Phillipi Covered Bridge

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.

Mail Pouch Covered Bridge

One of the most special covered bridges I’ve seen in person is in Guernsey County, Ohio. It was built on private property but is fortunately visible from the road.

Constructed in 1981, it is a short 42 feet and features a Mail Pouch advertisement. The farm is picturesque but the bridge makes it even more beautiful.

I swung by here on my way home from Jamestown, New York last spring and I’m so glad I took the time to go find it.

Have you seen a covered bridge featuring a mural or advertising of some kind?

Martinsville Road Covered Bridge

It’s called Martinsville Road Covered Bridge and it has been on this spot since 1871. It was updated several years ago to accommodate modern traffic so you can drive through this one and people do. Several motorists passed through in the short time I was there.

The area is positively picturesque.

Fun fact about this bridge: it was built by a fellow named Zimri Wall. In addition to having a fantastic name, Mr. Wall co-founded the Champion Bridge Company a year later.

This is one of the oldest bridge companies in America and they consider this their first work. They’re based in nearby Wilmington, Ohio and a number of their bridges are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Want to visit? It’s in Clinton County along a gorgeous route you can follow between Wilmington and Hillsboro. Find it at 39°19’47” N, 83°50’06” W.

Longest Covered Bridge In America

The longest covered bridge in the United States is just outside Ashtabula, Ohio. At 613 feet long and standing 93 feet above the Ashtabula River, the Smulen – Gulf Covered Bridge is impressive. It’s situated along a main artery called State Road and is one of the busiest covered bridges I’ve ever seen in terms of traffic flow.

It is not an old bridge. Dedicated in 2008, it was designed by former County Engineer John Smolen and current County Engineer Timothy Martin. Its completion unseated the Cornish- Windsor Covered Bridge which previously held the title of longest covered bridge in the U.S.

It carries two lanes of legal weight traffic with a pedestrian walkway on either side. While it is a rustic wooden covered bridge, it rests atop modern concrete abutments and three concrete piers.

It sounds like this bridge was years in the making and a real labor of love that the community embraced. It replaced an old iron bridge that had long ago replaced another covered bridge. The price tag was a hefty $7.78 million dollars.

There’s a visitor pavilion overlooking the bridge and a parking lot down below with a paved bike path and access to another covered bridge. I walked the path and then up an old access road to the highway to circle back across the pedestrian bridge and back to the car. It was delightful.

Ashtabula County has nineteen covered bridges including seventeen that are open to car traffic. This is the most massive and impressive that I saw during my whirlwind tour. I would love to see it surrounded by fall foliage someday.

Mill Branch Covered Bridge

My mother and I went on a little adventure Saturday and located two covered bridges along the way in Washington County. She and my dad haven’t quite trusted me since I dragged them to a couple of more isolated bridges last year so we just went to a couple that are along the beaten path.

The one pictured here, the Mill Branch Covered Bridge is a bit of an oddity. It was built in 1871 over the Mill Branch of the Little Hocking River, some three tenths of a mile east of its current location.

In 1980, at the ripe old age of 91, it was moved to the Barlow Fairgrounds. It was restored in the mid nineties. The thing that makes this bridge truly special is the Ohio Bicentennial logo painted on both sides. It appears to be the work of Scott Hagan, the barn artist commissioned to paint all 88 Ohio Bicentennial Barns in time for the Bicentennial celebration in 2003.

It is a curiosity because I haven’t found anything online about this bridge and the Ohio Bicentennial celebration. Every County in Ohio record a Bicentennial Barn and Washington is no different. Did the state paint the logo on this covered bridge? Did the community have it done?

If someone knows, I would love to hear the story!

Washington County has nine covered bridges and there is a driving tour. This one is the easiest to locate. There’s ample parking but it is closed to motor vehicle traffic.

If you’re interested in covered bridges, I’ve written about several. You’ll find them all if you type covered bridge in the search box.

South Salem, Ohio

A tip from Christine sent me to South Salem, Ohio last weekend. She told me about a covered bridge and a historic academy that she thought I would like. What she didn’t mention is that it’s a quaint town with a beautiful church, cute post office and the feel of a New England village.

I didn’t make many pictures here but enjoyed my brief visit immensely.

This is officially the most traveled covered bridge I’ve seen yet as it is open to traffic along a well traveled road. I saw no fewer than eight cars go through during the few minutes I hung around.

The Buckskin or South Salem Covered Bridge was built in 1873 and appears to be lovingly cared for and appreciated in the community.

If you go, be aware there’s not a great place to pull over for pictures. The side you want to photograph is when you’re entering the village. One house has a private property sign in the edge of their yard where it might be safe to stop – likely because the residents are sick of people like me pulling over for a photo. Another driveway across the road didn’t have any signs so I pulled in for a minute to do my business and moved on quickly.

The alternative is to stop in the road and that’s not especially safe on this side of the bridge but you could get by doing that on the other end.

Incidentally, this is the last remaining covered bridge in Ross County. Thanks to Christine for the great advice! It was a good day.