CENTREVILLE, MI. -- For those of us that don't know it, Centreville is a small village in southern lower Michigan in St. Joseph County. The historic county courthouse already resides there, and about three miles north of town on Clark Street (also known as Covered Bridge Street) is their famous Langley Covered Bridge. Built in 1887 at a length of 282 feet, it is the longest covered bridge in the state.
It was named after the first settler in Centreville (Thomas Langley) and was built to span the St. Joseph river. Officials decided to dam the river in 1910 for hydroelectric power, so they built a berm and causeway and had to raise the bridge eight feet above flood stage to accommodate the engineering. Since that time the bridge has had work done throughout the years, but has always maintained its original all-wood aesthetics.
The Langley Covered Bridge is maintained by the St. Joseph County Road Commission. In fact, Bruce Jones was the former Road Commission Superintendent for 52 years and has many memories of the bridge. They actually hold a dinner on the bridge where they close it down for a day in the summer. Click here to see more about their covered bridge days. Jones says "it's a huge part of this community." They even have a covered bridge breakfast at one of the local restaurants (named after the bridge of course).
One of the toughest things is to maintain the bridge properly by keeping it restricted from extra weight and high vehicles. The bridge has a seven foot height restriction and a three ton weight limitation. Arches were erected on both sides of the bridge to enforce the height restriction, but the weight is a bit tougher for the 1500 to 1800 vehicles that cross it each and every day. A new wood plank floor was just added two years ago.
Driving through this bridge is similar to the one in Frankenmuth if you've ever been there (only longer). It's dimly lit with natural lighting, and an interesting perspective to cross a bridge from the 1800s that can sustain the weight with a 21st century vehicle. The solid wood structure, timbers, rails, floor, beams, it truly is a quick trip back in time as you ride through it.
The bridge was actually constructed in three 94-foot long sections for a total of 282 feet. It was also decided in the 1950s because of the popularity of fishing the St. Joseph River in that location, officials added long windows on the side to accommodate the sport. A historical plaque has also been erected at the site. It's just a nice, quiet, peaceful place to take a Sunday drive or have a picnic, take some photos, or do some fishing. Enjoy!