W. Cornwall’s Covered Bridge Parties With A Paint-In
By Kimberly Jordan Allen
Some people know it as the Kissing Bridge. Others recognize it from its cameo in the opening scene of the 1967 film Valley of the Dolls. And for some Connecticut residents, it’s just the way they get to work each day.
“Our family has been crossing this bridge for 150 years,” says Melissa Andrews of West Cornwall. She’s talking about the West Cornwall Covered Bridge, a New England landmark that celebrates a big birthday this year.
On Saturday, July 26, local artists will mark the bridge’s 150th year with “Paint the Bridge Day.” Artists, professional and amateur, are invited to render the landmark in whatever medium they choose — photographs, paintings, drawings, sketches, or sculpture — and their work will be on sale that same afternoon. Space will be limited, so if you want to participate in the creative rendering, arrive early to choose a good spot on the riverbanks.
Proceeds from the sale will go to the artists and West Cornwall Village Improvement Association for maintenance of the flower-filled areas surrounding the bridge — riverbanks that have long been used for contemplating and absorbing the scenic beauty of the Housatonic River. Submissions must be entered by 2 p.m. and a sale and reception will follow from 3-6 p.m. at Cornwall Bridge Pottery [shown right]. The artwork will be exhibited through the following day.
The iconic covered crossing is a piece of Americana that was built in 1864. The bridge is made from red spruce and tree nails (wooden pegs) and is 172 feet long and 15 feet wide. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, it has been renovated, reinforced and painted over the years to handle weathering and the increased traffic of the area, but otherwise, it’s unchanged.
The bridge was originally named after the Hart family, dairy farmers who lived in Sharon, CT, who constructed the bridge in the early 1800s for traveling to and from West Cornwall farmland. Since then, it’s become recognized as a significant example of New England architecture, featured in many books and websites as a scenic Connecticut destination. The construction and history also prompted the creation of a booklet by historian Michael Gannett.
Brendan O’Connell West Cornwall resident and well-known contemporary artist, will be participating in Saturday’s event and selling his work at the celebration. “We’re painting landmarks and natural beauty that are disappearing in other parts of the world,” O’Connell says.
Bianca Langner Griggs [left], owner of the Wish House shop in downtown West Cornwall, organized the event and is thrilled to gather locals in town to enjoy its historical features. “We should constantly have parties and get-togethers,” she says. With the help of Debra Tyler, active homesteader and owner of Local Farm, Langner Griggs created the farmers’ market eight years ago after the last grocery store had closed in West Cornwall. “We feel it necessary to continue to bring people together. Celebrating our landmarks is a way to gather the community and draw attention to this beautiful, bucolic town. Just as the farmers’ market brings people together, celebrations do the same.”