Hibbs Bridge is a double-arched stone bridge with a humped back built between 1810 and 1830 when the Snickers Gap Turnpike was being constructed on what is now the Snickersville Turnpike.
In 1857 the Hibbs family purchased the land adjoining the bridge and the bridge was renamed Hibbs Bridge.
The Hibbs family operated mills on Beaverdam Creek. During the Civil War two of the Hibbs sons enlisted in the Confederate army and one son, a blacksmith, rode with Mosby's Partisan Rangers. The Union forces reportedly used the Hibbs residence as a Union headquarters. This would have been ironic since a resident of that house rode at night with Mosby's Rangers on raids against the Union forces.
In 1864 the Union General Philip Sheridan ordered that his men should "destroy all forage and subsistence, burn all barns and mills and their contents, and drive off all the stock in the region." This action was to starve the Southern army, which depended on Loudoun County and the Shenandoah Valley for their sustenance.
At that time one of the Hibbs family mills was destroyed, but Hibbs Bridge was spared. Hibbs family members continued to live at the bridge until the early 1940's. In 1943 the property was sold at public auction to the Altizer family who still live at Hibbs Bridge.
A descendent of the Hibbs family, Evelyn Thockmorton, whose great grandmother was Mary Hibbs still resides in Winchester, VA. Please read her comments.
Evelyn Throckmorton discussing Hibbs Bridge
A longtime Supporter, I want it to be known that I am personally grateful and indebted to the Loudoun County Supervisors, Eleanore Towe, James Burton and [former chairman] Dale Polen Myers, as well as the many members of the Snickersville Turnpike Association who have worked so tirelessly to save the historic Hibbs Bridge, built circa 1820.
Hibbs Bridge Preservation Efforts
In 1994 the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) announced that they had plans to replace Hibbs Bridge, which they deemed was unsafe and inadequate for modern transportation needs. Their plans called for a 425 foot bridge to be built 65 feet downstream. One alternative was a lower bridge 40 feet downstream. The cost of the bridge replacement was $1.5 million, which did not include the costs necessary to shift and raise the road 65 feet to approach a new higher bridge.
At that time the Snickersville Turnpike Association had been formed to protest VDOT'S proposed "improvement" plans for the Snickersville Turnpike which would have realigned the road, widened it to 22 feet paved, with 6 foot gravel shoulders and in the process removed all the historic stone walls and mature trees.
A door-to-door survey of all the property owners on the entire length of the turnpike was conducted. This survey included VDOT's plans for Hibbs Bridge. Of the 230 property owners personally contacted 99% opposed VDOT's plans for the bridge as well as VDOT's proposed plans for the Snickersville Turnpike itself. Not only did the citizens oppose VDOT's plans for Hibbs Bridge, but the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors and local State Delegates also opposed it.
In September 1994, all 47 speakers at a public hearing unanimously stated that they wanted Hibbs Bridge to stay in service and be rehabilitated without changing it. Under intense and persistent public pressure and with the support of the citizens and elected representatives, VDOT abandoned this plan but then in 1996 offered an alternate plan.
The alternate plan was to demolish Hibbs Bridge, build a 28 foot-wide level concrete structure, and adhere the original bridge stones to the outside of the concrete "to preserve the bridge's historic character".
This was a plan which they said in 1994 was not feasible because "to attempt to modify the existing structure in any way except to perform maintenance would adversely affect its historic value". Now, however, two years later, adhering the original stones from Hibbs Bridge to a new concrete bridge would "preserve the historic value" of the bridge. This is totalitarian doublespeak at its finest.
Before this plan was announced, the Snickersville Turnpike Association had hired Mr. Abba Lichtenstein, a nationally known and respected expert on masonry-arch bridges, to inspect and assess the condition of Hibbs Bridge.
He reported that Hibbs Bridge could be restored with its current dimensions and be serviceable for another 50 years. He also affirmed that the bridge was in no danger of falling down, something VDOT had stated at the public hearing in September of 1994.
Mr. Lichtenstein's report concluded "I found Hibbs Bridge to be in good condition and well-maintained and suggest that minimal repair is required to keep it in good operating condition under prevailing traffic conditions. Should these change, options are available to strengthen the bridge within historic preservation guidelines."
