since 1677. However, by the time the bridge was built in the late 1840s, its southern embankment was in the Town of Esopus, which was enlarged in 1843, and the northern landing in the Town of Rosendale, which was formed in 1844.
Constructed before 1850 to cross the Wallkill River, it is the second-oldest covered bridge in the state – after Hyde Hall Covered Bridge in Otsego County, built in 1825.
Rosencrans Wood, the carpenter who led the construction of Perrine’s Covered Bridge, lived on an adjacent farm during a time of tumultuous change in the political and economic environments of southern Ulster County. Perrine’s Bridge was named after James Perrine (1801-1860), son of French immigrant James W. Perrin and Huguenot descendant Catherine Freer, who operated a hotel and tavern on the south side of the Wallkill River at the site that subsequently was chosen for the covered bridge. Nearby areas were part of the Perrine farm.
New York State Ulster County Board of Supervisors records show that a bridge was authorized “near the house of James Perrine” in 1822 and again in 1834, and there is good evidence that a timber bridge was completed on the site by 1823 and likely rebuilt in 1834; but it is not clear whether either of these was covered. It was not until after the subsequent authorization in 1846 that construction actually began on the covered bridge that we see today, completed sometime in the late 1840s. It is not possible to determine the exact date of completion or the nature of any of the three authorized timber bridges, because the Board of Supervisors’ Minutes from 1807 to 1828 and 1837 to 1861 are missing from the Ulster County Archives.
At the time of the construction of Perrine’s Bridge, there were nearly 20 mills and factories in Dashville adjacent to two waterfalls along the Wallkill River, only three-quarters of a mile from Perrine’s Bridge. The Dashville industrial complex supported more than a thousand workers who, beginning in the early 1800s, spun cotton into yarn, then subsequently cloth itself, before diversifying to produce everything from wool blankets and carpets to cotton products, flour, knives and lumber. The construction of Perrine’s Bridge made it easier for workers from the Tillson area of Rosendale north of the Wallkill to work at the Dashville mills.
Rosencrans Wood chose locally available raw materials for his late-1840s covered bridge. Rosendale cement, which had been discovered just decades before in nearby Rosendale/Lawrenceville during the construction of the Delaware & Hudson Canal, and local bluestone were utilized for the abutments, the originals of which are still in place.
Wood crafted each of the Burr arches from mature white pine trees, as confirmed by studies done when the bridge was rebuilt in 1968/1969. Paul Huth, now director of research emeritus at the Mohonk Preserve, did an analysis of a cross-section of a surviving arch timber, including doing increment bores, in 1977. He determined that the original white pine log was some 27 inches in diameter when alive. He counted some 143 annual rings and estimated that about an additional ten rings had been lost in the arch preparation, thus determining that the tree that ultimately served as an arch started growing between 1682 and 1692.
Perrine’s has been chosen as one of 12 covered bridges across the US to be featured in the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges’ 2019 calendar.
New York Covered Bridge Society talk, Saturday, Oct. 13, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Perrine’s Covered Bridge, Route 213, Rifton