Covered Bridge Festival celebrates our town’s best-known landmark

Published 2:32 pm Tuesday, September 20, 2022

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This weekend, we will celebrate a grand old piece of local history — the Elizabethton Covered Bridge, which is 140 years old this year. Tonight and Thursday night there will be concerts at the Elizabethton High stadium, and after that the celebration will move to E. Elk Avenue within sight of the historic Covered Bridge. There will be food, music, dancing in the streets, arts and crafts, and old friends coming together to celebrate.
Little did the townspeople realize when they were building the bridge that it would become a historic landmark and be celebrated 100 and more years later.
The bridge, which up until a few years ago was still open to traffic, spans 134 feet across the Doe River. It is located on the east end of Hattie Avenue, one of the first residential streets developed west of the Doe River. On Riverside Drive just below the Covered Bridge is a marker denoting the spot where the historic Sycamore Tree once stood. The tree was historical in that it was the site where the first court west of the Allegheny Mountains was held in 172.
Until the Elk Avenue Bridge was built, the only crossing between “old town” and the newer development on the west banks of the Doe River was via the Covered Bridge.
Up until the late 1800s, Elizabethton was a county village which boasted no industries save flour milling and lumber. Elizabethton businesses made no great attempt to supply urban goods; farmers were the chief customers and their needs constituted the stock, to a larger extend.
But Elizabethton was not painfully lacking in any commercial enterprise vital to a community. It had general stores, a hardware, post office, barber shop, bank, newspaper, drug store, rooming houses along with livery stables.
It was on the east side of the Doe that a town was conceived and born.The men who birthed it were men with a vision, ideals, and resources.
The Covered Bridge is more than a scenic attraction and a historic landmark. It is a reminder of how far we as a town have grown in the past 200 years and that we must keep on pressing forward. The old bridge is a vital part of our heritage. First, horses and wagons traveled through it, then cars. First, it was farmers crossing the river, now it is sightseers, who stand on the Elk Avenue Bridge and photograph it and marvel at its age and history. It has been the object of numerous paintings.
We marvel how well it has served our town, and that is only one of seven covered bridges in Tennessee. The Covered Bridge is one of the few nods to the past that keep people’s eyes glistening with a tear of nostalgia and a smile of pride.
The pretty white bridge which spans the Doe River is the oldest in the state, and that should makes us even prouder. Indeed, it is a landmark, and is worth celebrating each year.
This weekend, take time to come downtown and be a part of the celebration named for the historic Covered Bridge. Join your neighbors for a weekend of music, food, arts and crafts, and fun!

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