North America,  Travel

The Bridges of Delaware County

In Upstate New York, there is a town called Delhi. This we did not know about and this I can tell you with not enough emphasis that a Delhi we did not expect in the middle of Delaware County. But it is in the unfolding nature of a drive in the countryside that it shall throw your way places that are unforgettable, sometimes by virtue of their outlandish names. There is the congested city of Delhi in India with countless pockets of heritage left behind by the Rajputs, the Tughluks, the Mughals and the British, tucked in within its urban sprawl, and then there is this, its little doppelgänger in the quiet reaches of the Delaware River.

A Delhi in another continent, to be found where the hills roll into each other in a chain of thickening foliage, where the blue of the skies deepen before they touch upon the vibrant green of the hills as barns and silos turn up from time to time to relieve the monotony, where beauteous horses and calves roam the pastures in quiet bonhomie. That is till you step into the picture. Then the calves stare at you, the startle showing through their great big eyes of bovine beauty. And they hold still for a few minutes, before they scuttle behind the horses for shelter.

Pronounced Del-high, as opposed to the original Del-ee, the outré Delhi of Delaware County came to be around the late 1700s. It was named for the man who founded it, a judge called Ebenezer Foote. He must have lived a lavish lifestyle, for he was referred to as The Great Mogul. Thus the name of the town, which includes the hamlets of East Delhi and West Delhi.

Now Judge Foote had a rival, General Erastus Root. He who rooted for the name ‘Mapleton’ and reacted to the announcement of the town’s new title with the words: ‘Del-hi-hel-high! Better call if Foote-high!’

In Foote and Root’s day, Delhi would have been different. Just over a hundred residents lived around the valley of the River Delaware with its pine and hemlock woods. Eighteenth-century accounts say that Indians traversed through it with prisoners and their scalps at the time. If one of those Indians arrive in present-day Delhi through a wormhole, imagine his face. From the hundreds, the numbers of residents have swelled to a few thousands. Delhi is a vision of small-town utopia, with its line-up of diners, cafes, and the village square, where I can see in the mind’s eye, locals gathering at fairs and harvest fest.

It is just fitting in the scheme of things that Delhi should be home to a covered bridge. You know, those structures of sublime architectural beauty that span rivers, simple and yet commanding, evoking in the onlooker the twin feelings of thrill and romance, because well that book of Robert James Waller did spoil us all with its sentimental talk of the ‘songs that come free from the blue-eyed grass, from the dust of a thousand country roads’.

Covered wooden bridges were built all over the country during the early 1800s to allow horses a semblance of quiet as they crossed gushing rivers, with carriages and caravans in their wake. The cool dark of these bridges are a great respite from the heat of summers and they naturally inspire romance. Kissing Bridges, they call them too. The landscape around each of them is of extraordinary pastoral beauty. The sight makes you want to be an artist, whip out a canvas, start splashing it with brilliant colours and introduce a note of balance through the muted shades of wood.

The trail of covered bridges took us from Fitch’s Bridge in Delhi to Hamden, a canvas of small-town living, where the bridge spanned the West Branch of the Delaware River. The drives were filled with the freshness of colour that nature is suffused with at the onset of summer. We watched fawns leap across the roads with the grace of lithe ballerinas, whooped with delight, and came upon a turkey buzzard of the bald red heads and disproportionately large bodies feeding upon a dead animal. There was no whooping then, but scenes of inimitable pastoral beauty washed over us.

When we arrived upon the last in the trail for us, the Downsville Covered Bridge, we were overwhelmed by the tranquility of its location. The entire length of this bridge designed by a Scottish immigrant was reflected in the still waters. As we walked around the greens with its pergola, suggestive of happy unions, it fit in smoothly, the thought that this was the kind of place where you get married.

A bucolic romance fest cobbled together with bridges and hamlets and barns and silos later, we crossed the last of our covered bridges, Adi gliding the car through its timbered darkness, for what do they say?

