The Olin Family has lived on Dewey Road since the 1860's. The Dewey road Covered Bridge was built in 1873 at the bottom of what locals of the time referred to as Olin's Hill. It was constructed by a builder named Potter, and like the majority of the bridged being built during this time in Ashtabula County, it was constructed with Town Truss Design (at the time out County's bridges was Howe or Town Truss). Patented in 1820 by Ithiel Town, it quickly became a widely used design due to the fact that it called for smaller lumber which was easier to transport as well as the fact that it was a much simpler design than most which made it easier to build. This particular bridge was made 115 feet long to span the Ashtabula River in Plymouth Township.
My great-great grandfather was a stone mason at the time and had helped to maintain the township's roads as well, and though we had no solid evidence family has always taken pleasure in speculating that he may have helped to build the stone foundation at each end of the Dewey Road bridge. Years later, in 1900, my grandmother, Naomi, was born in the little house her family had built at the bottom of the hill. Her childhood playground was the banks of the river that surrounded the bridge which stood less than a few hundred feet from her front door. She always told how the bridge was a welcome project to the Olin Family as there were Olins on both sides of the river. When her mother, Hattie, wanted to get a message to her Aunt Nettie, she would have to stand at the river's edge and yell if the river was too high. Naomi lived here until she moved away at the age of 19 with her husband Fred. Her parents remained until the little house burned in 1939, though the property still remained in the Olin Family. Naomi adored her childhood home and treasured her memories of growing up beside the beautiful bridge. She collected covered bridge items and artifacts all of her adult life which turned out to be both long and blessed. Naomi lived to be 95.
Like many covered bridge enthusiasts, she received special bridge items from friends and family for every possible reason. She traveled extensively to visit other bridges and belonged to various covered bridge groups in an effort to enjoy and promote Covered Bridge preservation. From a strictly personal point of view, she was a remarkable woman. And she, not unlike others who lived during her time, was proud of her heritage and proud of Ashtabula County. Like most of her generation, she understood what it took to build this place . . . this community. And bridges were part of that! After all, in how many cases were the town hall, the grange, the church or a family member on the other side of the river, you had to cross it sooner or later.
Jesting aside, in 1981, after the passing of her husband, funds that had been given in his memory were used to give the Dewey Road Bridge a facelift. Together, with the help of family, friends, and neighbors, the Dewey Road Bridge was given a new roof and newly painted portals and faciers, as well as some other necessary repairs. It was upon the completion of this project, that Naomi was given the surprise of a lifetime. Presented by her friend, John Smolen, she proudly laid eyes on a large sign that bore just two words. "Olin's Bridge." Truly a treasured moment in her life. From that time, in 1981, until the present the Dewey road Bridge has been known as the Olin's Bridge making the first bridge at the time to be named in honor of a family.
Naomi went on to serve as the Grand Marshall to the very first Ashtabula County Covered Bridge Festival, and was active with the group until she was no longer able. Before she passed away, she was able, due to the efforts of her son to live beside her beloved bridge once again. This time . . . on the OTHER side of the road! She was able to witness the progress as it was completely refurbished and then dedicated (as is the custom with Ashtabula County Bridges) in 1993. Another cherished moment. She passed in 1995 leaving her love and her passion . . . her legacy if you will, in one very large Covered Bridge collection!
At different times late in her life she and her daughter had spoken of having a museum, but where to put one was always an issue. Sadly, the opportunity never presented itself until after she was gone from us. In 2003, Olin's Museum of Covered Bridges became a reality. The Museum itself is nothing more than a simple farmhouse. Her grandson-in-law's childhood home. Nothing fancy to speak of, yet it sits just one-tenth of a mile from the East end of Olin's Bridge.
Lovingly remodeled and transformed this farmhouse turned Museum, now features the covered bridge collection of my grandmother, Naomi Olin Bottorf. Within its walls, a lifetime of love and passion is displayed. Inside, you will find displays of beautiful artwork and artifacts of every kind. You'll learn things both interesting and fun about covered bridges. From learning how to identify a bridge to discovering all the many different truss types. Even explore the bridges of our County's past in a time when people were charged a lesser toll for crossing common farm animals and a greater toll for fancy carriages.
Our little Museum packs a positive punch and is a wonderful compliment to your Covered Bridge Tour. Complete with a mini gift shop it is sure to charm every visitor. Olin's Museum is a family owned and operated 501-C-3 and is a proud member of Ashtabula County Convention and Visitor's Bureau. We sincerely hope you will stop in and see us while you are out touring all eighteen of Ashtabula's beautiful Covered Bridges.
Yours truly, Julie Grandbouche and the Olin Family