There must be some connection between autumn leaves and covered bridges. In Indiana there’s a “Covered Bridge Festival” every October, and similar events seem to take place elsewhere around the northeastern states. Here in West Virginia I don’t know of a festival, but it seems that Lisa and I have suddenly been seeking out covered bridges as we tour the state watching the color changes among the trees.
A couple of weeks ago, on an expedition into the mountains, we paused again at the covered bridge that spans the Tygart Valley River at Philippi. This has been a favored stopping point when we drive in that area.
This bridge is a rarity, a two-lane covered bridge. It was built in 1852 to carry the Beverly-Fairmont Turnpike over the Tygart Valley River, and has continued in service as part of a federal highway, now U.S. Route 250, for over 150 years.
The bridge’s “lifetime” has not been uneventful. In 1861 it played a roll in the “Battle of Philippi Races“, considered by some to be the first land battle of the Civil War. Over the course of the war it was occupied alternately by Union and Confederate troops, served for a time as a barracks, and in 1863 was rescued, by the pleas of local Confederate sympathizers, from burning by Confederate forces. Since that time it has been threatened by floods, and seriously damaged by one in 1985.
As it now stands, the bridge is not entirely original. Over the 20th Century increasing motor vehicle traffic led the state to reinforce its supports and add an exterior pedestrian passage. More significantly, the bridge was all but destroyed by an accidental fire in 1989. Reconstruction was expensive, but many of the original timbers were salvaged and the bridge today looks much the same as it did before the fire.