Lemuel Chenoweth

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Lemuel Chenoweth (1811-1887), celebrated West Virginia bridge-builder

Lemuel Chenoweth (25 June 1811—26 August 1887) was a carpenter, legislator and self-taught architect. He is best known as one of 19th century America's master covered bridge builders.

Chenoweth and his brother Eli constructed 20 bridges during the 1840s and '50s, most of them covered, on four western Virginia turnpikes, notably on the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike system in what is now West Virginia.


Philippi Covered Bridge (1852)

Chenoweth was born, lived and died in Randolph County, Virginia (later West Virginia). In his youth, Chenoweth built churches, houses, sideboards, poster beds, buggies, wagons, a model of a reverse-cutting sawmill, and even made dominoes.

Chenoweth became an associate of Claudius Crozet (1789–1864), a noted French-born civil engineer who oversaw the design and construction of Virginia's transportation infrastructure of turnpikes, canals, and roads with funding by the Virginia Board of Public Works and the General Assembly of Virginia prior to the American Civil War (1861-1865). He was also strongly influenced by the bridge framing system developed in 1817 by Theodore Burr (1771–1822) — the Burr arch-truss structural design — which improved bridge strength dramatically.

Chenoweth's best-known surviving bridge is the Philippi Covered Bridge (1852) spanning the Tygart Valley River and carrying U.S. Route 250 in Philippi. It is an outstanding example of a modified Burr truss bridge with two spans totaling 308 feet (94 m).[1] It is also the only covered bridge in the United States currently incorporated into the national primary highway system, although it has been extensively reinforced and reconstructed.

The only other Chenoweth covered bridge to survive to the present day is located at Barrackville in Marion County.[2] Several homes and the Huttonsville Presbyterian Church in Huttonsville are also among Chenoweth's extant creations.

Chenoweth was buried in the Beverly Cemetery.


The Lemuel Chenoweth House Museum operates in the post and beam house that Chenoweth built for himself in Beverly in 1856.

Barrackville Covered Bridge (1853)

List of Chenoweth bridges[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ann Post (September 30, 1971), National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Philippi Covered Bridge (PDF), National Park Service
  2. ^ E.L. Kemp (December 21, 1980), National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Barrackville Covered Bridge (PDF), National Park Service
  3. ^ Carnes, Eva Margaret (1952). Centennial History of the Philippi Covered Bridge, 1852–1952; Barbour County Historical Society, Inc, Charleston Printing Company, Charleston, West Virginia, pg 63.

External links[edit]