THE LION BRIDGE OF HOFFMAN ESTATES

Our guest contributor this week is Pat Barch, the Hoffman Estates Historian.  This column originally appeared in the September 2013 issue of the Hoffman Estates Citizen, the village’s newsletter.  The column appears here, courtesy of the Village of Hoffman Estates.

Lion BridgeThe mystery of the Lion Bridge remains.  It is baffling and hard to understand how such a beautiful bridge was built for the use of farmers who needed to transport milk to local creameries and cheese factories in the area.  Wouldn’t a simple bridge be more practical and less expensive?   Many people, including myself, have searched newspaper achieves in Elgin and Palatine for a story that would have announced the opening of the bridge in November of 1906.  Nothing has ever been found.  The records from Hanover Township have never been found and are assumed lost or were discarded long ago.  Only the old Cook County Board reports gave us the cost of the bridge, $3000 shared between Cook County and Hanover Township, but not who built it.

Preparing the forms that would have included the 3 dimensional lions would’ve taken much skill.  Was the concrete poured into the forms onsite or was it done in a nearby town and hauled there?  We investigated bridge builders that built bridges in neighboring Schaumburg Township but got no were with that.  Wouldn’t you work with a river town such as Elgin for skilled bridge builders?  All of these questions have gone unanswered and the mystery remains.  Who built the bridge and why are there no other bridges like it?Lion Bridge 2

The bridge, known as the Lion Bridge for its 4 lions that adorn the east and west sides, is located at the southeast corner of Route 59 and Route 58.  Over the past 106 years it has seen a lot of traffic.  Milk wagons, hay wagons, and other farm traffic would soon include motorized tractors, trucks and cars.  Route 59, also known as Sutton Rd., went up and over Route 58.  The little Lion Bridge would be used to cross the Poplar Creek and access route 59.  The road and the bridge were only one lane wide.  Drivers would pull over to the side of the road if another car was coming toward you.

In the early 70’s the highway department changed the intersection, tearing down the Route 59 bridge over Route 58 and building a new bridge over Poplar Creek with the two highways intersecting at ground level.  The Lion Bridge was abandoned by the highway department and it became the property of the Cook County Forest Preserve.  Only horses and people cross the bridge these days.

Hanover Township Director of Community Relations, Tom Kuttenberg, told me of plans to erect a historic marker at the bridge site.  This will be part of their Hanover Township Heritage Marker program.  It is tentatively planned for the fall once permission is received from the Village of Hoffman Estates and the Cook County Forest Preserve District.

I will also move forward with plans to fill out the forms and send photos of the bridge to Springfield to ask for National Register status in spite of the fact that we can’t tell them who built it.

Getting historical recognition for the bridge will be a wonderful way to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Cook County Forest Preserve.

Pat Barch, Hoffman Estates Village Historian

(Photos are from historicbridges.org.  We thank them for their wonderful reproductions.)

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9 Responses to “THE LION BRIDGE OF HOFFMAN ESTATES”

  1. Kevin Franco Says:

    I was trying to picture the old IL-59 / IL-58 intersection in my head. Thankfully, there are aerial photos of this configuration: the earliest one available on historicaerials.com (from 1938) clearly shows the IL-59 bridge over IL-58.

    Subsequent photos, through 1974, show the same configuration. The 1988 photo shows the intersection as we know it today. It would be neat if someone found a photo of the IL-59 bridge taken at ground level.

  2. randy schallau Says:

    Is there any information on why the tablets were taken off the bridge or what may have been on them. As a kid we visited the bridge with a friend from the area in 1966 and I believe they were there. I know I read one or both that day but have no recollection of the subject matter.

    • jrozek Says:

      The tablets that were on the Lion Bridge disappeared sometime in the 1970’s. According to Marilyn Lind with the Hoffman Estates Historic Sites Commission, there was a list of the Cook County commissioners on one and she does not remember what the other one had on it. It’s a shame that they were taken off the bridge. This year the bridge will be 110 years old and I’d like to see the tablets returned. Perhaps someone knows who might have them. This is one of the reasons people take rubbings from these kind of things before they disappear.

      Thanks for asking about this. Maybe someone will know more about were they are.

      Pat Barch
      Hoffman Estates Village Historian

  3. randy schallau Says:

    I have been chasing threads on the history of this bridge and believe I may have found the answer. If you would look at an article that appeared in the Chicago Tribune south addition on Oct. 20th 1968 pertaining to the Stephen avenue bridge deterioration. There are two photos that seem to fit the profile closely. I also think I know who the man on the postcard (not shown) is and how he ties to Hanover Township bridge building. If you are interested after seeing the article I would be glad to talk.

    • jrozek Says:

      Hello Randy,

      I looked up the article and passed it–along with your email address–on to Pat Barch, the Hoffman Estates Historian. She is always on the hunt about this bridge and will be very interested in the research you have done.

      Thank you for your curiosity. You’ve definitely provoked our interest!

      Jane Rozek
      Local History Librarian
      Schaumburg Township District Library

  4. randy schallau Says:

    In a publication titled Engineering news vol. 56 supplement #8 on page 64 dated august 23rd. 1906 there is the following:

    Hanover Il.
    The contract for constructing a 30ft. single span reinforced concrete
    bridge at hanover has been awarded to Joliet Bridge and Iron company. H. L. Emerson 1206 chamber of commerce building Chicago is Engineer.

    Were there any other bridges in the township that this could possibly be describing?

    • jrozek Says:

      Hello Randy,

      I think you may have hit the nail on the head! The date is the same and the detail of the bridge sounds awfully similar too. The only other Hanover area bridge I am aware of would be the one you noted in the Herald article from 1909 detailing the new bridges being built in Schaumburg Township in 1909. In particular, I am referring to the bridge mentioned near the “Hanover line, north of Berlins.” But, then, I am not familiar with the rest of Hanover Township and since it is part of Cook County, Mr. Emerson might have been busy there too!

      Thank you for your research!

      Jane Rozek
      Local History Librarian
      Schaumburg Township District Library

  5. Pat Barch Says:

    Hi Randy,

    I’m not aware of other Hanover bridges that would have been built in 1906. The newer bridge next to the Lion Bridge and another that is west of Rt 59 by the railroad bridge, that is also newer, are the only ones in Cook County. I talked to a Hanover Township official and he didn’t know of any other bridges that your Engineering news might be referring to.

    I think you may have found the builder and engineer of the Lion Bridge. Your research has been great!

    Pat Barch
    Hoffman Estates Village Historian

    • randy schallau Says:

      Pat
      Did you receive the email I sent you the other day on your eagle
      email address? I have some more possible info on the tablets and I would rather send it without it coming up on the blog .

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