Meem’s Bottom Covered Bridge was built in 1893 by Franklin Hiser Wissler and John W. V. Woods. It was constructed after a flood to replace earlier bridges that had been swept away in 1870 and 1877. The bridge was named after the Meem family, who owned significant land in the vicinity.
By the late 1970s, Meem’s Bottom was the only covered bridge still in use on a state highway. However, on Halloween 1976, it was set on fire by arsonist Clyde Meadows. The Virginia Department of Transportation, recognizing the bridge’s historical importance, announced in September 1977 that it would be restored. Subsequently, the Virginia General Assembly allocated $280,000 for its reconstruction.
Using salvaged timbers from the original structure, the bridge was reconstructed in 1979 and reinforced with steel beams and concrete piers at a cost of $250,000. The Meem’s Bottom Covered Bridge was re-dedicated on August 30 of that year. Notably, this restoration was a first for the Virginia Department of Transportation, as they had never constructed a wooden bridge in their 73-year history. The restoration project later won a national environmental and conservation award from the Federal Highway Administration.
However, in October 1982, inspections uncovered a crack in the Burr arch and several areas of rot in the heart-pine wood, leading to the immediate closure of the bridge. It’s believed the truss and arch absorbed moisture while left exposed for three years after the fire. During restoration, the application of a sticky, fire-retardant substance trapped this moisture, causing fungus to grow and decay the wood.