Out & About: Newport to celebrate Corbin Bridge

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    Newport's Corbin Covered Bridge was burned in a "suspicious fire" on May 25, 1993. (Newport Historical Society photograph) Newport Historical Society photograph

  • Newport's Corbin Covered Bridge spans the Sugar River. The bridge was rebuilt by architect Arnold Graton and installed during Columbus Day Weekend in 1994. (Bruce Kozlik photograph) Bruce Kozlik photograph

Valley News Calendar Editor
Published: 10/7/2019 4:03:40 PM
Modified: 10/7/2019 4:03:36 PM

NEWPORT — Covered bridges are iconic and the Upper Valley has its fair share.

But more than 25 years ago one of those famed structures was almost lost to history after a suspicious fire destroyed Newport’s Corbin Covered Bridge, which spans the Sugar River.

“Of course the burning was quite the thing,” recalled Jackie Cote, treasurer of the Newport Historical Society. “The town and residents of North Newport were devastated by this occurrence.”

Faced with replacing the covered bridge with a simple concrete span bridge, a group of residents petitioned the town and state to instead replace the Corbin Bridge, raising thousands of dollars to cover the difference in cost. On Columbus Day weekend in 1994, the replica was pulled into place by a team of oxen with much fanfare.

From 10 a.m.-3 p.m. next Saturday, the 25th anniversary of that event will be celebrated with a festival that includes a parade, exhibits, history talks, crafters and food.

“After 25 years the community is really proud and pleased that we took the action that we did because the covered bridge is a hallmark of Newport,” said Dean Stetson, one of the festival’s coordinators, adding that the event will serve as an opportunity for community members who were at the installation 25 years ago to share their memories with the next generation.

The three days that it took to put the replacement bridge in place are remembered by those who were there as a magical time when the community came together to celebrate a common cause. 

“We were all afraid that we weren't going to be able to have the bridge replicated,” Cote said. “It’s just huge for the community.”

Arnold Graton, of Arnold M Graton Associates in Holderness, N.H., rebuilt the bridge and remembered the enthusiasm residents had for it.

“They really wanted their covered bridge back, but they couldn’t do that,” said Graton, who will display and demonstrate the tools he used to rebuild the bridge at the festival. “Those folks realized that it would be beautiful again. A steel and concrete bridge, almost anyone can have one of those.”

The original Corbin Covered Bridge was built in 1835. On May 25, 1993, it was burned down in what police officially call a “suspicious fire,” but many refer to as an act of arson.

The incident is still under investigation, said Newport Police Lt. Charles Rataj.

“We haven’t given up on it. It was a really tragic incident for the town,” Rataj said. “Should we get new leads or information, we would continue to investigate it.”

The Corbin Bridge is one of three covered bridges in Newport and all are celebrated by the town.

“Newport reveres its covered bridges,” Stetson said. “The Corbin Covered Bridge can emotionally engage a person.”

Editor’s note: For a full schedule of events, visit corbincoveredbridgefestival.com. Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.

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