Frankenmuth's numerous festivals bring thousands of visitors across Zehnder's Wooden Bridge every year. In addition to two lanes for automobile traffic, the bridge also has two pedestrian walkways.
The town of Frankenmuth is famed for its Bavarian style shops and festivals. Zehnder's Holz Brucke (German for wooden bridge) looks as though it could have been plucked up from the Black Forest or a river valley in Switzerland and planted astride the Cass River in the middle of town.
Though this bridge is
a modern construction built in 1979, the architects of Graton and Associates remained
faithful to traditional covered bridge timber framing techniques, utilizing a 3 span Town
lattice truss system of Douglas fir. This sturdy 239' bridge accomodates automobiles and
pedestrians numbering in the hundreds of thousands every year.
The man behind the construction of the bridge was Milton S. Graton of
Ashland, New Hamphire, who at age 70 spent two years building Zehnder's Holz Brucke. With
the help of his son, Arnold, and a grandson, Graton began the project in August of 1978
when three flat cars of timber arrived on the eastern banks of the Cass River. The trusses
and floor joists were fashioned from 100,000 board feet of Douglas Fir. The flooring is
comprised of 15,960 board feet of 4 inch planks. The portion receiving the greatest wear
is of oak while the remaining portion is spruce. 20,000 board feet of Douglas Fir make up
the rafters and the roof is shingled with cedar. An additional 4,340 board feet of pine
was required for the bridge side boards.
After the 230 ton structure was completed on the east bank of the river, Graton Associates employed a system of block, capstan, comealongs and pulleys to enable two oxen to pull as much as 180 oxen could normally displace. The "pull" took place over a twelve day period ending on January 29, 1980.