Phillipi, West Virginia is home to one of our nation’s most unique covered bridges. It’s the oldest and longest covered bridge in West Virginia but what makes it special is that it’s a double barrel bridge. In plain talk, it’s a two lane bridge and it’s one of few remaining in the nation.
The original bridge was 312 feet long and built for a price tag just over $12,000. The Long Burr Arch Truss bridge was built by well known Appalachian bridge builder Lemuel Chenoworh.
This bridge was commissioned by the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1852. Remember, West Virginia was once part of Virginia but counties succeeded and formed a new state that was admitted to the union in 1863.
Today, at 285.5 feet in length, it is still an impressive sight to behold as you approach town. It is open to traffic and the location on US Route 250 means that it’s quite busy.
The bridge has been damaged several times over the years including severe damage caused by flooding in 1985. It was nearly destroyed by fire in 1989 when a gasoline tanker filling underground tanks at a nearby filling station spilled gasoline on the ground. The gas ran to the bridge and a passing car sparked flame when it backfired.
The tragic accident led to a $1.4 million reconstruction project which was led by bridge historian and West Virginia University professor Emory Kemp. I read that they took great care in rebuilding the bridge and in honoring the integrity of the original design.
If you look closely, you’ll still see some burn marks on trusses and supports when you drive through.
I always make a few passes through when I’m in town. I even took a stroll across the pedestrian bridge my last trip there.
There’s parking on either end of the bridge, providing a nice view from the car and a place to leave your vehicle while you explore. There are some restaurants in town but I needed quick food and wasn’t excited about eating in a restaurant given that the pandemic was still going strong.
There’s a Sheetz gas station within walking distance with sparkling clean restrooms and quick made to order sandwiches and sides. I had a picnic while admiring the view and watching the world pass by from one of those parking lots.
It was a perfect way to get in a break and enjoy the view.
Stop back this week to read about the role this bridge played in a Civil War battle.