Long Grove bridge supporters to lobby for national landmark status
Supporters of preserving Long Grove's one-lane covered bridge dating to the early 1900s will be at a hearing before a state agency Friday in Springfield in an effort to gain national landmark status for the span.
Ryan Messner, chairman of the Downtown Long Grove Business Association's executive committee, and village historical society member Aaron Underwood have submitted 35 pages of documents in advance of the hearing. Underwood is expected to present the bridge's case before the 15-member Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council.
Members of the state panel, part of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, will vote on whether to recommend the bridge for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. Underwood said he's excited the bridge has a shot at becoming a national landmark.
"It has some swagger to it," he said.
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.
Although Long Grove government is not part of the effort before the state, Village President Bill Jacob said he hopes Underwood and Messner succeed in gaining the National Register of Historic Places designation for the bridge.
Jacob said the historic status likely would generate publicity for the bridge and potentially lead to outside funding sources to help pay for the work needed to renovate and preserve it.
"We don't feel there is any real downside in what they're doing," Jacob said.
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 is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. That decision gave the bridge added protections 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.
Messner said he believes there is a "great chance" the state panel will recommend that the bridge receive the historic status based on it being deemed eligible in February.
"We're working very hard, very diligently to keep (the bridge) as it is," Messner said.
Underwood said the state panel would send a recommendation to the National Park Service. The park service would have to sign off on the historic designation.