The New York Street Memorial Bridge is perhaps the most beautiful and unique of the Stolp Island collection of arch bridges. Although today the bridge has the appearance of two separate bridges for the East and West channels, just like the other six bridges connecting to the island, the New York Street Memorial Bridge is technically a single bridge spanning the entire river. However, in the 1960s, fill was brought in to expand the island northward, and the center of the bridge was buried in the fill. Today, a parking garage is located south of the former center of the bridge and a casino is located north of the former center of the bridge. The original bridge displayed nine arch spans with a single stringer approach span at each end.
The New York Street Memorial Bridge was designed as a memorial to World War I veterans. The bridge is far more than a typical memorial bridge where a simple memorial plaque is placed on the bridge. Instead, the bridge displays a truly beautiful design where the bridge itself is the memorial. At each end of the bridge, a concrete statue titled "Memory" rises up above the railings at the westernmost and easternmost pier points. The design is such that the pier and railings all flow together to form the base of the statue. Bronze plaques can be found at the base of these statues as well. At the center of the bridge there are two outlooks with additional memorials. On the north side, there is another statue, this one made of bronze, titled "Victory" which sits on a concrete pedestal. On the south side, is a plaque flanked by two eagle statuettes.
This bridge retains original railings, of an unusual and beautiful lattice-like design, which are in excellent condition. The arch rings of the bridge are also original. However, the arch columns have been replaced, albeit the replacements appear to be in-kind. The deck stringers also have been replaced, as have the single stringer approach span beams at each end.
The bridge was originally proposed and designed by Aurora City Engineer Walter E. Deuchler, but citizens then requested the bridge be a memorial bridge and so Emory Seidel and Karl Miller of Seidel Studios of Chicago, Illinois were hired to redesign the proposed bridge as the memorial bridge seen today.
The previous bridge at New York Street was a multi-span pin-connected Whipple through truss.
Aurora is a unique city in that a significant portion of its main downtown area is located on an island (called Stolp Island) and this island is connected by four roads which connect to this island from each side of the river. From north to south these are New York Street, Galena Boulevard, Downer Place, and Benton Street. This results in a total of eight bridges, although New York Street is technically a single bridge whose center portion was buried when the island was expanded northward in the 1960s. Amazingly, as of 2011, all bridges connecting to Stolp Island were historic concrete arch bridges, an impressive quantity of bridges to stand as a group of historic bridges that are undisturbed by any demolition and replacement projects. Each road has its own unique style of bridge, for a total of four different general bridge designs. All bridges contribute to a National Register of Historic Places Historic District. The physical condition and historic integrity of each of the bridges varies, however despite any alterations this is a very unique and highly significant group of bridges that makes Aurora an excellent one-stop destination to get a good sampling of concrete arch bridges. Even better, a few additional arch bridges are located a short distance south of Stolp Island at Hurds Island Park.
Information and Findings From National Register Historic District Nomination Form
The New York Street Memorial Bridge is a road bridge constructed of reinforced concrete supported by repeating, shallow arches. At both ends of the bridge structure, solid piers located well into the bridge deck area support four, poured concrete kneeling figures of "Memory", two pairs of figures are found at each end, one on each side of the bridge deck. The remaining, internal piers are divided into two supports which extend above the bridge deck and railing to be incorporated into twin concrete light posts with decorative bronze strapping.
A decorative, pierced concrete railing extends the length of the bridge. The central focus of the structure are two mid-bridge niches which include the bronze memorials and the overscaled, bronze standing figure of "Victory" raised above the railing by a concrete pedestal, decorated in low relief and flanked with bronze eagles. The other memorial niche is found on the opposite side of the bridge deck and it includes a bronze plaque.
Of all the concrete spans crossing the Fox River in downtown Aurora, the New York Street Memorial Bridge is the only bridge that retains its original design. Built in an Art Moderne "Depression Era" motif, the bridge was dedicated on Armistice Day, November 11, 1931, as a memorial to World War I veterans. The bridge was built to replace an iron trestle bridge. Fundraising for the new bridge as a memorial began with the Roosevelt-Aurora Post '84 of the American Legion and continued through the efforts of a Citizens Memorial Bridge Committee and City of Aurora public officials. The original bridge design was prepared by City Engineer Walter E. Deuchler. When residents proposed that the bridge incorporate a veteran's memorial, the city hired Emory Seidel and Karl Miller, of Seidel Studios of Chicago were retained to design and sculpt a suitable memorial. Seidel redesigned the entire bridge as a memorial, rather than merely designing a statue or plaque. Notice the bronze statue of "Victory" in the center of the span, and the two cast concrete pairs of kneeling statues representing "Memory" at both ends of the bridge. The bridge also features specially designed balusters and ornamental lighting standards. The genius behind the bridge's design, Emorv Seidel, was sculptor for the General Bronze Corporation and Tiffany's of New York. He was awarded the Schaeffer Prize by the Art Institute of Chicago, and was vice-president of the Pallet & Chisel Club of Chicago. The Chicago Architectural Bronze Company manufactured the bronze tablets and light fixtures. Roman Bronze Works of New York City cast the bridge's crowning central figure of "Victory."
Unlike Stolp Island's other bridges, the 1931 New York St. bridge structure spans the entire channel of the Fox River. The bridges of Benton Street, Downer Place, and Galena Boulevard were all designed with separate spans to cross the east and west branches of the Fox River connecting to Stolp Island. When the New York Street Bridge was constructed, Stolp Island did not extend as far north. The New York Street Bridge now crosses the northern most portion of Stolp Island, over the North Point parking area, the product of a 1960s land fill project.
Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Significant (Architectural)
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