‘Five dollars fee for driving faster than a WALK on the bridge.’

Scenes from Delhi

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Fitch’s Covered Bridge. Built originally in 1870 in the village of Delhi for the sum of $1,900. Fifteen years later, it was moved a mile away to its present location.
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The West Branch of the Delaware River past which runs State Route 10
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On a November day from 1977, the introductory lines of an NYT piece on Delhi read: ‘The big issue in the election here tomorrow is whether to go dry.’ We know which way the people leant.
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Gutted by a fire, the shire pub that is back in business
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Craftsman-style houses and Victorian-style farmhouses showed up

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Barns and silos, chock-full of character
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A letter of Ebenezer Foote’s. Sourced from oneonta.edu. Note how he talks about the pure air of Arbor Hill, where he built his house in Delhi. The list of goods he sent to the receiver of the letter, including the cigar meant for a ‘social puff’, is engaging.  

Scenes from around the rolling hills 

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Oh hello!
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‘Now now, why is she yammering?’
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Bales of hay in the Catskills
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Mendicant in the Catskills
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Working barns

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Who said you should not pit yourself against the sun? Chuck rules.
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Silos

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Cross-section of a rustic barn. The fingers itch to transform one of these into a cosy nest.

Hamden

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The Hamden Covered Bridge, built in the mid-1800s, for a sum of $1000 by Robert Murray. It straddles the West Branch of the Delaware River. 

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Downsville

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Adi’s favourite bridge was this, Downsville Covered Bridge. Built by Robert Murray in the mid-1800s at a cost of $1,700. 
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‘Analysis destroys wholes. Some things, magic things, are meant to stay whole. If you look at their pieces, they go away.’ Robert James Waller. 
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‘The reality is not exactly what the song started out to be, but it’s not a bad song.’ Robert James Waller. 

 

48 Comments

  • lexandneek

    What a great story behind the origins of Delhi. Kind of like the idea of calling it Foote High though 😉 What a beautiful covered bridge in such an idyllic countryside! Your photos here remind me of Edward Hopper paintings – timeless. Neek

    • dippydottygirl

      I am going right now to look at Edward Hopper paintings since I have zilch idea about him. Thank you Neek, it was such a beautiful day, filled with views of the lush countryside and those old bridges. My heart swells up with such beauty.
      Foote High does have more of an original touch to it 🙂 xx

      • lexandneek

        One of my fav artist! In fact, while we were dating, Lex gave me a wonderful book about the artist with a catalogue of his paintings. I love how your photos always convey a sense of the surroundings and its “stopped in time” quality. Hope you and Adi are enjoying your weekend. Take care – Neek

  • josypheen

    What a wonderful place to find as you explore! I love how lush and green your photos look!

    I love the look of those covered bridges. I guess they must be a little easier to cross in winter if things get snowy in Delhi. It is sort of funny to imagine a Delhi with snow!

    • dippydottygirl

      It is indeed funny to imagine Delhi and snow in a sentence. Hah that is the magic of the road. It takes you to curious places.
      Thank you Josy. The green was so green and the blue so blue that I did not have the heart to touch up the photos for the most part.
      The covered bridges are dreamy. You are right in guessing that crossings would be made easy in winter with them. 🙂 x

  • Todd

    Beautiful photos and an interesting story as well. It looks so much like where I grew up in Vermont I had to go look it up on a map to see where it was. It’s about 200 miles from where I spent most of my childhood but the photos with the mountains, farms, and covered bridges, make it look as if it could have been the next town over.

    You’ve inspired me – Maybe next week I’ll take a bike trip out to Delhi, Ontario to see what that’s all about. 🙂 From the looks on the map it seems to be about the same size as the New York one.

    • dippydottygirl

      Thank you Todd. Now I have read about Delhi in Ontario. Shall look forward to your post when you get there. It is so interesting to see the namesakes of a place and how vastly different they might be.

