Site of the first land battle of the Civil War
The Philippi Covered Bridge was
completed in 1852 to a design by West Virginia’s pioneer covered bridge
builder, Lemuel Chenoweth. The bridge is an
outstanding example of a modified Burr truss with two spans totaling 308 LF. It
is historically significant in its own right as one of the finest examples of
the timber bridge builder’s art. In the mind of the public, however, it is
identified with the first engagement of the Civil War following the shelling of
Originally a toll
bridge on the Beverly-Fairmont Turnpike, the Philippi Bridge has since carried
the traffic of US250, making it the only covered bridge in America on the US
primary highway system. The bridge also holds a special place in
history. This is the site of the first
land battle of the Civil War. The bridge was used on 3 June 1861 by both
Lemuel Chenoweth of
Although other engineers scoffed at him and his crude wood model, Chenoweth had the last laugh. To demonstrate the strength of his design, he placed the model between two chairs and then stood on it. The model did not so much as bend under his weight, prompting one official to quickly calculate that the actual bridge would support a man some 600’ tall! Chenoweth won the contract, the final cost of the bridge being $12,181.24.
All of the structural timber is yellow Poplar. In 1851, Chenoweth found a nearby grove of Poplar with trees as large as 60” in diameter. “Tulip” Poplar is light, clear-grained, very strong for its weight, and insect resistant if kept dry.
Froes were used to split the approximate 20,000 roof shingles—most likely split from Chestnut Oak or American Chestnut. In this era, shingles were of irregular width but would have averaged 6” wide and 18”-24” long. The shingles overlapped so that only the bottom third or fourth of each shingle was exposed.
The very large logs were halved and then quartered with a 2-man saw. This made them easier to drag. Also, quarter-sawn lumber is preferred for strength because the grain runs nearly perpendicular to the plane of the board.
The bridge was damaged by a severe flood on 4–5 November 1985 and was
virtually destroyed by fire on 2 February 1989. A gasoline tanker truck
refilling underground tanks at a nearby filling station overfilled a tank,
spilling gasoline which ran down into the bridge. A car passing through the
bridge then sparked a fire when its exhaust system backfired. The bridge was
then closed to traffic until a $1.4 million reconstruction was completed and
the bridge reopened on 16 September 1991. The reconstruction, under the
direction of the bridge historian and
1989 fire aftermath. Photo from Appalachian Blacksmiths Association Website
Certain modernizations, such as a fire suppression system, were included in the project to prevent a future catastrophe. The actual modernization and restoration work took about a year to complete and cost $2 million.
Appalachian Blacksmiths Association Website http://www.appaltree.net/aba/bridge.htm
and Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippi_Covered_Bridge
View of the bridge from
West Virginia State Historical Marker at the bridge.
View entering the
bridge westbound from
View inside – old and new timbers from restoration after 1989 fire are evident.
While you’re visiting
the Covered Bridge, take time to walk around historic
Lots of interesting shops in downtown Philippi. The covered bridge is just to the left of the church at the end of this street.
Alderson-Broaddus College sits on the hill straight ahead.
Hope you enjoyed visiting the Philippi Covered Bridge