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Eagle Point plans to get historic span back on list

EAGLE POINT — The Antelope Creek Covered Bridge has been nominated for placement back on the coveted National Register of Historic Places after a quarter of a century hiatus.

Built 90 years ago, the bridge was placed on the national register in 1987. That also was when the span was relocated from its original home over Antelope Creek about eight miles southeast of Eagle Point and moved to its present location on Little Butte Creek some 35 feet off Main Street.

When it was moved, window openings were cut into its wood sidings because of safety concerns, an alteration that resulted in it being dropped from the register shortly after it was listed.

But the city, which owns the bridge and is seeking its reinstatement, has taken pains to restore the structure to its historical state, observed Eagle Point Mayor Bob Russell.

"We've been very cautious about that," Russell stressed. "When we have needed to replace old boards, we used custom-milled planks that were rough-cut like the original ones. We've also used old boards when we can."

Russell wrote a letter supporting the bridge's nomination to Oregon's State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation.

The committee will consider the old bridge nomination for the national register when it meets for a two-day session beginning Oct. 11 in Oregon City.

The committee will also consider nominations for sites in Portland, La Pine, Roseburg and Silverton.

Nominations recommended for listing by the committee are forwarded to the National Park Service, which maintains the register under the authority of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. Committee members are experts in historic preservation-related fields. One member is Ashland resident Jeff LaLande, a retired historian and archaeologist from the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

Mike Upston, who took over the job of Eagle Point city planner earlier this year, instigated the effort to reinstate the bridge, Russell said.

"The council is behind it 100 percent," he said, noting that being placed on the list gives the bridge more gravitas with tourists and others who love old, covered bridges.

However, that's not to say that the bridge doesn't attract attention without the listing, he was quick to observe.

"We just had a tour bus stop there with 46 seniors from California," he said. "They all had their photograph taken in front of the bridge. That makes me proud to have that kind of interest."

Longtime Eagle Point resident Helen Harnish Wolgamott, master of the Eagle Point Grange, also wrote a letter to the committee in support of the bridge's listing.

"I believe the community feels this bridge has been given a second chance and will be cared for by all in many years to come," wrote Wolgamott, whose family roots in Eagle Point go back more than a century.

In their letters, Russell and Wolgamott cited its uniqueness, its long history in the community and its importance as a historical resource.

Built in 1922, the bridge was constructed by Jackson County's bridge-building brothers Wesley and Lyal Hartman, aided by their father Jason. It is one of 44 timber-truss covered bridges in the state.

In addition to the Antelope Creek Covered Bridge over Little Butte Creek, three other covered bridges remain in Jackson County: the McKee Covered Bridge spanning the upper Applegate River, the Lake Creek Covered Bridge and the Wimer Covered Bridge over Evans Creek.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.