The Stories of Vail
Did you know…?
If you are on a selfie tour of Vail, you’ll want to take a stop in front of the Covered Bridge. This historic landmark not only literally marks the entrance to Vail Village, but its story is as charming as its looks.
What’s the Vail Covered Bridge Story?
Back when the town was first founded in the early 1960s, the bridge didn’t have its dandy roof. It was just a wooden bridge used to get from point A to B across Gore Creek. When John and Cissy Dobson moved to town in 1965 from Vermont, they helped change all that. They purchased a piece of land on Bridge Street across from the bridge and built the Covered Bridge Store. They also paid for half of the cost of building a cover on the bridge – a New England-type architectural feature that Vail Mountain founder Peter Seibert had always wanted to bring to town.
While the Covered Bridge was not inspired by the Bavarian vibe infused through the rest of Vail, it does add a huge dash of character. Not to mention protecting the walkway of the bridge during heavy snowfalls. Besides, how could you properly run a Covered Bridge Store unless it was across from a properly covered bridge?
Tell Me More About the Dobsons
John and Cissy Dobson went on to become one of Vail’s early power couples. They engaged in tons of activities to help better the town. They were major players in the fundraising for building the Vail Interfaith Chapel. John Dobson served as Vail’s mayor for eight years and a Town Council leader for umpteen Vail improvement projects. The Dobson Ice Arena in Vail was named in his honor. They also lived through Vail’s first major fire. The Covered Bridge Store sustained massive damage from a fire that broke out on a January evening in 1968.
John had actually been in Denver, but Cissy, the Dobson’s oldest son, and another couple had been sound asleep inside. All escaped safely. The fire caused extensive damage; its origin remains unknown. Rather than focusing on the horror of a major fire, however, Cissy and John took this as an opportunity to write a heartfelt thank you letter to the volunteer fire department and community as a whole for coming together to help.
Keeping it Strong
The Covered Bridge was not affected by the fire, but it did get its own facelift in 1994. The facelift wasn’t just a fresh coat of varnish, either. This was some major work that included:
- A redesign to hold larger loads and more pedestrian traffic
- Analysis of bridge approaches and structure
- Replacement of the original concrete T-girders with new steel girders
- Inspection of every piece of wood and every single bolt
- Repairs or replacements of components as needed
The Covered Bridge was lifted from its base and put on solid ground for easier restoration. A prefabricated steel bridge was used while renovations were underway. You’ll now find that steel bridge on the golf course.
Covered Bridges Over the Years
- 780 BC: Existence of covered bridges in ancient Babylon
- 1804: First covered bridge built in the U.S., the Waterford Bridge in Connecticut
- 105: Number of years the first covered bridge lasted
- 1851: Second covered bridge built in the U.S., in Oregon
- 2: Number of years the second covered bridge lasted, before it was swept away by floodwaters in 1853
- 1965: Year John and Cissy Dobson moved from Vermont to Vail and built the Covered Bridge Store – which was, of course, accompanied by the Covered Bridge
- 1968: Year of the Covered Bridge Store fire
- 1994: Year the Vail Covered Bridge underwent extensive restoration
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