6. Cedar Bridge
Cedar Bridge just doesn’t have much going for it. It’s the shortest of the six bridges, isn’t standing in its original location, and is generally lacking in personality, without any exposed trusses or protruded beams to speak of. Worst of all, it’s not once but twice removed from the original bridge, having been the target of arson in 2002 and 2017. It’s the only one of the flat-roofed bridges with its faces painted white, which is charming, but there’s just too much going against it to allow for a higher placement.
5. Cutler-Donahoe Bridge
This is the first of the two bridges with sharply-gabled roofs, which I consider to be a smidgen less attractive than the nearly flat-roofed structures. It’s also been moved from its original location—to a park in the city of Winterset, which is pretty lame. All that said, it does close to edging out its higher-ranked neighbor . . .
4. Imes Bridge
. . . which, though also no longer in its original location, is a few months older, a few feet longer, and a few syllables shorter in name than Cutler-Donahoe Bridge, all of which are objective measures of its very marginal superiority. Also contributing to Imes Bridge’s slight lead is its larger gap of exposed trusswork just below the roof. The less siding, the better.
3. Hogback Bridge
Compared to the utterly singular nature of the other bridges on this list, Hogback Bridge is a bit anonymous. But such anonymity is simply a reward for quiet merit in every aspect of covered bridge-ness. It’s the original structure in its original location, which is nice. It’s got a flat roof, which is also nice. It’s not too long, and not too short. Nice. And it has exposed floor beams—inarguably, irrefutably nice. History may not have seen fit to draw significant attention to Hogback Bridge, but posterity will remember it for having placed third on my list.
2. Holliwell Bridge
Now we’re getting to the true heavyweights of Madison County covered bridges. Holliwell Bridge, a slick flat-roofed bridge, is the longest of the bunch, with its main structure measuring a whopping 122 feet. Uniquely among the Madison County bridges, it features diagonally laid floorboards. And, of course, it features prominently in the film—it’s where Francesca and Robert hang out before dinner on the second day of his stay in Iowa. All in all, an undeniably formidable bridge. In any other county in Iowa, Holliwell Bridge would take the top spot, no question. But in a county blessed with bridges worthy of a movie with Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep, and a relatively undistinguished supporting cast, even Holliwell has to settle for second.
1. Roseman Bridge
Roseman Bridge is the best covered bridge in Madison County, Iowa. Cultural context aside, it’s every bit Holliwell Bridge’s equal, spanning the same river and making up for its conventional floorboards with an extraordinarily long approach on the south end which constitutes nearly half of its entire length. And with the movie taken into account, it pushes past Holliwell Bridge and achieves true bridge immortality. It’s the first bridge Francesca and Robert visit, where their chemistry becomes apparent, and where she pins the note for him to find. She literally asks the guy out with a bridge. What bridge in cinema can compete? It sure beats anything the Golden Gate Bridge has contributed to the silver screen (by way of being destroyed, for the most part). It’s more emotionally affecting than the Manhattan Bridge in Woody Allen’s Manhattan, or the bridge Gandalf falls off of before defeating the Balrog/changing his clothes. Other bridges may currently dominate the collective consciousness, but I know that one day Roseman Bridge will get the respect it deserves, in the form of commemorative plaque, retrospective exhibition, honorary Oscar, etc.