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Book documenting covered bridges
spurs preservation

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 photographs.
       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 Fran.
      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," he added.
       "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 well."
       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 private property.
       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 Virginia.
       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 Pierce.


For more information about Leola Pierce's book, "Covered Bridges of Virginia," go to or call (877) 401-9500.
For more information on the Covered Bridges Society of Virginia, e-mail Pierce at or call 484-4404. The group meets the third Wednesday of each month at Dennis Spaghetti and Steak House, 3356 Western Branch Blvd.

[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]

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Joe Nelson, P.O Box 267, Jericho, VT 05465-0267
This file posted October 28, 2003