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Lemuel Chenoweth Museum (Lemuel Chenoweth House)

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Lemuel Chenoweth House
1856, Lemuel Chenoweth. South side of Bridge St. between Water St. and the Tygart Valley River
  • Lemuel Chenoweth Museum (Lemuel Chenoweth House)

Lemuel Chenoweth (1811–1887), known as a carpenter and architect, became famous as a bridge builder. He is said to have carried a model of a bridge to Richmond, where he presented it to members of the Board of Public Works in a bid to obtain commissions to build bridges on the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike. He suspended the model between two chairs, then stood on it and challenged his competitors to do likewise with their models. Needless to say, he obtained the contract.

In 1847 Chenoweth built a covered bridge here where the turnpike crossed the Tygart Valley River. It was burned during the Civil War, but he directed its rebuilding in 1873. In 1953 inspectors declared the eighty-year-old structure unsafe to carry school buses. A demolition order was issued, but it took three charges of dynamite, aided by a wrecking crew, to bring the bridge down.

Chenoweth's frame house, which he built close to the bridge's eastern abutment in 1856, has fared better. Dominated by a huge central chimney that contains fireplaces on all four sides within, the house is renowned locally for its sturdy construction. Recently restored and now a museum, it contains a scale model of the Beverly Bridge, which visitors are not allowed to stand on. Two other bridges that Lemuel and his brother Eli built remain: one at Barrackville (Marion County, MA14), and one at Philippi (Barbour County, BA1).

Writing Credits

S. Allen Chambers Jr.

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