Hoosier History Live! features host Nelson Price, Saturdays at noon on WICR 88.7 FM in Indianapolis.

New time! ... Saturdays, noon to 1 p.m. ET on WICR 88.7 FM.
And always online at hoosierhistorylive.org!

Nov. 17 show - web-only encore presentation

Enjoy 'encore' return of Covered bridges across Indiana


Note: Because of WICR-FM's coverage of the University of Indianapolis football team, which has advanced to the NCAA Division II post-season for the first time, Hoosier History Live! will be pre-empted on the air Saturday. As a treat for our listeners, though, we are offering an encore broadcast of one of the most popular shows in our archives.


Listen to the show!

Listen to the show!


The show (original air date: Oct. 22, 2011) explores covered bridges across Indiana. More than 600 wooden, covered bridges were built in our state from 1820 to 1922.

The Dunbar covered bridge is in Putnam County, Indiana.Today, about 90 of these historic gems remain.

During this show, Nelson is joined by Margaret Smith of Indianapolis, past president of the Indiana Covered Bridge Society, and Larry Stout of Rush County, who helped spearhead the restoration of the historic Moscow Covered Bridge, which had been demolished by a tornado.

Some fun facts, courtesy of Margaret:

  • The Medora Covered Bridge in Jackson County is, at 434 feet, the longest covered bridge in Indiana.
  • The Edna Collins Covered Bridge - the last covered bridge built in the state - is said to be haunted. Constructed in 1922, the bridge, which crosses Little Walnut Creek, is haunted by the ghost of a little girl, according to folklore. In the 1920s, she is said to have enjoyed swimming in the creek, but she drowned while doing so at night.
  • The Ramp Covered Bridge at the north entrance to Brown County State Park is the only two-lane covered bridge in Indiana. The bridge, which crosses Salt Creek, has another claim to fame: It's the oldest covered bridge still standing in Indiana. In 1838, the bridge was built in Putnam County. During the 1930s, it was moved with the creation of the state park in Brown County.

Old and new wood was used in the reconstruction of the Moscow bridge.The heyday of covered-bridge construction was the 1880s; bridges were covered to protect their flooring and interior from the elements.

Parke County, which is known as the "Covered Bridge Capital of the World", has 31 covered bridges that remain.

In Rush County, a tornado that roared through in 2008 tossed the Moscow bridge (built in 1886) into the Flatrock River. Reconstructed using 30 percent of its original wood, the Moscow Covered Bridge reopened with a community celebration in September 2010.

Last year, Indiana Landmarks honored our guest Larry Stout, president of Rush County Heritage and a resident of the village of Gowdy, with the SerVaas Award for lifetime achievement. His preservation efforts extend far beyond covered bridges, but his county - as well as Parke and Putnam counties - is particularly known for them.

Why those counties? Although there were several builders of covered bridges across Indiana, the three generally considered to have been the most significant were two historic bridge builders based in Rockville in Parke County (the businesses of J.J. Daniels and Joseph A.. Britton), as well as the firm run by A.M. Kennedy (and later by his sons and grandsons) in Rushville.

The longest historic covered bridge in America still standing is the Medora Bridge in Jackson County, Ind., which appears here before its reconstruction.Rush County has five covered bridges, all still in use. Some of the other covered bridges across the state no longer carry traffic. They have been bypassed by modern roads or preserved in parks.

"The bridges are located in many out-of-the-way places today, but they once were hubs of commerce," Margaret notes. "Many were railroad bridges. Often, they were the largest covered areas in a community."

That meant, she adds, that they frequently served as the setting for "political rallies, community gatherings and revival meetings – even weddings."

More fun facts, again courtesy of Margaret:

  • Many covered bridges were painted red. The Kennedys, though, preferred white.
  • Franklin County once had more than 20 covered bridges. Four remain.
  • Of about two dozen covered bridges once in Hamilton County, the only original that remains is Potter's Ford Covered Bridge on the west fork of  the White River, two miles north of Noblesville. And there is a footpath going north from Potter's Ford Bridge Park that leads to a great swing that has a spectacular view of the White River.
  • Larry Stout.At Conner Prairie Interactive History Park, the Cedar Chapel Covered Bridge was not originally in Hamilton County. Built in Dekalb County, it was moved to Conner Prairie in the 1970s.

According to Margaret, the restoration of Potter's Ford is "one of the true success stories of covered-bridge preservation."

She says Potter's Ford, which originally opened in 1871, now even has a sprinkler system to prevent arson and a coating of special paint to resist graffiti. Arson and graffiti have plagued other covered bridges across the state.

Roadtrip: Sandhill Cranes at Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Area

Sandhill cranes gather each year at Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Area.Glory-June Grieff and Eric Grayson report that the greatest spectacle in crane watching is going on right now at the Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Area in northwest Indiana near the town of Rensselaer. There's a viewing platform at the edge of Goose Meadow in the wildlife area where on a good late afternoon you may see 15 to 20 thousand of these fascinating birds gabbling away and dancing as a part of their fall migration routine.

Glory also says, "Seeing them come in from all directions with their distinct bugling call is a sight - and sound - not to be forgotten."

Try to arrive at least a half-hour before sunset. This gathering takes place at sunrise as well, but then you'd miss the chance to eat at the Whistle Stop several miles south on US 421 (a little north of Monon), where the food is great and the experience heightened by no fewer than four electric trains running on overhead tracks. Allow time for the adjacent train museum, the Monon Connection.

Tell them you were sent by Hoosier History Live!   

