Story & Photos by Matt Bayman
The highest concentration of covered bridges in western Ohio is in nearby Preble County, where eight historic bridges stand to this day, including the oldest one in the state and one of the newest.
Visiting each of these bridges is a fun experience. But what can make it even better is stopping by the towns, antique shops, restaurants and parks located in between. The following driving tour uses country roads to connect the eight bridges in Preble County, plus two more in nearby Germantown, with several colorful towns and points of interest along the way. This includes Lewisburg, where antique stores, boutiques and specialty shops line Commerce Street, and Eaton, where historic sites and buildings await visitors. In the small village of Verona, enjoy a gourmet meal or homemade pie at Bank House Café, followed by antiquing at a
popular destination shop. Or wait until reaching Germantown to dine at The Farmer in the Deli or the famous Florentine Restaurant.
There are also a number of surprises along the way, including an African farm and petting zoo, a winery located in an old schoolhouse and fossil hunting for trilobites at Hueston Woods State Park.
The bridges themselves are interesting and varied. Some are located in the middle of towns and parks, including one that acts as a picnic shelter, while others are in secluded, peaceful places. This is when visitors can park the car, get out for a closer look and enjoy a fresh breath of country air.
Whether it’s this fall or any time of year, touring the bridges of Preble County is a wonderful experience that’s close to home, affordable, and unique.
This tour is a roughly 90-mile loop that starts and finishes at the Veterans Parkway bridge in West Milton. It is divided into 10 parts, with each part featuring directions, mileage and descriptions of what to see and do.
PART 1 - West Milton to The Bank House Cafe in Verona
Directions: Beginning at the West Milton VFW, located at 7874 St. Rt. 48, drive west on Montgomery County Line Road for 9 miles, then turn left on Preble County Line Road. Follow for one mile to Main Street. To reach Bank House Café turn right on Main Street and the café is four blocks on your right. To reach The Little Shop Antiques & Gardens, turn left, and it’s located a half-mile on your right.
The West Milton VFW sits at the intersection of State Route 48 and Montgomery County Line Road, right next to Pigeye Creek. Years back, the VFW built a covered walkway across the creek. It’s called Veterans Parkway and it looks just like a miniature covered bridge. The walkway connects two parking lots at the VFW and makes a great starting point for this covered bridge-themed driving tour.
Montgomery County Line Road is a scenic back road that passes through the tree farms of Bridenbaugh Farms. This makes the route especially beautiful in the spring and fall.
In Verona, experience the true meaning of the expression “hidden gems” by visiting Bank House Café and The Little Shop Antiques & Gardens. The multi-building antique shop offers antiques, custom folkart and furniture and hardwood lumber sales and is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday-Sunday.
Bank House Café offers breakfast, lunch and early dinner (all gourmet-style), plus coffee. The exterior of the café looks like a miniature bank, while the plush interior brings together a coffee shop and eatery.
Co-owner Tim Delk says that popular menu items include the philly cheesesteak sandwich, hand-patted burgers, turkey BLTs, seasoned french fries and homemade pies. The café is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
PART 2 - To Warnke Covered Bridge
Directions: From The Bank House Café, continue west on Main Street for 0.3 miles. Turn left on Verona Road and follow it for 1 mile until it dead-ends/merges into Sonora Road. Continue right on Sonora Road for 0.6 miles. At the fork in the road, turn left to continue on Verona Road. In 1.3 miles turn left on Swamp Creek Road. The covered bridge is straight ahead.
After passing several points of interest, including Pinerose Hill Nursery and the 1805 Verona Cemetery, drivers will reach the first covered bridge on the tour.
At one time, Preble County had 50 covered bridges. Of the eight that remain, six were built by the same man, Everett S. Sherman. This includes Warnke Bridge, which was the last covered bridge built for road traffic in Preble County in 1895. It is 51-feet long and still in regular use. Visitors can park in the grass on either side of the bridge and get out for a closer look. This is also a chance to pick up a complimentary brochure and map of the bridges. It’s provided by the Preble County Visitor’s Bureau and can be found inside most of the bridges.
PART 3 - To Wild Hearts African Farm & Petting Zoo
Directions: Continue east on Swamp Creek Road through Warnke Bridge and then take the first right on Jordan Road. Follow Jordan Road for 2 miles. The Wild Hearts African Farm & Petting Zoo is located at the intersection of Salem Road and Jordan Road, after crossing U.S. 40. It will be on your left.
