The West Virginia Department of Transportation recently finished rebuilding the historic Carrollton Covered Bridge (above), which was badly damaged in a fire in 2017.
[Above photo by the WVDOT]
West Virginia Division of Highways crews began restoration work on the bridge, which spans the Buckhannon River, in July 2022 after WVDOT decided it would be cheaper and faster for WVDOH bridge specialists to do the work themselves rather that hire contractors for the job.
The bridge – built in 1856 by brothers Emmett and Daniel O’Brien – is 140 feet in length and is one of the longest surviving covered bridges in West Virginia. The covered bridge – added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981 – was also largely built of hemlock and poplar wood from trees cut down on site; as they were abundant across West Virginia in the 1800s.
[Editor’s note: A time lapse video of the restoration project produced by WVDOT is below.]
WVDOH crews began the rebuild project with a complete cleaning and assessment of the bridge, to see which of its wooden components could be salvaged and which would need replaced. However, once they began assessing the damage to the bridge, WVDOH crews discovered that the charred timbers were in worse shape than they had expected.
“From the time it burnt down it sat out in the rain and snow for a couple of years,” noted WVDOH District 7 Bridge Engineer Chad Boram in a statement. “It’s hard to tell how bad it is until you get into it.”
In the end, WVDOH said its crews ended up replacing most of the bridge’s truss work. “That definitely wasn’t in the plan,” Boram noted.
At times using hammers and chisels, WVDOH crews repaired the bridge top structure and hung new wooden siding. In May, crews installed a new steel roof and subsequently reopened the structure to vehicular traffic, although scaffolding erected to work on the bridge and keep debris out of the river must still be removed.
“It’s something all the guys are proud of,” Boram said. “In fact, the crew did such a good job that they’ll be starting a restoration project on the Walkersville Covered Bridge next year.”