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Guest Opinion

Knecht Bridge’s event a chance to promote historic preservation


On Saturday, a special event with free live music will mark the 150th anniversary of Knecht’s Covered Bridge in Springfield, one of Bucks County’s 10 remaining original covered bridges.

The Palisades High School Band will perform Robert Sheldon’s “The Red Covered Bridge” live next to the Knecht’s bridge (which also happens to be red).

The Palisades Community Foundation is organizing the event from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., with a fundraiser to follow.

Like all covered bridges, the wooden structure over Cook’s Creek has a backstory, and its survival is a testament to Bucks County’s commitment to historic preservation.

Records at the Bucks County Historical Society show the bridge was built after a political controversy in the early 1870s over construction contracts. At the time, one party controlled the county commissioners’ office. An anonymous person named “Tax-Payer” starting writing to newspapers about cost overruns for new iron bridges in the county’s budget, which he called “a mountain of rascality.”

By October 1870, “Tax-Payer” claimed the county’s bridge budget was up 800% since the commissioners took office after the Civil War, and taxpayers needed to vote for a candidate from the other party: a Slifer Valley farmer named John Knecht.

Knecht won the election and, by 1872, the new party in charge began building covered bridges again in Bucks County, at least until 1875. By coincidence, a bid went out in 1873 for “Slifer’s Bridge,” which happened to be next to John Knecht’s farm in Springfield. On June 17, 1873, Henry H. Landis, of Bedminster, won the contract for $3,553.

Later the structure became known as Knecht’s Covered Bridge, and it went relatively unnoticed. Between 1919 and 1940, the county or the state demolished 24 of Bucks County’s 39 covered bridges, but they had no interest in the white-painted back-county bridge.

However, the nearest bridge to Knecht’s, the Haupt’s Covered Bridge in Springfield, fell to arsonists in 1985. That event and the burning of the Schofield Ford Covered Bridge in Newtown led Bucks County to act.

In 1999, Commissioner Mike Fitzpatrick led the effort to fully insure the covered bridges owned by Bucks County.

Since then, the Knecht’s Covered Bridge has survived two arson attempts.

In 2004, two men started a fire inside the bridge, in what officials believed was a “copycat” crime inspired by the Mood’s Covered Bridge arson in East Rockhill. A passing motorist extinguished the fire.

And in May 2007, a second arson attempt failed at the bridge, when a newspaper carrier spotted the fire at 3 a.m. Five people were charged, including three former volunteer firefighters, with the attempt.

Soon after, the Bucks County Covered Bridge Society formed in response to the incidents at Mood’s Bridge and Knecht’s Bridge, and in 2011 local residents joined with the Bucks County Visitors Bureau to buy a $20,000 fire suppression system for Knecht’s bridge.

Today, Bucks County maintains Knecht’s Covered Bridge in excellent condition. Recently, Springfield worked with the Bucks County Covered Bridge Society and the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation to remove trees on private property that threatened the covered bridge.

The teamwork between the county, township and three nonprofits at Knecht’s Covered Bridge is a great example of historic preservation that Fitzpatrick envisioned back in 1999.

“The covered bridges are quintessential Bucks County,” he said then. “My personal goal is to get (others) to recognize the covered bridges, as we do in Bucks, that they are an important part of our landscape, our tourist economy and our heritage.”

Information about the Knecht’s Covered Bridge anniversary event can be found online at

Scott Bomboy is a historian and journalist who has written frequently about covered bridges. He chairs the Bucks County Covered Bridge Society.

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