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    Main Street Bridge




    Image credit: St. Charles Public Library
    In order to cross the Fox River before the first bridge was built in 1836, citizens had to take a ferry across the river. With the construction of a bridge and a dam, citizens were not only able to cross the river with ease, but were able to run their mills at higher speeds with the power supplied by the rushing water of the dam. The original bridge, which was built of wood, stood eight feet above the water at low tide and 18 feet wide. This bridge was swept away in 1839. The bridge that replaced it was also washed away in 1849. Yet another span was built in 1857.

     This would not be the last time the Main Street Bridge failed to survive for an extended period of time. Over the history of the bridge, there have been seven spans constructed. Two of the most famous are those of 1874 and of 1927. King Building Company of Cleveland, Ohio built a new bridge in 1874. Although constructed of iron, the bridge was not meant to handle heavy loads, as trolley passengers discovered on July 1, 1902. On crossing the bridge from the west, the trolley car with 30 passengers aboard, broke through the bridge and came to rest at a 30 degree angle with its back end in the water. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured in this mishap. Following the accident, workmen erected a footbridge over the river, allowing continued access to the other side of town. The trolley car was not extracted from the its resting place until the following day.

    Citizens had been concerned about the bridge's condition prior to this accident and had alerted city and transit officials of its hazards. Following the accident, many placed blame on the officials who had not heeded their warnings. Reconstruction of the bridge began later that summer. This bridge was paved in 1915.

     

    The improvements made in 1928 were designed by St. Charles philanthropist and Chicago Tribune cartoonist, Lester Norris. Norris got the inspiration for the alteration to the bridge design from bridges he saw while on his trips to Italy. Charles Lamb used the sketches made by Norris to construct the bridge. Workers widened and reconstructed the 1902 bridge and added the new embellishments, which included four bronze fox statues which were donated to the city by Herbert Crane. Cast in France, the foxes were placed on marble balustrades designed by Lester J. Norris in 1927. In a 1969 contest sponsored by the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce to name the fox that represents St. Charles, Katherine Bernardi won with her entry of "Charlemagne." Former mayor of St. Charles and civic leader, C.V. Amenoff followed in 1970 with a story he wrote called the "Legend of the Four Sons of Charlemagne" to commemorate the history of St. Charles and the four fox statues. Amenoff's legend appears in the Reflections of St. Charles by Ruth Seen Pearson.

    The current bridge was under construction from 1997-1998. The original four bronze fox statues from the 1928 bridge were installed on the new bridge, and cuppola seating and planting areas added ornamentation to the new bridge.

    For additional photographs see:

      Celebrating History p 23
      St. Charles Illinois p 22, 127
      Reflections of St. Charles p 37
      St. Charles on Parade p 25
    St. Charles Heritage Center - A Growing Communityexternal link

    Sources

    •  Architectural Survey, St. Charles Central District. St. Charles: St. Charles Historic Preservation Commission, 1995.
    •  Bemis, Lester. Bridge. St. Charles, Ill., 1998.
    •  "Down With a Crash Street Car Goes Through Bridge." St. Charles Chronicle 4 July 1902,1.
    •  Edwards, Wynette A. Images of America, St. Charles Illinois. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 1999.
    •  Lusted, Steve. "Main Street Bridge in St. Charles." 1992.
    •  Pearson, Ruth Ann. Reflections of St. Charles. Elgin: Brethern Press, 1976. pp. v, 21.
    •  St. Charles on Parade, St. Charles, ILL, 150 Years, 1834-1984. St. Charles: Chronicle Publishing Company, 1984.





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