On a recent windy autumn afternoon, the Darlington Covered Bridge looked like a page out of a calendar, with orange leaves blowing off the trees towering over the water.
The landmark remains a picturesque destination for fishermen and history buffs that travel from across the nation to see covered bridges.
“It’s kind of cool that, you know, here in this little town that we can draw people from out-of-state to enjoy our Sugar Creek and our covered bridge scenery — which is so pretty, especially during the fall,” said Kim Carpenter, president of the town council, who remembers crossing the bridge on the school bus.
Local nonprofit organization Darlington Forever has received funding from the Montgomery County Community Foundation for the next phase of a project to rehabilitate the bridge, which was completed in 1868 and closed to vehicle traffic in the 1970s.
The $19,700 grant will be used to work on the northern abutment and the approach. The town brought in area covered bridge expert Dan Collom to perform the work. Collom began by switching out the tresses, putting on new siding and replacing the roof.
The project’s first donation came in the form of a bequest from a Darlington woman who had earmarked money to be given to the bridge after her death.
“Because of her generosity, we really could at least start the project,” Carpenter said.
The town also received a grant from the state to help fund the planning phase. It took two years to receive estimates and bids.
The project was broken down into phases to help manage the budget. Officials originally discussed moving the bridge to protect it from vandals, who left behind vulgar messages. Carpenter said the bridge has to be checked daily for vandalism.
A sign warns visitors that the area is under the watch of a security camera.
Once the next phase of the work is complete, attention will turn to the wooden block floor. To donate to the project, make a check or money order payable to the Covered Bridge Fund and drop it off at Darlington Town Hall or mail to P.O. Box 578, Darlington, IN 47940.