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Peninsula Reflections

Posted: Monday, February 19, 2007

 

  The Schooner Band bridge was the farthest north coverd bridge in North America when it was built in 1929 in Cooper Landing. Submitted photo

The Schooner Band bridge was the farthest north coverd bridge in North America when it was built in 1929 in Cooper Landing.

Submitted photo

The farthest north covered bridge in North America was built in Cooper Landing under contract with the Bureau of Public Roads in 1929 at a sharp bend of the Kenai River called Schooner Bend.

At the time it was constructed, the road it connected was less than seven miles long. The bridge was planned as part of the Kenai River Highway, but it would be another 19 years before driving to Kenai was possible. The covered bridge replaced an even earlier bridge built a few hundred feet upstream in 1920-21.

Margaret Barnett, Cooper Landing’s first school teacher, wrote about the Wright Construction Company bridge crew and camp in her diary in 1929.

In the Sept. 20, 1929, issue of the Seward Daily Gateway newspaper is an article with this headline: “Towle Shoots Rapids With Bridge Piling.” Frank Towle and Bob Evans towed a raft of piling “down rushing Kenai river behind a sea sled driven by two Johnson outboard motors” According to the article, this hazardous venture was “all in a day’s work for Towle and Evans, and residents of the district, who know the whims of the treacherous stream.”

Dr. Alan Boraas told about dog team mail driver Paul Wilson’s first encounter with the bridge, in an article about the covered bridge in the July 17, 1987, issue of Peninsula Clarion “The Tides.”

“On the very day the bridge was completed an amazing coincidence occurred. According to R. L. Stock, who apparently was a foreman on the building crew, just as the bridge work ended who should appear but the dog sled and driver from Kenai hauling the mail to Moose Pass. As the sled approached, Stock instructed his men to pile snow into the bridge in what sure is one of the most unusual cases on record of helping the mail get through.”

Early resident Beverly Sabrowski Christensen recalled in her video taped memoirs when Big Jim O’Brien and Little Jim Dunmire built a boat in the shelter of the bridge during the winter of 1937. As soon as it snowed there was no more traffic and the road wasn’t kept open, Christensen explained.

Two pictures of the covered bridge are in the Kenai Historical Society’s book “Once Upon The Kenai.” Mildred Bagley writes about the last major obstacle she and Russell encountered in 1952 when they pulled a house trailer from Anchorage to near Kenai. The bridge approach was on a 90-degree angle and the bridge was only one lane wide.

In 1955, a new bridge was built upstream and the covered bridge was torn down.

Pictures of the bridge and other information is on display in Cooper Landing Museum. Thanks to Derek Stonorov, the museum has a copy of the movies from a trip to Alaska made by his grandfather and mother in 1932, which includes footage as their boat goes under the covered bridge and down the Kenai River.

This column was written by Mona Painter with the Cooper Landing Historical Society.



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