Babb's Covered Bridge, Gorham Maine

Date added: February 21, 2024 Categories:
Looking East (1970)

Gorham is one of the pleasantest and most substantial towns in the State. Situated 10 miles west of Portland, it is bounded on the North by Windham, on the East by Westbrook, on the South by Buxton, and on the West by Standish. The Old (1832-1880) Oxford-Cumberland Canal passed through it, as did the Portland-Rochester Railroad (now the Boston and Maine Railroad). Gorham is a quiet suburb of Portland and it is the home of the Gorham Campus of the University of Maine system. This was the Gorham Academy established in 1803.

Gorham was one of the seven townships granted by Massachusetts in 1728 to the men (or their heirs) who bore arms in the Narragansett War in 1675. The first clearings were made by Captain John Phinney of Plymouth. He was followed by Messrs. Bryant, Cloutman, Read, and McLellan. Over time a farming community grew, carved from a forest of pine. Indians posed problems and warfare with the settlers periodically erupted. By 1762, the Indian troubles had subsided and a land survey was completed. In 1764 the township, referred to as Narraganset No. 7, was incorporated as Gorham. Grist, lumber, textile, paper-pulp, and ware mills have existed within the environs of Gorham, as have clothing, wagon, gunpowder factories, and granite and marble works. In 1880 the population was 3233. Today, 2024, the population is over 18,000.

There is a conflict over the date for the building of this bridge. The Maine State Highway Commission refers to the date as being 1840, whereas Richard Sanders Allen makes this pointed reference in his book Covered Bridges of the Northeast - "Back in 1864 it cost the adjoining towns of Gorham and Windham $318.00 to build." It may well be that an earlier bridge stood at this site and, if so, it could have been swept away in a flood. In any event, 1840 or 1864, it is the oldest wooden covered bridge remaining in Maine. It did serve to ford the Presumpscot River. It continues to serve. The volume of traffic today is small.

Bridge Description

This wooden covered bridge spans the Presumpscot River as it passes between the towns of Gorham and Windham in Cumberland County. This river is the drainage for Sebago Lake, the second-largest lake in Maine. The traveler, once oriented midway between Windham Center and Gorham proper, at Newhall village on U. S. Rte. #202 would proceed north on the River Road for 14 miles. At this point, they would find a side road to the West. They would turn here and proceed for ½ mile, arriving at the Babb's Covered Bridge.

The setting is rural. Farms were once numerous in the immediate vicinity. Today much of the area has reverted to a forest cover.

This wooden structure is 72' long 18' wide and about 21' high from the floor to the peak of the gable roof. The overhead clearance at the portals is 14'. The side-to-side clearance is 16'. The span between the two granite block abutments at the river banks is 66'.

The basic engineering concept employed in the construction of this bridge is Queenpost Truss, a simple type of truss. This truss system consists of two Queen Posts, one located one-third of the way of the span, and the second two-thirds of the way. These are morticed into the bottom and top chords. Braces then meet at the top chord above the Queen posts and run down at an angle back to the bottom chord just above the abutments. The top chord connects the two Queen posts. This truss system lacks the strength of more sophisticated truss systems, but additional support is gained by uprights used to support the boarded sides. Support is again gained by the cross beams morticed into the top chords which provide the plates for the rafters in the gable roof's construction. Tree nails are used to pin the chords to the Queen posts. The sideboards run up and down the roof's cover is asphalt shingles. The original cover was probably of split cedar shingles.

Babb's Covered Bridge, Gorham Maine Looking East (1970)
Looking East (1970)