Book documenting covered bridges|
by Phyllis Johnson, Chesapeake-Clipper Correspondent
Leola Pierce loves to admire fall foliage, and during a
1993 sightseeing trip to western Virginia she discovered something that would inspire her to
produce a book and seek state legislation to recognize what she saw.
What attracted the Portsmouth resident's eye that fall
day was a covered bridge still in use. It made her wonder how many covered bridges could be
found around the state. So she and her son, Steve, who's worked as both a former private
investigator and real estate agent, set out to document the structures in words and
Her love of covered bridges came naturally to Leola
Pierce, a retired Virginia Department of Transportation bridge engineer with more than 50 years
of drafting, and engineering experience.
She first worked as an architectural draftsman then as
a civil engineering draftsman at the Naval Operating Base in Norfolk.
"I also worked as a senior structural draftsman
specializing in bridges and then as chief draftsman in the Suffolk District Bridge Office of
VDOT," said Pierce. "My last position was that of transportation engineer (bridges) up until I
retired in 1995."
Pierce, 80, and her son, 56, spent nine years visiting
covered bridges and found nine - three in the south Piedmont area and six in the Appalachians.
They captured them in a book titled "Covered Bridges in Virginia," which was published in the
spring of 2002.
The 165-page book includes historical information
about Virginia, structural data on the bridges,. Pierce's original poems inspired by the bridges, and
picturesque as well as technical photographs of the structures - all shot by Steve Pierce. The book
also includes maps, genealogy information and family data.
The book explains how the first timber bridges were
called corduroy bridges. Covered bridges were made by carpenters on dry land, taken apart and
reassembled over the waterway.
The bridges featured in her book are Meem's Bottom
Covered Bridge. Biedler Farm Covered Bridge, Humpback Covered Bridge, Link's Farm Covered
Bridge, Sinking Creek Covered Bridge, C. K. Reynolds Covered Bridge, Jack's Creek Covered
Bridge and Bob White Covered Bridge. Marysville Covered Bridge was destroyed by Hurricane
Meem's Bottom Covered :ridge is located between
Mount Jackson and New Market and remains usable, said Steve Pierce. "There is so much traffic
on it, it is unbelievable. There are UPS and Fed-Ex trucks everywhere."
The humpback Covered Bridge in Covington is the
oldest covered bridge in Virginia and the only covered bridge in the United States with a hump,"
"There are three covered bridges in Giles County,"
Steve Pierce said. "Two of them are on private property, but we know the owners of them very
Biedler Farm Bridge is the most protected. It is on a
private farm and is rarely visited. C. K. Reynolds and Link's Farm Covered Bridges are also on
According to the book, private property owners have
a difficult time renovating the bridges due to having to meet ecology standards and because
techniques and materials consistent to the original structure can be expensive.
Since the release of book, the number of enthusiasts
for these covered bridges has grown, and in May she established the Covered Bridge Society of
Virginia, which meets the third Wednesday of each month at the Western Branch restaurant.
Steve Pierce said interest is building to hold a
Covered Bridge Weekend at the Humpback Covered Bridge in Covington between the last week
in May and the third week in June. And, he said, a Covered Bridge Day planned Sept.27 at the
Sinking Creek Covered Bridge in Newport.
A resolution was passed by the General
Assembly earlier this year to designate the third weekend in June as Covered Bridge Weekend in
That effort was sponsored by state Sen. Fred Quayle
of Chesapeake, who also helped establish license plates commemorating the covered bridges.
It takes 350 orders to begin production of these
licence plates. Quayle attended the Covered Bridge Society's Aug. 20 meeting to discuss how
selling the plates help in restoration efforts.
"For every $25 spent on these, $15 will be allotted
toward the restoration," he said.
Quayle was named an honorary member of the society
at the meeting, and he com mended Leola Pierce for her work in getting recognition for the
covered bridges through her book.
Joe Flasinski, a covered bridge enthusiast who is starting a chapter outside of Charlottesville, was
among others who attended the meeting.
Izzy de Jesus, a Deep Creek resident and president of
the society, became interested in covered bridges originating with his love for photography.
"I was out with a friend to photograph lighthouses up
north, but it was too foggy for good photos of them, took a detour from my usual trek and
stumbled across a covered bridge," he said. "We came across 10 different covered bridges."
This piqued his interest and later he found an article
about Pierce and her book.
"She later tracked me down and asked me to join the
society. I was then elected president"
The group now boasts 15 members, and Pierce is
hoping to interest others in helping catalog and preserve the bridges.
"Please ask antone who is interested in our historic
timber covered bridges to attend our meetings and join the Covered Bridge Society of Virginia
and help promote the preservation and maintenance and memory of our bridges," said Leola
For more information about Leola Pierce's book, "Covered
Bridges of Virginia," go to www.upstreampress.com or call (877) 401-9500.
For more information on the Covered Bridges Society of
Virginia, e-mail Pierce at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 484-4404. The group meets the
third Wednesday of each month at Dennis Spaghetti and Steak House, 3356 Western Branch
[First published by the Chesapeake-Clipper, Sunday, Sept. 7, 2003; © copyright
2003 The Virginian-Pilot. Our thanks to the folks of the Virginian-Pilot/Chesapeake-Clipper for
their permission to post this article, and our thanks to Izzy de Jesus for bringing this article to our
attention - Editor]