Madison Covered Bridge
Bridge and Toll House
The Madison Covered Bridge
In 1867, the Madison Bridge Company was formed to create another crossing point on the Schuylkill River between Chester and Montgomery counties. This covered bridge would allow for a direct route from Madisonville on the Chester County side rather than traveling three miles to cross at either Lawrenceville in East Coventry or South Pottstown section of North Coventry. Stock certificates were sold to raise the needed capital.
Construction began in 1868 with masons Rehill and McTague awarded the contract to build three piers needed to support the bridge. Carpenter Charles D. Fuller completed the wooden structure. The plan called for it to be seven hundred feet in length and set strategically upon the piers in four sections 180 feet each. Upon completion in November the Ledger, of Pottstown called it a “fine structure and will be a great convenience to persons residing on both sides of the river.” The final cost to build the bridge was 32,000 dollars.
It took little time for the bridge to become popular with the citizens. As it was a covered bridge, night-time crossing could leave travelers in the dark. The bridge company decided to set lighting in the bridge as one of the benefits to using it. However, in January of 1874, a decision was made to not light the bridge on nights having bright moonlight, and on other nights to extinguish light at 10 o’clock.
The citizens on the Chester County Side were irate when, in April of 1874, the bridge company raised the toll rate and cancelled annual passes for citizens.
On October 23, 1878, a tornado knocked three of the spans into the water. Rueben Geist, a Pottstown contractor was hired to dismantle the recovered timbers and to keep everything that could be re-used. The only portion still standing was at the Madisonville side.
The directors, in a meeting with stockholders, made the decision to rebuild the bridge. Cofrode & Saylor Bridge Company of Pottstown was awarded the contract to build an open, iron structured bridge to replace the sections that were destroyed. The new sections would be joined with the remaining portion of the original bridge. Geist was retained to perform the needed carpentry work. The iron bridge was completed 1880 at a total cost of 11,000 dollars.
In February of 1882, an ice gorge had moved down the river striking the support under the wooden portion of the bridge damaging the pier, however the bridge was still usable. In October of that year a new stone pier was built to support that section of the bridge.
Tolls have been collected from all persons traveling over the bridge since it was built. The year 1885 brought a change in that citizens in both Montgomery and Chester counties were pressuring their respective commissioners to buy these bridges, thereby eliminating the tolls. The Madison Bridge reached this milestone at twelve noon on Thursday January 8, 1886. The Bridge Company was paid a total of 19,400 dollars split equally by both counties.
The bridge would undergo additional repairs in December of 1890. Capt. John Denithorne & Sons of Phoenixville would be replacing part of the remaining wooden section with two iron spans of ninety-one feet each. In addition, he repaired what was remaining of the wooden entrance on the Chester County side. The cost of this work was 5,432 dollars.
By the 1920’s this bridge was not available for use at various times. It was determined that a new bridge was needed. Vehicle weight was limited. However, it was not until 1937 that a new concrete and steel bridge was built and finally opened for use the following year.
Goes with the Ice picture from 1910
A 1910 photo of the Madison Bridge (a.k.a Keim Street Bridge)
This view is from the Pottstown side of the river looking south. Notes on the photo included -
"Ice at the bridge over Schuylkill River"
"Ice blocking the road to the Madison bridge after big flood. George seated on ice on the left. January 22, 1910”