Monday, August 17, 2015

Ottawa's Previous Illinois River Bridges

1885 Bridge, Oglesby Library collection from Bridge Hunter
(Bridge Hunter: 1885, 1910, 1932) This bullet list is an index for the rest of the posting. The date is when the method of crossing the river changed.
  • 1831: a 9'x45' ferry with two side oars and a steering oar started service.
  • 1855
  • 1877: bridge tolls originally were significantly cheaper than the ferry. But over the years the tolls went up. When people east of the Fox River decided to do business in Marseilles rather than pay the toll for the Fox River Bridge, various levels of government started discussing purchasing the bridge and making it toll free. The Illinois River bridge was also part of these discussions, and it was made toll free in 1877.
  • 1885
  • 1906: There was no road bridge because the 1885 bridge was condemned. A ferry was used except during the winter when the railroad bridge just downstream was used.
  • 1910
  • 1933 (Hilliard)
  • 1981 (Veterans Memorial Bridge)


A toll bridge was built by the Illinois River Bridge Corp at a cost of $60,000. It was 920' long with a 30' clearance above the river. It was bought by the city, some townships, and the county in 1877 to remove the toll. It began to sink and was repaired in 1879. But in November 1883 it was declared unsafe.

The lack of photographs for this bridge reminds me that George Eastman did not invent flexible roll film until 1889. Thus an easily carried box camera was not available during the lifetime of this first bridge.

Update: but some people lugged around big cameras.
Tim Kilboy posted
I wonder if any of the Illinois Railroad History experts could ID this Ottawa IL bridge. I want to believe it's the first river bridge (1855 toll bridge) but have no evidence to support that. All help appreciated.
Tim Kilboy: I wanted to credit Annie T at Pinterest for the bridge photo.
Kelly Wendt: This is the 1855 bridge. It was 920 feet long and 30 ft above the river. It was built by the Illinois River Bridge Corp and was a toll Bridge until 1877. It began to sink and was repaired in 1879. It was declared unsafe in November 1883 and closed, farries were used until a new Bridge was opened in 1885. No rails were on this bridge.
The 1st rail bridge in Ottawa was constructed in 1871 across the Illinois River not far from where these men are standing by CB and Q railroad on a line leased by the Ottawa, Oswego and Fox Valley Railroad to go between Ottawa and Streator. The current rail bridge was built in 1898 and altered in 1932 to include a vertical lift span.
Stephen Bone: There are two bridges in the photo. Which is which? The one in the background looks either incomplete or damaged? Is this the older “lift” bridge?
Kelly Wendt: Stephen Bone , Ottawa has two rivers, The Fox and Illinois. This photo shows this photo is showing the construction on the "New Fox River Bridge" on piers from the canal aqueduct. This would date this photo to 1871.
This bridge would last until 1921.
The older 1852 bridge is behind the 1871 bridge.
[The comments go on to discuss some other bridges in the area.]


The picture at the top of this posting is of this bridge. This bridge had a 35' clearance. It accommodated streetcars. It was condemned in 1906 because it "aged rapidly." That sounds more like a rust issue than a pier issue.


Ottawa Library collection from Bridge Hunter

This bridge cost $102,000. It also accommodated streetcars. There was a plan drawn to put machinery on the big span to raise the short span to its left as a bascule lift span. But the picture shows this was not done. Probably because the lift span was just 120' wide. And I don't think the stationary truss could handle the stress of the lift machinery and counterweight. The bride was functionally sound when replaced as part of the 9-foot navigational channel project.
IDOT file from Bridge Hunter


Photo by Gene Smania from Bridge Hunter,  public domain
This bridge cost $3 million. The bridge approachs on the north end implemented the use of using two one-way roads to route the traffic through Ottawa. A portal photo confirms that it was just two lanes. That is probably why it was replaced in 1981.
IDOT from Bridge Hunter
Photo by Gene Smania from Bridge Hunter,  public domain
When they dismantled this bridge after the 1981 bridge was completed, they saved a couple of fragments of the truss as art. Bridge Hunter has more photos of the dismantling.

Photo from Bridge Hunter
A description of the bridge by IDOT confirms my assumption that when they use long spans so that they need only two piers, they build the piers on bedrock.

A dotted line on the IDOT plans for the bridge indicates the bedrock profile.

North Part of West Elevation from Bridge Hunter

South Part of West Elevation from Bridge Hunter

Bridges Now and Then posted
The Hilliard Bridge, Ottawa, Illinois, c. 1950s. (No credit found)
Theron Stratton: Not even a stop sign or anything.
[Now with a four lane bridge, each road is one way and has its own two lanes.]

David Gulden posted

1939 Aerial Photo via Dennis DeBruler

1 comment:

  1. This looks a lot like our Alexandra bridge here in Ottawa. It use to be a CP railway in the last 1800's.