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Philippi bridge is oldest in state

December 31, 2012
The Inter-Mountain

One of the most recognized sights in Barbour County spans the Tygart Valley River. The Philippi Covered Bridge was constructed in 1852 by Appalachian bridge builder Lemuel Chenoweth.

Lemuel Chenoweth traveled to Richmond with a model for the bridge made from hickory. His model was plain and did not attract much attention until he placed it between two chairs and stood on it. He invited other architects to do the same, but no one took him up on his offer. Chenoweth was given the contract for the bridge.

The Philippi Covered Bridge is the oldest and longest covered bridge in West Virginia and is one of only two remaining in Barbour County. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

Article Photos

The bridge was used by both Union and Confederate troops after the Battle of Philippi Races and the first land battle of the American Civil War.

A local folklore legend asserts that President Abraham Lincoln and confederate President Jefferson Davis met secretly in the bridge toward the end of the American Civil War to discuss peace terms.

In 1985, the Philippi Covered Bridge sustained damage from seveer flooding and it was virtually destroyed by fire in 1989. The bridge was closed for two years and local preservationists restored the bridge to its original condition.

A tollgate was placed at the east end of the bridge to collect fares years ago. Carriages with two horses were charged 35 cents, a horse and rider 10 cents, a score of sheep 5 cents and each head of cattle 1 1/2 cents. Today the two-lane structure serves to handle traffic on U.S. Route 250. The bridge is the nation's only covered bridge still serving as a federal highway.

 
 

 

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