In between Warnke Covered Bridge and Lewisburg is a surprising destination known as Wild Hearts African Farm & Petting Zoo. The non-profit, 31-acre educational farm is owned and operated by Amanda Bagger (pictured below) and is open by reservation only by calling (937) 416-5520. A petting zoo tour explores animals from the farmyard, savanna and the outback, including Nigerian dwarf goats, Peking ducks, box turtles, a barn owl, red-tailed hawks, a bald eagle and many others. There’s also an African Animal Encounter & Tour, which explores the lands, cultures, farming practices and animals of Africa and includes up-close visits with some of the animals, plus the petting zoo. There’s also a seasonal Petting Zoo & Corn Walk Experience. Learn more at www.wildheartsafricanfarm.org.
PART 4 - To The Dixon-Branch Bridge & Lewisburg
Directions: Turn right on Salem Road and follow it for 1.8 miles to Lewisburg Community Park, where the next bridge stands.
The second covered bridge reached on this tour is the Dixon-Branch Bridge in Lewisburg. Unlike other bridges on the tour, this one sits on dry land at Lewisburg Community Park. The bridge once spanned Dixon Branch in nearby Dixon Township. However, in 1963 it was damaged in a windstorm and subsequently donated to the residents of Lewisburg, who decided to place it in the park. Today, visitors can picnic inside of the bridge.
Just up the hill from the covered bridge is downtown Lewisburg. It’s one of the greatest surprises on this tour and a destination unto itself.
On Commerce Street, shoppers can spend hours browsing through antiques, books, collectibles, clothing and more, including at Brick Rhod Antiques and Bistro, Doc’s Holiday Village Shop (locally made Santas and waffles), Yankee Clover Mercantile, Livin’ on Dreams Boutique and Reader’s Delight Book Shop, among others. Top things off with a treat from Cherry On Top Ice Cream and cross the street to see a nice mural on the south wall of the Lewisburg Fire Department.
PART 5- To The Geeting Bridge
Directions: Head south on Ohio Route 503 in downtown Lewisburg and then turn right on Clay Street. Follow for 3 miles to the covered bridge. NOTE: On the outskirts of Lewisburg, Clay Street becomes Lewisburg-Western Road. At the bridge, the road becomes Price Road, but it’s all the same road in one straight line.
The Getting Bridge was built in 1894 and is very close to the intersection of Interstate 70, U.S. 40. and U.S. 127. According to Destination Preble, Geeting Bridge has taken a beating. It was damaged by a storm in 1914, which removed the roof. Then, in 1969, a truck over the height limit ripped out the roof framing. Today, the bridge is fully restored and, although near the busy intersection, located in a peaceful, tucked-away part of Preble County.
PART 6 - To The Old Schoolhouse Vineyard & Winery
Directions: Continue west through Geeting Bridge on Price Road. In 2.3 miles this road will dead-end into U.S. 127 where it crosses Interstate 70. Follow U.S. 127 south for 3.7 miles and then turn right on Ohio Route 726. The winery is on your right.
Located between Geeting Bridge and Christman Bridge is the Olde Schoolhouse Vineyard & Winery. Open at 1 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, the winery is located in an 1890s schoolhouse and features more than 20 crafted wines, plus live music on Friday and Saturday evenings. During warmer months, music, and wine tastings take place outdoors. Learn more at www.oshwinery.com.
PART 7 - To Christman Bridge
Directions: From the winery, continue west on Alexander Road. In 1.3 miles turn left on Lynch Road. Follow Lynch Road until it dead-ends into Eaton Gettysburg Road. Turn left and continue on Eaton Gettysburg Road for 1.3 miles. Take a sharp right onto Eaton New Hope Road and Christman Covered Bridge will be immediately visible.
This covered bridge was built in 1895 and is located next to a beautiful colonial-style, private home over Seven Mile Creek. While the bridge originally cost $4,250 to build, renovations in 2007-2008 cost $331,093. The bridge was named after Solomon Christman, who owned the land around the bridge and operated a sawmill downstream. Trace remnants of this mill are still visible about 200 yards west of the bridge. This bridge is still in regular use, so use caution.
PART 8 - To Roberts Bridge & Eaton
Directions: From the Christman Bridge, turn right on Eaton Gettsburg Road and follow it for 2.2 miles. The road will turn into Park Avenue in Eaton. Follow the road across Main Street to Beech Street. Roberts Covered Bridge will be on your right. The address of the bridge is 315 S. Beech St.