      I had the same thought when we drove down the little towns couched among those rolling hills…I turned to my husband and remarked, ‘Does this particular place remind you of Stowe?’ ‘Hey, feels like a Manchester.’ And may I say, Vermont holds my heart. You are lucky to have grown up there.

  • travelgarb

    Such an interesting story and beautiful photographs. There are so many British place names in North East USA that it’s nice to know India makes it too, even if the reason is a bit strange!

    • dippydottygirl

      Thank you 🙂 It was a random find along the way as we drove through the Catskills. I love the thrill of these unexpected little places that are off the grid.

  • thewonderer86

    Ebenezer Foote/Erastus Root – what great names – especially Erastus! I love that same name, totally different place kind of thing. I come from Boston (Lincolnshire, England) which I am positive is nothing like Boston, America; and only 8 miles away there is a sleepy little village called New York! I love those covered bridges, but they are besides being romantic, a wee bit sinister I think.

    • dippydottygirl

      Hahaha I know what you mean Tracey. The hooded look of them…but on a hot summer’s day it feels like a balm of shade. Now that you have introduced the sinister note 🙂

      It is thrilling to see these places. Like when we went to Vermont which is in New England for a valid reason, the place-names were British. Manchester, Stowe, Essex, Swanton… the list goes on. I remember spotting many names along the way. It is interesting to see their vastly different personalities.

    • dippydottygirl

      Oh and the names are precious! They rivals but their names kinda go well together. I can imagine two golden retrievers profit by them 😛

  • AJ

    What an awesome find! You make me want to go to Delhi!!! And what a difference from what I imagine ya namesake is like!
    On my bucket list this summer is to just get in the car and drive as I have never done that, but I love the idea of getting to explore small towns at my leisure and whim

    • dippydottygirl

      Thank you Annika, I hear there are four more Delhis. It would be interesting to discover how their personalities turn out to be. x

  • carolinehelbig

    I’ve heard of the Bridges of Madison County, but until now, not Delaware County. Your photos show such scenes of bucolic tranquility, they are completely lulling me into relaxation. Thanks for the fun little history lesson about the Delhi name.

    • dippydottygirl

      There are so many covered bridges. I doubt one could see all without making them into a mission. I would not mind such a mission. 🙂
      Thank you Caroline, the unexpected thrill that the road brings exerts such a hold on the imagination. xx

  • Osyth

    Swooning and crooning over here …. I am an absolute suckeroony for a covered bridge and you certainly snared a net full of glories over there in Delhi (who knew?). As ever your ramblings carry me along and your pictures are to dive into and dream …. a simply gorgeous sojourn, DD – love love loved it!! Xx

    • dippydottygirl

      Aw thank you, Osyth, your words are ever so generous…how’s summer going? I hope the highs are overtaking the blues 🙂 xx

      • Osyth

        Getting there. It has been a little less than easy since I arrived with a house-guest who has more than overstayed their welcome. That looks like being finally over this weekend and then I think I will be much better than better. Meanwhile the yard is perking up beautifully and we have managed a couple of trips away. Slowly slowly catchy monkey is the way and I am beginning to feel home …. xx

        • dippydottygirl

          Well imagine the relief that shall wash over you this weekend. Let it arrive sooner than usual. Hugs to tide you over until the weekend and many more trips to uplift the heart.
          Meanwhile, the days are galloping away with the world cup keeping us occupied. I do not want June to end already! xx

          • Osyth

            Thank you …. all shall be well and peace will reign and I will be indulgent and selfish for a while – we all need me-time, no? England vs Panama was a triumphant moment …. Long may it last xx

          • dippydottygirl

            I need me-time all the time! That match was. I can almost see Southgate release the stays of his waistcoat. I mean isn’t his the so-called ‘Impossible Job’? 🙂 xx

          • Osyth

            So they say ….. he deserves to be very happy and as chest-puffed as he pleases! xx PS: Me too on the me-time!

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