Vincennes: The Lincoln Memorial Bridge

Few people in American history hold a place as high as Abraham Lincoln. The Kentucky native that became the 16th President of the United States, also spent time living in Indiana before moving on to Illinois, where he would become famous throughout the nation. It was decided that a bridge, supposedly marking the spot where Lincoln crossed into Illinois, would be built to connect Indiana and Illinois. It became the Lincoln Memorial Bridge.

The George Rogers Clark Memorial was soon to be constructed in Vincennes. As part of that memorial, a celebration on 3 September 1933 to dedicate a new bridge at Vincennes connecting Indiana and Illinois were scheduled. The date chosen for the dedication of the bridge was the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Paris, bringing an end to the War for Independence and the creation of the United States of America as a separate country.

The Abraham Lincoln (George Rogers Clark) Memorial Bridge as shown in the Indianapolis News of 28 April 1934.

The bridge, when it was built, would carry US 50 across the Wabash from Vincennes, Indiana, to Lawrence County, Illinois. It would become a major link in that road for several decades. It would be a replacement of a bridge that spanned the Wabash from Main Street in Vincennes for many years.

The high approaches on the Indiana side were due to requirements by the War Department. The Munster, Indiana, Times of 17 July 1931 states that “rigid war department requirements forced the engineers to give the 1,850-foot bridge a clearance of 50 feet above the normal water level on the theory that some time navigation might be resumed in the Wabash.”

At one point, the plan of the city of Vincennes, and Knox County, was to build a boulevard between the George Rogers Clark Memorial and the Wabash River for the rerouting of US 41 along the new route. I am not sure if it was part of the plan, but Culbertson Boulevard runs from Main Street north to Hart Street between the railroad and the river. The US 41 idea never materialized.

In 1936, the bridge, as well as US 50, would be closed for one day. Sunday, 14 June 1936, would see the closing of US 50 in both Indiana and Illinois as the George Rogers Clark Memorial was dedicated at Vincennes. For four and half hours, detours of over 40 miles were in place as festivities were held to celebrate the GRC Historic Park dedication. Chief among those that would be on site would be President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The Abraham Lincoln Memorial Bridge still stands today, almost 90 years after the concrete structure was built. Yes, US 50 has been rerouted around Vincennes. The bridge now serves as Indiana State Road 441. And, according to Google Maps, the same road number in Illinois, although on the ground, there are no such markers in place that I have ever seen.

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