Roberts Covered Bridge is believed to be the oldest covered bridge in Ohio, the second oldest in the United States and the oldest of the six remaining “double-barreled” covered bridges in the United States. It was built in 1829. Due to being vandalized and heavily damaged in a fire in 1986, the bridge was restored and moved to its current location over Seven Mile Creek. Visitors can walk around a lake near the bridge, cross it by foot and view the nearby historic St. Clair Street Bridge, which is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Along with consignment shops, Eaton has some great dining and snacking options, including The 1808 Café, Red Mule Inn and Daylight Donuts. It’s also filled with historical markers, statues and buildings, including the Preble County Courthouse. Unlike most of the Gothic-style courthouses in the region, this one was built in the Beaux-Arts style and looks like it belongs in the heart of Washington D.C. Across the street is a statue of William Bruce, a Revolutionary War veteran who founded Eaton and named it after General William Eaton, a veteran of the Tripolitan War, which was fought between the United States and the Barbary States from 1800-1805.
PART 9 - To Harshman Bridge
Directions: Exit from Roberts Covered Bridge on Beech Street take an immediate right on St. Clair Street and cross the historic steel St. Clair Street Bridge. St. Clair will dead-end into Ohio Route 732. Turn right on Rt. 732 and follow for 2.8 miles to Concord Road. Turn right on Concord Road and follow west for 4.7 miles. Turn left on Concord Fairlawn Road. The covered bridge is less than a mile away.
Harshman Covered Bridge is located about 4 miles from Indiana in a very beautiful and secluded part of Preble County. The bridge is surrounded by farmland, chirping crickets and singing birds, with very little car traffic to interrupt a visit. The bridge was built in 1894 and makes a great stop between Eaton and Hueston Woods Covered Bridge, located in Hueston Woods State Park.
PART 10 - To Hueston Woods Covered Bridge
Directions: Continue south through Harshman Bridge on Concord Fairlawn Road for 4.4 miles until it dead-ends into Ohio Route 177 in Fairview. Follow Rt. 177 for 3.1 miles. Turn right on Camden-College Corner Road. Hueston Woods Covered Bridge is less than 2 miles on your right.
Hueston Woods Covered Bridge was the first new covered bridge built in Preble County in more than 100 years. It was completed in 2012 by Brum- baugh Construction and uses the Burr Arch truss construction method patented in 1804. It spans 108 feet, has a beautiful, red exterior and two walkways on the sides for pedestrians. While at Hueston Woods, take in some scenery at Acton Lake, hunt for fossils trilobites or hike miles of great trails. Stay longer by booking a room at the vintage Huston Woods Lodge or pitch a tent at the campgrounds.
PART 11 - To Camden & Brubaker Bridge
Directions: Take Camden-College Corner Road east, toward Camden, for 7 miles, until it meets U.S. 127, then continue. In one mile, take a right (east) on Ohio Route 725. Follow Rt. 725 for 5.4 miles and then turn left (north) on Brubaker Road. In exactly 0.5 miles, turn right to continue onto Brubaker Road. The bridge is right there.
Highlights in the small village of Camden include the town’s veterans memorial (pictured at right), plus the Depot Dairy Bar & Restaurant, Buds & Blooms Greenhouse and the Rush Run Area, which is a public natural area. The Brubaker Bridge, not far from Camden, was built in 1887 and uses the Childs Truss construction method. This method, along with the open windows on the sides of the bridge, makes it one of the stand-out bridges on the tour.
PART 12 - To Jasper Road Bridge & Germantown Covered Bridge
Directions: Continue through Brubaker Bridge until Brubaker Road dead-ends into Ohio Route 122. Turn right on Rt. 122. In downtown Gratis, follow Ohio Route 725 east toward Germantown for 6.8 miles. Before reaching town, turn right on Sigel Road. The Jasper Road Covered Bridge is located at the bottom of the hill on your left.
Along with the eight covered bridges in Preble County, before returning home, two more can be seen by visiting nearby Germantown. This is also a great place to have dinner, including at the famous and historic Florentine Restaurant or The Farmer In The Deli.
The first bridge is the Jasper Road Covered Bridge, which is located on private property at the Mud Lick Mill. The dark brown bridge and the mill are for sale and can be seen safely from the road. Two historic markers also stand next to the covered bridge.
The Germantown Bridge was built in 1870 and spans Little Twin Creek. It’s located in the middle of town and is used for pedestrian-traffic only. Decorated with patriotic banners and featuring an open-air design, visitors can sit on several benches inside of the bridge and look over the creek.
PART 13 - Back to the Beginning
Directions: To get back to West Milton, simply return to Cherry Street and turn right (north). Cherry Street will become Diamond Mill Road, which becomes Rangeline Road, providing a 20-mile straight line back to Montgomery County Line Road in Miami County.