Belle Hall Covered Bridge, Croton Ohio
The Belle Hall Covered Bridge is the last such structure remaining in Bennington Township, Licking County, and one of only seven left in a county that once had around eighty of these roofed spans. It was built in 1887.
Attempts to find out the past history of this bridge have not been too successful. The bridge was named for a lady named Belle Hall who lived not far from the bridge. Her son, Gerald Hall still lived on Dutch Cross Road near the bridge. The old bridge spans little Otter Fork, a branch of the north fork, of the Licking River. Bennington Township never had more than 4 or 5 covered bridges and the Belle Hall Bridge has been the only one for the past twenty-five years.
The Belle Hall Bridge is of simple design, its trusses pinned together with wooden pins called trunnels. It serves the area on a quiet, little-traveled township road, in a scenic setting. The people of Bennington Township are proud and fond of this little covered bridge and want to see it preserved for posterity.
The Belle Hall Bridge is a one-span wooden truss covered bridge spanning Otter Fork three miles east of Croton in Bennington Township on township road 56 (Dutch Cross Road), Licking County, Ohio. This old span has vertical, high-boarded siding, a metal roof, straight portals and cut-stone abutments.
This old span is known as the Belle Hall Bridge and was built in 1887 on the once-common multiple kingpost truss plane The kingpost truss is a triangular arrangement of timbers in which the diagonals are the compression members and the center post or kingpost, is the tension member. This was the most commonly built wooden bridge truss in Ohio and is still the most numerous of our wooden trusses. The basic kingpost and multiple kingpost was easy for the farmer-carpenter-builder who built so many of Ohio's smaller covered spans, to build. The Belle Hall Bridge is a panel multiple kingpost with an open center panel, 56' long overall with a clear span of 42'. The roadway width is 12'2" and the overall width of the structure is 15'3", The vertical clearance is 12'. The height of the trusses is 13', The truss end posts are 1-9½" x 6½" and the truss diagonals are l9½" x 6½". The truss verticals are 1-5 ¾," x 9½". The top chords are 2-6½" x 7 ¾" and the lower chords are 2-12" x 6", The floor is one layer, laid crosswise. The abutments are cut-stone, dry laid.
The old Belle Hall Bridge has undergone many changes over the years and we cannot be sure just when all these changes took place. Pictures of the bridge taken in the early 1950's show 2-7/8" steel cables running from near the top of the end posts and down beneath the floor under the two center floor beams. This was a method used in other Licking County covered bridges for added reinforcement. When these cables were added is not known, but they were not there in a 1933 photo of this bridge. The second truss diagonals are missing on both sides of the bridge at both ends. This seems to have happened over the past twenty years, as all truss diagonals were there in the early 1950's. A 1964 photo shows one diagonal missing at that time. On August 8, 1971, a truck loaded with 16 tons attempted to cross this bridge and the floor system failed and much damage was done to flooring, floor beams and joists. Five steel I-beams from abutment to abutment now support this bridge. The bridge seats are also steel I beams. A new floor was put in, too. We do not know if the rest of the missing truss members were out at that time or not. The steel cables mentioned above are no longer there.
In the early 1950s, the bridge was painted white with black and white warning stripes on the portals. Typical of all Licking County covered bridges, this bridge has straight portals with the upper part cut diagonally. The metal roof is in good condition. The bridge was painted a deep red on both siding and portals after the rebuilding mentioned above, and the bridge does present an attractive appearance and seems to be adequate for the small amount of traffic on this little-used township road.