Philippi Covered Bridge
design and construction
The structure is 285½ feet (originally
312 feet) long and 26 feet (7.9 m) wide and was originally supported
by three massive sandstone piers constructed by Emmett J. O'Brien.
The bridge design incorporates the "Long" Burr Arch Truss and was
built for $12,180.68. It is one of few surviving "double-barreled"
(two lane) covered bridges in the United States.
The bridge was used on 3 June 1861 by
both Union and Confederate troops after the Battle of Philippi
Races, by some reckonings the first land battle of the American
Civil War. The bridge was the first to be captured in the war by
either side and was used for a time as a barracks by the victorious
The bridge narrowly escaped burning in April and May 1863 at the
time of the Confederate raids on the B&O Railroad west of
Cumberland, Maryland. Orders were issued by General William E. Jones
for the burning of it and of the covered bridge at Rowlesburg, but
the intercession of several locals of Southern sympathies
(especially Elder Joshua S. Corder) saved both.
The bridge has
undergone a number of renovations after being severely damaged at
least seven times over the years.
In 1934, increased motorized traffic mandated the addition of two
concrete piers to the bridge's substructure (for a total of five)
along with a new steel reinforced concrete deck (to replace the old
wooden one) and an external walkway to better accommodate pedestrian
The bridge was damaged by a severe flood on November 4–5, 1985
and was virtually destroyed by fire on February 2, 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 September 16, 1991.
The reconstruction, under the direction of the bridge historian and
West Virginia University professor Emory Kemp, included replacing
the damaged yellow poplar supports. Care was taken to restore the
exterior to its original appearance: the rounded double arch
entrances were restored, red-painted shingles (also of poplar) were
affixed to the roof and new external wooden siding was replaced in a
Today, the original, burnt wooden trusses and supports can still be
seen when driving through the bridge.
A local legend
once asserted that US President Abraham Lincoln and Confederate
President Jefferson Davis were witnessed by a small boy meeting
secretly in the bridge late in the course of the American Civil War
to discuss peace terms.