The Elizabethton Covered Bridge is located in downtown Elizabethton, the county seat of Carter county (Elizabethton Quad, 207 SW). Connecting 3rd Street and Hattie Avenue, the bridge is adjacent to a city park and spans the Doe River.
As the county seat, Elizabethton grew throughout the 1800s. However, Lynn Mountain hemmed it in to the east and the Watuaga River lay to the north. The Doe River flooded often and limited growth to the south. To span westward, to the site of the current downtown, the city would need a bridge over the Doe River. After extensive debate, in 1882 the County Court approved $3,000 for the bridge and $300 for approaches. The court appointed a committee to select a site for the bridge. However, the committee encountered an unexpected problem - the men could not find a qualified contractor to erect the bridge.
After county officials were unable to find a bridge contractor, a local doctor, E.E. Hunter, accepted the contract and hired experienced people to work on the bridge. Hunter selected Thomas Matson, who had been an engineer for the Narrow Gauge (Tweetsie) Railroad as an engineer and architect. Hunter referred to the bridge as his "$5 bridge" since he made a profit of $5 as contractor.
Although logs from a lumber operation and a barn were thrown against the bridge and its supports during a disastrous flood in 1901, this was the only major bridge in the area to survive.
Most of Elizabethton's downtown is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its historical and architectural merits. The Elizabethton Historic District contains a variety of properties ranging in age from the late 1700s through the 1930s. However, the Elizabethton Covered Bridge is a focal point and a well-known landmark in the state. In addition to this bridge, the district also contains a significant 1926 concrete arch bridge over the Doe River. TDOT and the City of Elizabethton have a restoration project for the concrete arch bridge scheduled to begin in 2002.
Structurally, the bridge contains one span, a covered wooden Howe Truss that is 137 feet long. The total length is 154.3 feet. The bridge contains one traffic lane and a single walkway. The curb-to-curb width is 16.4 feet and the out-to-out width is 20.4 feet. The substructure is masonry stone and concrete. Each end of the bridge features a projecting truncated gabled roofline.
TDOT has awarded the City of Elizabethton a Transportation Enhancement Grant to rehabilitate this covered bridge. Work is expected to begin in 2002.