Virginia to Save Alleghany Humpback Covered Bridge

Tue September 10, 2013 - Northeast Edition
Hunter Woodall - THE ROANOKE TIMES



COVINGTON, Va. (AP) Since its construction in 1857, life hasn’t been easy on Alleghany County’s Humpback Covered Bridge.

The bridge last carried traffic over Dunlap Creek in 1929 and underwent a massive restoration in 1954, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation. On July 11, a transportation historian and VDOT engineers gathered to unveil the structure’s latest rehabilitation project.

“It’s part of our cultural heritage and it is a historic bridge,’’ VDOT Staunton District Environmental Manager Bill Jones said. “So VDOT wanted to take the time and energy and resources to preserve it in a better condition.’’

VDOT intends to reinforce the Humpback Bridge by providing a new roof as well as additional structural improvements, including siding repairs and a new protective stain.

The wooden bridge gets its name from the higher ceiling near its center, giving the 110-ft. structure the distinction of being a rarity in the United States, according to VDOT.

Prior to the bridge being built, VDOT estimates, four other bridges spanned the same location. Each failed due to flooding or other factors.

Ann Miller, VDOT transportation historian, said a June fire destroyed a similar structure in Ohio, leaving the Humpback Bridge as the last of its kind in the United States To Miller, this made working to preserve the structure even more important.

“This one, is, it was, a major engineering achievement,’’ Miller said.

The structure is now in use as a part of a 5-acre wayside park in Alleghany County, about 3 mi. west of Covington off U.S. 60. The bridge has been designated a Virginia Historic Landmark and placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“This bridge is an incredibly well-loved bridge,’’ Miller said.

Teresa Hammond recalls having cookouts and picnics at the bridge and accompanying wayside park as a child.

“For me, it’s very nostalgic to be able to come back here,’’ Hammond said. “To know that this is still standing, and will be here for, you know, hopefully, my grandchildren to be able to enjoy as well.’’

Now, as executive director of the Alleghany Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, Hammond said she hopes the work being done on the structure will encourage more people to visit.

“It’s something that we hope will be here for many years to come,’’ she said.

Despite the fact the covered bridge hasn’t been restored for more than 50 years, Hammond said the structure was still “one of our most famous icons in the community.’’

Tony Opperman, VDOT cultural resource program manager, said the structure was of great importance not only to the community, but the nation as well.

“Bridges like this, you can’t stop maintaining them,’’ Opperman said. “We saw this as an opportunity to be able to take care of some very necessary rehabilitation work.’’

Opperman said keeping a good roof on a structure like the Humpback Bridge is key in making sure it remains a fixture in the community for many years to come.

“They’re there to protect the public investment,’’ Opperman said.

The final cost of the project is expected to be around $125,000, with funding provided by the National Historic Covered Bridge program and VDOT.

Work is expected to be finished by the end of July.