Route 1 crossing the Susquehanna at the Conowingo Dam is the only free passageway in Maryland for motorists crossing the river. But for nearly a century this trip involved paying a toll to a private company.
A covered bridge was built just north of the dam by 1820, but after a flood swept it away in 1846 the Legislature authorized the creation of the Conowingo Bridge Company. That money making enterprise threw open its span to the public in 1859. So to pass safely above the rushing water, you forked over cash to the toll-keeper, which ended up in the coffers of the company as the profits rolled in for stockholders.
During subsequent decades floods and ice jams periodically damaged the company asset. If the forces of the raging waters weren’t destructive enough, about midnight one June in 1907 flames burst through the roof of the wooden structure. Before anything could be done, a large part of it was consumed by the blaze. The burnt out sections were replaced by iron spans. Finally the State of Maryland bought the highway bridge in 1911 for $88,000, bringing an end the practice of a private company charging for passage here. The structure fell one final time, when it was dynamited in 1927 to make way for the new hydroelectric dam a short distance downstream.
For a more detailed article on the bridges at Conowingo, visit Maryland Covered Bridges.