Long Grove's one-lane covered bridge that dates to the early 1900s has gained a formal recommendation from a state agency for federal landmark status.
Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council members voted 14-0 Friday in Springfield in favor of the bridge's inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. The panel, which includes architects and archaeologists, is part of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.
Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Rachel Leibowitz said the next step will be for agency officials to prepare a nomination package for review by the National Park Service. The park service will have 45 days to act after receiving the state's documents.
"Hopefully, the NPS staff will agree with our staff and the unanimous vote of our council," Leibowitz said, "and the bridge will be entered in the National Register of Historic Places by September."
Ryan Messner, chairman of the Downtown Long Grove Business Association's executive committee, and village historical society member Aaron Underwood submitted 35 pages of documents in advance of the hearing. Underwood presented the bridge's case in Springfield.
"It's phenomenal," Messner said after the vote. "It's a great win for the village."
Citing the covered bridge's poor condition, Long Grove officials have been exploring options to renovate or replace it with a one- or two-lane span at the western entry to downtown. Discussions began in 2014 about the Robert Parker Coffin Road bridge over Buffalo Creek.
Long Grove's span was constructed in 1906 by the Joliet Bridge and Iron Co. and is a rare surviving example of a pin-connected pony truss bridge built for an urban setting, according to the documents submitted to the state. The "nostalgic covering" was added in 1972 to help preserve the bridge and limit traffic from trucks and other heavy vehicles.
Proponents have cited the bridge as a key part of downtown Long Grove's identity, to the point it's incorporated into the village logo. However, opponents contend that a new, larger span would be safer and provide an updated appearance for the village.
Cost estimates to repair the bridge have varied, with the most recent being about $850,000.
In February, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency determined the bridge was eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. That decision gave the bridge added protection under the National Historic Preservation Act.
State officials said in a letter to Long Grove that "all reasonable measures must be taken to avoid demolition of this bridge," because of the national landmark possibility.