Your Hoosier History Live! team,

Nelson Price, host and creative director
Molly Head, producer, (317) 927-9101
Chris Gahl, Roadtripper
Richard Sullivan, webmaster and tech director

Pam Fraizer, graphic designer
Garry Chilluffo, creative consultant
Michele Goodrich, Jed Duvall, grant consultants
Joan Hostetler, photo historian
Dana Waddell, volunteer-at-large


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Facebook logo links to the Hoosier History Live! page.Acknowledgments to Print Resources, Monomedia, Indiana Humanities, Visit Indy, WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, Heritage Photo & Research Services, Derrick Lowhorn and many other individuals and organizations. We are an independently produced program and are self-supporting through organizational sponsorships, grants and through individual tax-deductible contributions through Indiana Humanities. We do not receive any government funding. Visit our website to learn how you can support us financially.

News and holiday events from our underwriters

Underground Railroad, holiday author fair and Vonnegut Library journal

Hoosier History Live! is underwritten in part by Conner Prairie Interactive History Park, presenting Follow the North Star, an Underground Railroad experience, through Nov. 17.

And we are underwritten in part by the Indiana Historical Society, presenting the Holiday Author Fair on Saturday, Dec. 1, from noon to 4 p.m. Be sure to catch the special Hoosier History Live! show from noon to 1 p.m. that day, with interviews with four authors directly from the fair!    

And Hoosier History Live! is underwritten with support from the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, now offering its new journal for sale, The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, with works by Robert Bly, Tim O'Brien, Ernie Pyle and Marge Piercy. Available now at the Vonnegut Library store or at its website.

Nov. 24 show

Dan Wakefield on Kurt Vonnegut's letters

Kurt Vonnegut Letters book cover.Over a 60-year period beginning when he was freed as a POW in Germany during World War II, an internationally known novelist from Indiana wrote letters to family members, friends and even literary critics.

Now his longtime pal, another novelist from Indianapolis, has edited the letters, which range in tone from haunting, poignant and blistering to witty, warm and irreverent.

Dan Wakefield, the author of Going All the Way (1970) and other bestsellers, will return to Hoosier History Live! to share insights about Kurt Vonnegut: Letters (Delacorte Press/Random House).

Dan wrote the introduction for the book, as well as decade-by-decade biographical summaries and (for many of the letters) explanatory notes. The book is being published this month, when Kurt Vonnegut would have celebrated his 90th birthday.

Descended from a German-American family that influenced business, cultural and civic life in Indianapolis (as well as the look of the city) starting in the 1850s, Kurt Vonnegut died in April 2007. That year, the Hoosier capital was in the midst of celebrating a "Year of Vonnegut" as a tribute to the literary lion who drew worldwide acclaim for Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), a novel based on his harrowing ordeal as a POW during the firebombing of Dresden, Germany. Vonnegut, who had been a leader of the POWs because of his ability to speak German, was ordered by guards to haul away corpses of children, women and the elderly.

Illustrations by Nathan Gelgud are featured in the book Kurt Vonnegut: Letters."Reading these letters has allowed me to know my friend Kurt Vonnegut better and to appreciate him even more," Dan Wakefield writes in the introduction. "Nothing came easy for him."

Both Vonnegut and Wakefield attended Shortridge High School and were editors of its legendary newspaper, The Daily Echo. Because of their age difference (Vonnegut was a member of the class of 1940; Wakefield of the class of '50), the two did not meet until the early 1960s. Even so, Dan says that, as a high school senior, he heard about the impact his future friend was beginning to make as a writer.

Years later, Dan credited Vonnegut with a crucial role in making Going All the Way a bestseller by writing an influential review of the novel for Life magazine.

Letters about their mutual hometown are included in the new book. In one, Vonnegut expresses frustration about an infamous book signing for Slaughterhouse-Five at the bookstore in the flagship L.S. Ayres & Co. department store in downtown Indy.

"I sold 13 books in two hours," every one of them to a relative," Vonnegut wrote Wakefield in 1969. "Word of honor."

Dan Wakefield (right) was joined by childhood friend Jerry Burton on Nov. 10, 2012, at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis for a signing party for Wakefield’s new book, Kurt Vonnegut: Letters. At that point, cities and colleges across the country were clamoring for a Vonnegut visit, with hundreds of eager book buyers standing in long lines. So the dismal turnout at LS Ayres (the building was designed by Vonnegut's grandfather, acclaimed architect Bernard Vonnegut; its landmark clock was designed later by Kurt Vonnegut Sr.) was particularly exasperating.

In 1997, Vonnegut wrote a blistering letter to the Junior League of Indianapolis (it also is included in Kurt Vonnegut: Letters) over the organization's handling of the sale of a historic home designed by his grandfather.

But Kurt Vonnegut, who was based in New York City and elsewhere on the East Coast for much of his post-World War II life, also cherished many aspects of his hometown and came to feel a sense of pride in its rejuvenated downtown.

Dan Wakefield, who also lived in New York City for many years, as well as in Miami and Boston, resettled in Indianapolis nearly a year ago. Last January, he joined Nelson on Hoosier History Live! to share insights about landmarks from the 1950s (some bygone, some persevering) such as the Red Key Tavern, the Athenaeum and the Ron-D-Vu Drive-In that are mentioned in Going All the Way. A movie version of Going All the Way (1996) starring Ben Affleck was filmed in Indianapolis.

"Dan," Vonnegut once told his friend, "we never had to leave Indianapolis to become writers."

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