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Central Avenue Bridge

Central Avenue Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: December 13, 2012

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Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Central Avenue Over Ravine
Location
Highland Park: Lake County, Illinois: United States
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1908 By Builder/Contractor: Joliet Bridge and Iron Company of Joliet, Illinois and Engineer/Design: Joliet Steel Construction Company of Joliet, Illinois
Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
51.0 Feet (15.5 Meters)
Structure Length
111.0 Feet (33.8 Meters)
Roadway Width
16 Feet (4.88 Meters)
Spans
1 Main Span(s)
Inventory Number
49655427122

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Bridge Documentation

This bridge is a traditionally composed example of a concrete arch bridge. The bridge retains good historic integrity including original solid parapet style railings. The bridge has relatively little architectural embellishment for a bridge of its type. However, the arch itself provides a graceful appearance. Also, the bridge appears to have a beautiful red brick deck hiding underneath the existing asphalt wearing surface. Some of the asphalt has broken way to reveal the bricks underneath.  While the National Bridge Inventory listed a 1935 construction date for this bridge (which would be a relatively late example of this type, but still plausible) discovery of some dated historical photos showed that this bridge existed as early as 1915. However, it turns out the bridge is even older than that.

Further research into the Highland Park city council meeting minutes for 1907 reveals that a contract was let for construction of a concrete bridge... this bridge... to a company called the Joliet Steel Construction Company of Joliet, Illinois. It is extremely important to note that this company should not be confused with the much more prolific and well-known bridge company Joliet Bridge and Iron Company, a distinction that is important in understanding this bridge's history. Indeed, both companies were in operation in 1907, meaning they were different companies despite the similar names. 

In 1907, the committeee "recieved plans and specifications from the Joliet Steel Construction Company of Joliet, Illinois for the construction of a concrete and steel bridge to be constructed on Central Avenue" and they further indicated that they indeded to "recieve bids and let contract for said bridge according to said specifications." This indicates that Joliet Steel Construction Company came up with a design for a concrete bridge at Central Avenue.

Another meeting on August 16, 1907 the minutes stated that the committee "recieved bids for the construction of a bridge on Central Avenue" and that "the Joliet Steel Construction Company, being the lowest bidder, in the sum of $4,180.00 for bridge..." the committee recomended that "the Mayor and City Clerk be authorized to enter into contract" in reference to the Joliet Steel Construction Company. This indicates that not only did Joliet Steel Construction Company design a bridge, they bid the bridge they designed and were low bidder, meaning one would expect they built the bridge as well as designed it.

However, at a later meeting on September 3, 1907, the minutes state that the city would pay $500.00 to Joliet Steel Construction Company to "cancel their contract for construction of bridges on Central Avenue and Sheridan Road, and provided the Joliet Bridge and Iron Company will enter into contract for the construction of said bridges in accordance with bid submitted by said Joliet Bridge and Iron Company, in the sum of $3,530.00 for Central Avenue Bridge" and that the work would be "in accordance with plans and specifications submitted by said Joliet Steel Construction Company." As such, now the city was having Joliet Bridge and Iron Company build the bridge, but using the original design that Joliet Steel Construction Company had prepared.

The story was not yet complete, however. Another meeting took place on September 9, 1907 to address issues with the contract for the Central Avenue Bridge (and another bridge on Sheridan Road under the same contract). It turns out the mayor had consulting with the engineer with the Joliet Bridge and Iron Company, and he had advised several changes to the design of the Joliet Steel Construction Company that he felt would "greatly strengthen the bridges" and in regards to the Central Avenue Bridge his recomendation was "the thickness of the arch on the Central Avenue Bridge at the apex shall be eighteen inches" and that they were willing to make this change for an addtional $200.00 as an extra. The council moved to approve this change.

As such, it would appear that the Central Avenue Bridge was designed by Joliet Steel Construction Company, with minor design changes made by the on-site contractor who built the bridge, the Joliet Bridge and Iron Company. Indeed this is a rather confusing history for a bridge that started with a totally incorrect National Bridge Inventory date, and whose actual 1907 construction involved multiple contracts with two very similarly named companies operating out of the same city. In the documents, there is reference to the bridge foundation being completed in November 1907. This being the case, it is likely it was not completed and opened to traffic until 1908.

With this much older 1907 (1908 estimated completion) construction date (placing the bridge in the earlier portion of the concrete bridge era), and with the historical photos indicating no major alterations to the bridge as seen today, this bridge enjoys a higher level of significance as an unaltered example of a regionally early surviving concrete arch bridge. 

Research assistance for the above history was from a concerned Highland Park resident who obtained the information via a January 24, 2022 FOIA request to inspect historic City Council minutes. 

View Archived National Bridge Inventory Report - Has Additional Details and Evaluation

Above: Historical photo showing bridge in 1915.

Above: Historical photo showing bridge in 1921.

Above: Historical photo dated to 1906 (one year before the arch bridge was built) showing the previous bridge at this location.

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Maps and Links: Central Avenue Bridge

Coordinates (Latitude, Longitude):

Search For Additional Bridge Listings:

Bridgehunter.com: View listed bridges within 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) of this bridge.

Bridgehunter.com: View listed bridges within 10 miles (16 kilometers) of this bridge.

HistoricBridges.org Bridge Browser: View listed bridges within 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) of this bridge.

HistoricBridges.org Bridge Browser: View listed bridges within 10 miles (16 kilometers) of this bridge.

2021 National Bridge Inventory: View listed bridges within 0.5 miles (0.8 kilometers) of this bridge.

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