A well-loved, much used way for students, alumni, staff, and others to get around Messiah College’s Pennsylvania campus is their own historic covered bridge, built in 1867. It’s an iconic structure, unusual for a college campus. It’s no wonder that this popular image graces two of their diploma frames.
Messiah College’s covered bridge, commonly called the Stoner Bridge (named in honor of Mr. & Mrs. Jacob S. Stoner who donated the bridge to the college), but also known as the Bowmansdale Covered Bridge, is one of only a handful of covered bridges actually located on college campuses in the United States.
The Stoner Bridge, with a length of 112 feet and a width of 15 feet, was originally built in 1867 in Bowmansdale and moved to the Mechanicsburg campus in 1972 where it was rebuilt by students. It is picturesquely located above the Yellow Breeches Creek and connects one side of the campus to the Starry Athletic Fields.
Construction of the Stoner Bridge on Messiah College campus around 1972. Schwartz family photo.
Mark recalled, “As the bridge was torn down, we were told to save as much of the original pieces of the bridge as possible. Sadly, we could not salvage anything from the roof, side boards or the road bed. That left the arches and other beams to disassemble. They had been protected over the years by the siding and roof. We were also able to salvage one half of the wooden pins that held the beams together.
“In order to be able to reassemble the arches and beams exactly the way they were taken apart, a system of letters and numbers were placed on every piece. If you walk over the bridge today, you will see this system in yellow paint. The wooden pins were also put back into the same pieces they held together in Bowmansdale,”added Mark. “New wooden pins for the rest of the bridge were made out of wooden dowels.”
Working to rebuild the covered bridge on campus. Schwartz family photo.
Stoner Bridge on Messiah College. Schwartz family photo.
Symbol of the Campus
“The covered bridge really is a beautiful symbol of Messiah College that always makes me feel comfortable and at home whenever I see it,” remarked Hayden, a Messiah student. “There’s something romantic and peaceful about walking across it and looking down the Breeches that lets me know I’m right where I’m supposed to be.”
Likewise, the creek itself also is important to the campus. According to the College’s Centennial page, “The Yellow Breeches has always been a central part of campus life as students have enjoyed swimming, ice skating, boating, and fishing on the creek.”
“When I see the covered bridge it provides me with a sense of home,” explained Meredith, another student. “I grew up on the Yellow Breeches River, and it is a community builder for Messiah students.”
Appreciation of the Stoner Bridge also was voiced by Donna Miller, Senior Buyer at The Campus Store. She observed, “When I enter campus, the covered bridge is the first thing I see. No matter the season, its setting is always breathtaking. My family has used it as a backdrop for many photo shoots, including our wedding in May 1987.”
Stoner Bridge Image on Diploma Frames
The covered bridge has such a strong connection with Messiah College’s students and graduates that we offer two diploma frames depicting images of the Stoner Bridge.
Miller added, “Most people that are privileged to spend time on Messiah College’s campus are drawn to the Stoner bridge in all its serenity. This well-loved icon is showcased beautifully on two different diploma frames by Church Hill Classics.”
One diploma frame, the Campus Scene, showcases a photo of the covered bridge and the Yellow Breeches Creek set above an 8″x10″ opening for a bachelor’s or master’s degree. The solid hardwood Sutton frame moulding has a rich mahogany finish and black rippled-edge inner lip. The photo and diploma stand out with navy museum-quality matting.
The Campus Cameo diploma frame features artwork of the covered bridge and black and silver archival matting. It is framed in Chateau, which has a rich French walnut finish and coordinating inner lip, and is sized for a bachelor’s or master’s diploma from Messiah College.
About the Covered Bridge
In the 1800s, Pennsylvania was home to more than 1,500 covered bridges. Nowadays, covered bridges number only in the hundreds in the state, and Stoner Bridge is one of only two covered bridges left in Pennsylvania’s Cumberland County where Messiah College is located.
In 2011, the Stoner Bridge was refurbished. The timber deck was replaced by a cement and steel deck, and the bridge also got a new roof, new siding, and “finishes that have restored the bridge to its original condition,” according to the Messiah College site.
“The Covered Bridge is very special to me and is an icon for the campus,” said Bradley Markley, Director of Facility Services at Messiah College. Markley sent photos of the covered bridge (several of which were used in this piece) showing the time period when the bridge was moved to the campus from Bowmansdale. The photos were originally from the Schwartz family, and they are a perfect visual, greatly enhancing the overall background about this bridge. More photos of Messiah College’s Stoner Bridge can be viewed on our Beautiful Campus Scenes pinboard.
Inside view of the Stoner Bridge at Messiah College in 1972. Schwartz family photo.
Crossing a Covered Bridge
Although most of us have climbed steps, hiked hills, walked along paths, and taken buses, cars, or shuttles to get to where we need to go on a college campus, many of us have never had the opportunity to walk or drive across a covered bridge. Those at Messiah College can say they have.
“The Stoner Bridge is an iconic Messiah College landmark, and it is precious to me as an alum, employee, and community member,” commented Aleisha Wildon, who graduated from Messiah in 1992 and is the Textbook Express Manager & Clothing Buyer at the bookstore. “Our bridge embodies an appreciation of history, craftsmanship, and function. Beyond its aesthetic beauty, it is a stunning symbol of Messiah’s commitment to both education and reconciliation in church and society.”
Wildon philosophized, “A bridge connects people and places, a bridge spans a space or body of water that would be more treacherous or impossible to cross otherwise. Without bridges, knowledge of the world beyond our own little microcosm would be stunted. While our bridge does serve the purpose of joining two areas of our campus together that are separated by the Yellow Breeches Creek, its meaning stretches beyond its utility—the Stoner Bridge has become synonymous with Messiah College and its mission.”
The Stoner Bridge is definitely special. It is still functional, pretty to look at, and has withstood the test of time. Plus, as featured in two diploma frames, it will be a special remembrance of Messiah College always.
Stoner Bridge 1972 Schwartz family photo.
Messiah College campus map shows Stoner Bridge in relation to rest of campus – lower right corner (8). On the actual site, the map will operate interactively.