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  • Writer's pictureLawrence Lore

The Lincoln Memorial Bridge

Brian Spangle wrote a short history about the replacement bridge, now known as the Lincoln Memorial Bridge or the George Rogers Clark Bridge for the Vincennes Sun Commercial (July 10,2004).

“The new Memorial Bridge over the Wabash River, not yet officially designated the Lincoln Memorial Bridge, opened to traffic on Thursday July 14,1932. The last of the asphalt pavement had been laid the previous day, although it would be some time before the bridge’s ornamental work, steps, and terraces were complete.

“The opening of the bridge was set for 5:00am and at that hour a line of motorists was already waiting to cross. One anxious driver on the Indiana side removed the barricade a few minutes before the scheduled opening, thus starting the flow of traffic across. It was reported that Mrs. John St John was the first to drive over the bridge, repeating the feat of her father, William Seed, who had made the inaugural crossing of the Main St Bridge when it opened in 1868. Many people drove over the bridge that day just for the novelty of it.

“The Main Street Bridge remained open temporarily, chiefly at the request of Illinois farmers who wanted to use it to haul their wheat to Vincennes elevators. On July 25, Orville Hedden, a farmer from Allison Township, drove his team of mules over the old bridge, becoming the last person to take a vehicle across. After he passed, barricades were set up at each end and the Ferguson Construction Co, of Rockford, Illinois which had built the new bridge, began tearing it down. The highway departments of Illinois and Indiana took bids for the 284 tons of steel removed from the bridge and the wood floor was sold to the highest bidder.

“Work continued on demolition of the old bridge, well into the fall, with dynamite used to blast the iron spans and stone piers. During the warm days of August, part of the work was done in the water, so the men dressed in swimsuits.”

The periodical, Outdoor Indiana, described the Lincoln Bridge as a concrete arch bridge over the Wabash River at Vincennes in its October 1944 issue. “Here the War Department requirements for navigation clearance and the presence of a railroad along the Indiana shore required a high bridge, but its proximity to the city required the approach to get down quickly to street level. Under these conditions the roadway and railing were put on a long vertical curve, the better to serve traffic safely. Under the high point at the center of the river, the longest span was placed and successively shorter and lower spans of the same proportions on each side. This tends to draw attention to the bridge as a whole and away from the individual parts. This makes for the harmony of the various parts with each other and the bridge as a whole with its setting.”

With the bridge needing repairs in 1992, it was expected to remain closed for 365 days starting in December. With an incentive of $5000 for each day the bridge was open to traffic before the contract finish date, the contractor Sam Oxley and Co., Jasper, Indiana was determined to have the bridge completed by November 1, 1992. The ribbon cutting actually took place on October 16, 1992. The project cost $2.75 million divided between the states of Illinois and Indiana. The decking was completely replaced, as were the guard rails. Nothing was done to the sculptures on the pylons. These two granite reliefs were completed by Raoul Josset (1899-1957). The figures are said to represent Native American chiefs, Tecumseh and his younger brother, The Prophet.

Tomorrow the Red Skelton Bridge

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