If you’re from St. Joseph County, Michigan, you’ve probably driven over it numerous of times. You haven’t ever thought twice about it; you make sure the one lane bridge is clear of oncoming traffic and you go about your way. After all, it is “just a bridge.” But you hate when there is construction because your detour leads you a few miles off in the opposite direction of your destination. 128 years later and the Langley Covered Bridge is still beautiful.
It wasn’t until yesterday did I realize that I have driven over the Langley Covered Bridge hundreds of times in my life. The house I grew up in was only two or three miles away and I remember going to the Covered Bridge Park with my family, begging to stay on the merry-go-round for the rest of my life. It was just another place that we’d visit every so often and drove through. As I was taking my scenic route home as I normally do, I approached the bridge. As I got closer, I noticed ten or fifteen cars had been pulled over, taking up both sides of the road, creating a rather scary path for two-lane traffic. Immediately, I knew it…..tourists – each one with their phone or fancy cameras out waiting for the perfect sunlit shot. I giggled and thought “I have no place to be.” So, I did something crazy that I haven’t done since my childhood….I stopped. Crazy enough, I have lived in Centreville my entire 22 years of life and I didn’t realize what historic treasure had been sitting in my own “backyard.”
As the registered Michigan Historic Site sign, dedicated on October 10th, 1965, states:
“This is the longest of Michigan’s few remaining covered bridges. It is 282 feet long with three, 94-foot spans of the Howe-truss construction. The bridge was built in 1887 by Pierce (?) Bodner of Parkville, using the best quality white pine for the frame timbers. The bridge’s name honors a pioneer Centreville family. When the Sturgis Dam was built in 1910, the Langley Bridge had to be raised eight feet. In 1950-51, extensive repairs and replacement of parts on the bridge were carried out by the St. Joseph County Road Commission to preserve for the future this historic link with a bygone era.”
Here are a few more interesting things about the Langley Covered Bridge:
- Claimed to be the longest remaining wooden covered bridge in the state of Michigan
- Located in Centreville, Michigan, the seat of St. Joseph County
- Not many states have an existing covered bridge left, which is partially why this structure is frequent tourist attraction
- Named after Thomas W. Langley, the very first settler in Centreville in 1831, helped establish the village of Centreville in the mid-19th century
- During an inspection, the superintendent, Paul Pashby, fell from the bridge into 28 feet of water; he was able to latch onto a dangling rope and pulled to safety
- Listed with the Michigan State Register on August 31, 1965
- Became a Michigan Historical Marker on September 28th, 1965
- Has two parks within a half mile radius – Covered Bridge Park and Pahl Point Park
- The village of Centreville hosts the annual festival Covered Bridge Days
To me, it’s crazy. This is in my hometown. This is where I grew up. This is something I have driven over hundreds of times without knowing how significant and historic it truly is. This has been here for over 100 years, still an open one-way bridge, and the last of it’s kind in Michigan. It’s taken me almost 23 years to get out of my car and acknowledge its history, rather just simply enjoy how beautiful the drive is. This post is not only encouraging you to go see the Langley Covered Bridge for yourself but to also encourage you to get out of your car. Read the “historic landmark” sign. Get outside. Don’t be ignorant and oblivious like I was. Be THAT tourist, even if it is in your hometown…
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