FLEMING COUNTY, Ky. (FOX 56) – As soon as you hit the Fleming County line, the signs tell you what’s important here, welcoming you to “The Covered Bridge Capital of Kentucky.”
“Several people tell us they’ve never seen a covered bridge,” said Ginny Reeves, vice president of the Fleming County Covered Bridge Authority. So, the county markets itself as the best place in the state to see these links to the past.
Kentucky once had more than 400 covered bridges, one of the first things you learn when you visit the Covered Bridge Museum in Flemingsburg.
“It’s amazing. People don’t think about why they’re covered,” said Brenda Plummer, museum society president. “We get that question a lot.”
The answer is simple. There was no concrete or steel when the bridges were built in the early to mid-1800s, so the roof was to protect the wooden deck from decay.
Woody Reeves of Fleming County says he is fascinated by the craftsmanship of the bridges, calling it “very impressive” that they have lasted as long as they have.
The bridges were also a place for travelers on horseback to get in out of the rain. But some notions are more romantic.
Plummer said, “We call them kissing bridges. That was where a fellow would take his girl before they went home and give her a little smooch.”
Just 11 such historic bridges remain in Kentucky and three of them are in Fleming County.
Ginny Reeves said a national covered bridge preservation society determined the Goddard White Bridge south of Flemingsburg is the second most-photographed bridge in the nation, just behind one in West Virginia. The bridge at Goddard has been featured in hundreds of books, magazines, posters. commercials and movies.
It’s because the unique bridge with lattice framework perfectly frames a quaint country church on one side of the creek.
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“You can see pictures of that all over the United States,” she said. “We’ve had people from Japan and different countries to come.”
Her husband, Woody, said he’s often seen photographers lying flat on the road to get the perfect shot.
Fleming County used to have more bridges. A large one fell victim to arson in 1981. That’s why the authority is trying so hard to save the final three. The Grange City Bridge has been shored up with steel beams. Now the committee needs to find a million dollars or more to bring in a restoration expert. Transportation grants are one possible funding source.
“If something isn’t done soon, I’m afraid we’re going to lose it,” Ginny Reeves said.
Tourism could be what saves these structures, with folks in the county hoping people who come for the covered brides will uncover other reasons to make a return visit.
Plummer said, “We try hard to make sure they’re presentable and that when people come to visit they go away with a good feeling.”