Snickersville Turnpike & the Rural Roads of Loudoun County, VA
We’ve always enjoyed driving around exploring new areas, keeping away from big highways, and taking country roads whenever we can. On a recent visit to Loudoun County Virginia, I was looking for a fairly isolated activity (due to the pandemic) when I came across an old article about several of the area’s 19 remaining historic bridges. No, not covered bridges, these are constructed of stone, concrete, and iron.
Loudoun is a beautiful County, part of suburban Washington DC, known for lovely drives, horse farms, historic sites, and wineries. After a quick study of the map, we decided to find three of the bridges, combined with a tasty oyster and lobster lunch at the King Street Oyster Bar in the charming town of Middleburg (passing over yet another historic bridge in Aldie).
As George Washington would have done, we traveled on the Snickersville Turnpike (otherwise known as State Road 734) to find the double-arched Hibbs Bridge dating from 1829. If we hadn’t been focused, we would not have realized we were even crossing a site listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Spanning the Beaverdam Creek, you need to pull over of the side of the road, get out of your car and make your way through a somewhat mushy field that I’m sure is someone’s private property. Once at the creek’s bank, peer through a tangle of trees and bushes for a good glimpse of the actual structure. It was hard to photograph without breaching a mass of weeds and branches and since I thought snakes and insects would be lurking, I didn’t.
In case you were wondering . . . there is no connection to the candy bar. The Snickersville Turnpike got its name from Edward Snickers who ran an inn and a ferry used to cross the Shenandoah River along the route. As a land surveyor for Lord Fairfax, Washington traveled this road and would spend the night at the inn.
There is actually a Beaverdam Creek Historic Roadways District which is part of the Loudoun County Rural Road Network. Another bridge in this District is the one-lane concrete Luten Arch bridge on Greengarden Road, just north of route 50. Daniel Luten was a pioneer in early motor vehicle bridge construction patenting arch concrete bridges that were built throughout the US. Luten bridges are identified by a plaque embossed “Luten Bridge Company.”
From the smallest to the largest, we had to look hard to find the four-arch Goose Creek Bridge dating from 1802, back when Thomas Jefferson was President. Near the line between Loudoun and Fauquier Counties, it was originally part of the old Ashby’s Gap Turnpike (Route 50 today) and was built privately by tolls. You paid 12 cents to move a score of cattle or carriage across and 3 cents per horse. In 1863, it was the site of a significant Civil War clash and was in use for vehicular traffic until 1957. Currently, it sits in a 20-acre park and is usually open to pedestrians. But not these days, when so many places are still closed; access was blocked, the trees untrimmed, and the adjacent power lines did nothing to enhance the ambiance.
A great resource I discovered during this hunt is the website www.bridgehunter.com where you can search by state and county for details and locations of bridges. I doubt we would’ve actually found these bridges without that terrific site.