It is obvious that VDOT ‘s plan to demolish the bridge and re-glue the remaining stones onto a concrete bridge would not be compatible with the standards for historic structures as issued by the Secretary of the Interior.
A public hearing was scheduled for November of 1996 concerning these new plans for Hibbs Bridge. The weekend before the public hearing a group of citizens decorated the bridge with red, white and blue bunting, lined the approaches to the bridge with American flags and played patriotic music.
When people stopped to ask what was going on they were presented with a petition to sign that affirmed that the citizens and people who used the road wanted to "Save Hibbs Bridge". Even the police officer that came to find out if these citizens were obstructing traffic on Hibbs Bridge signed the petition.
The petition was presented to the Board of Supervisors at the standing room only public hearing.
Evelyn Thockmorton of Winchester VA, a descendant of the Hibbs family, wrote "I resent deeply the idea that one of Loudoun County's true historic treasures would ever fall prey to the wrecker's ball and be replaced by an ugly concrete span."
When it was asked that all present stand if they were in favor of saving Hibbs Bridge the entire room, including the entire Board of Supervisors stood. In the face of this united resolve VDOT again made a pretense of backing down.
In 1997, the County of Loudoun hired the well- respected and experienced firm of McMullan and Associates to devise a plan for Hibbs Bridge. McMullan and Associates are experts in the field of masonry-arch bridges.
The citizens and the Board of Supervisors continued to write to VDOT asking to resolve this issue. In the meantime, no maintenance was being done on the bridge. Finally in April of 1999, VDOT rejected McMullan's solution and reverted to their 1996 proposal for a 28-foot fake bridge.
Once again the citizens rallied for the bridge. On June 5th, 1999 a demonstration of support for preserving historic Hibbs Bridge was held at the bridge. Again the bridge was decorated with red, white and blue bunting and American flags flew. Representatives of a Civil War Southern Cavalry unit rode across the bridge to show their support for historic preservation.
Supervisors Eleanore Towe and Jim Burton of the Blue Ridge and Mercer districts, spoke, as did Delegate Joe May. The citizens sang songs and illustrated yet again their resolve to protect Hibbs Bridge.
The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors that stood united behind the citizens to preserve Hibbs Bridge was replaced in the 1999 election with another Board that also shares the commitment to preserve Hibbs Bridge.
On Feb. 22, 2000, the present Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve a compromise design plan developed by McMullan and Associates and presented to VDOT with the amendment that VDOT will proceed with plans for Hibbs Bridge only after being advised by the Board of Supervisors of its approval of the final design plans. These design plans would also have to be in accordance with the wishes of the citizens of the Snickersville Turnpike Association.
On February 24th the chairman of the Board of Supervisors wrote to Delegate Joe May to thank him for his efforts to negotiate a compromise between VDOT and Loudoun County concerning Hibbs Bridge. On October 24, 2000 a Memorandum of Understanding was written between VDOT and the County of Loudoun.
In June of 2001 however, VDOT was again objecting to the parapet design as proposed by McMullan and Associates. At a meeting held on June 26 at the Loudoun County Government Building in Leesburg, VA, representatives of Loudoun County, the Snickersville Turnpike Association and VDOT met to try and resolve these issues. Another revision to the design plans was made and VDOT was to contact Loudoun County with a written response.
More correspondence ensued and yet another year passed. Finally VDOT responded to the Chief Engineer in Loudoun County on November 6, 2001 that it had completed its review. However, VDOT had again inspected the bridge and found that there was further damage that needed to be reconstructed. Since no maintenance work of any significance had been done to the bridge in several years this was no surprise.
In January, 2002 the County of Loudoun put out a memo stating that the final design submission should be in mid-September 2002 and that construction ad dates would be in October 2002. The Contract Award should be in January 2003. Construction should begin in September of 2003 and would take between 4 to 6 months. Then VDOT opted to use Federal Bridge Funds for the project, and National Environmental Protection Act impact study was required which delayed progress for another year.
At last, on November 16, 2007, Hibbs Bridge, restored true to its original design, was formally reopened to traffic on Snickersville Turnpike. The "new" Hibbs Bridge was dedicated to the memory of Kathy Mitchell, a former president of the Snickersville Turnpike Association and tireless advocate for preservation of the bridge.
Hibbs Bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2011.