Future murky for historic Lockport bridge
By Tony Graf firstname.lastname@example.org March 10, 2011 7:46PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
LOCKPORT — The city recently sought help in preserving the Seven Arch Stone Bridge, but the historic structure sustained serious damage this week.
A large portion of the bridge’s south side has crumbled into Deep Run Creek. The damage is a sad setback for the 1868 bridge, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The bridge was taken out of use nearly 40 years before this week’s damage. Barricades prevent traffic access.
On March 2, the city was notified that it had been awarded grant money to support a structural assessment project for the bridge, City Administrator Tim Schloneger said.
The $5,000 grant was from the Donnelly Preservation Fund of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Schloneger said.
The grant would have covered around a quarter of the cost of the assessment, and the source of the remaining funds was undetermined, he said. More funds would have been required to complete needed repairs as well, Schloneger added.
Now, just a week later, uncertainties abound after the bridge damage was noticed Tuesday night.
When the city applied for the grant money, officials included a brief history of the Seven Arch Stone Bridge. Here is the bridge’s story, combining details from the city application and Herald-News archives.
“This bridge was built by Julius Scheibe in 1868-1869 and was the region’s first bridge over the Des Plaines River, facilitating trade between farmers west of the river and merchants in Lockport,” according to the application.
“The structure was built of locally quarried dolomite limestone,” the application states.
The Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal, to the west, was built between 1892 and 1900. The Des Plaines River was rerouted, and the bridge now traversed the much-smaller Deep Run Creek.
A second swing bridge met the Seven Arch Stone Bridge to shuttle people across the shipping canal.
In the late 1960s, the current Route 7 high bridge was built to carry traffic over the Des Plaines River valley. The historic bridge was closed to traffic in 1972, the application states.
The old bridge was opened temporarily for access to the shipping canal during the reconstruction of the 16th Street bridge by the Army Corps of Engineers, the application states.
In 2004, the Seven Arch Stone Bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Lockport historian John Lamb, professor emeritus at Lewis University, was an advocate for the bridge’s designation.
A large picture of the Seven Arch Stone Bridge covers a wall in the foyer of the historic Gaylord Building, 200 W. Eighth St. in Lockport.
The picture, taken in the 1880s, also is included in Lamb’s book “Lockport, Illinois, The Old Canal Town,” which is part of the “Images of America” series by Arcadia Publishing.
Today, the crumbling historic bridge can be seen just north of the Route 7 high bridge, near the intersection of Ninth and Vine streets in Lockport’s west side neighborhood.
In addition to the grant effort, Lockport has made another application regarding the bridge. The city has applied to have the bridge listed among the Ten Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois.
“The bridge has deteriorated rapidly in recent years,” the application states. “The structure is in extremely poor condition due to the accumulation of cracks, missing limestone blocks, crumbling concrete, missing mortar and tree growth.”
The city also has made plans to include the bridge in a proposed Lockport Loop Trail, which would encompass several sites in the city’s historic canal district, according to the application.
However, this week’s damage has left the future uncertain.
The overall bridge issue is likely to come up at next week’s city council meeting. The council meets at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the third-floor boardroom of the Central Square building, 222 E. Ninth St.