As early as 1962 discussions began between my father Eddie Zehnder and his brother William (Tiny) Zehnder, Jr. about building a covered bridge in Frankenmuth. Of course a wooden covered bridge would be a tourist attraction but practically speaking, both brothers owned property on the other side of the river, the Bavarian Inn wanted to develop additional parking and a hotel; the bridge was a necessity.
By 1979 they had hired one of the last of the covered bridge builders, Milton Graton, and struck a deal for a 239 foot span to cross the Cass River.
Beginning in January of 1980 a team of oxen using a capstan (a type of vertical axle) pulled the bridge into place at a rate of about three inches per minute. The bridge was dedicated on September 9, 1980.
By 1985, the Bavarian Inn was nearing completion of the first phase of the Bavarian Inn Lodge. While Eddie and Marion Zehnder owned much of the property to the east and south across the bridge, expansion attention for Zehnder’s, focused on “this side of the river” with the purchase of the golf course in 1984, now The Fortress, and the 1988 purchase of the Bavarian Haus Motel, now Zehnder’s Splash Village.
Over the years, all the property across the covered bridge once owned by the Eddie Zehnder family was sold to the Bavarian Inn Zehnder family. Beginning in 2013, discussions were held between the two families about the ownership of the bridge.
On April 16th, 2015, after 35 years of joint ownership, at a meeting attended by third generation family members Bill Zehnder, Judy Zehnder Keller, Susan Zehnder, Martha Zehnder Shelton and Al Zehnder; Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth formally transferred their interest in Zehnder’s Holz Brucke to the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn, Inc.
Al Zehnder, CEO of Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth