The Beginning of the End for The MacArthur Highway Bridge

Peoria' MacArthur Highway Bridge, Looking Toward Downtown on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive

A few weeks ago I read a press release from the City of Peoria's Public Works department that said the MacArthur Highway bridge connecting Peoria's West Bluff to downtown and the South Side would soon be closed for repairs. It piqued my interest since I blogged about bridges in my previous post, and have always liked the looks of this tiny 1920's Art Deco bridge in our city. Sadly, the bridge hasn't aged well. The deteriorated concrete road surface over the actual span of the bridge is slated to be replaced with asphalt, and motorists should plan their routes accordingly. I later read this article in the Peoria Journal Star that stated the repairs were a temporary measure meant to shore up the bridge until a permanent replacement plan can be developed.

Several proposals for a replacement bridge are being floated, including an entirely new bridge, to closing the road underneath entirely and building up an embankment to pave directly over. Whatever city leaders decide, its almost certain that the current MacArthur Highway bridge will disappear, taking with it some of the unique architectural characteristics of the Art Deco era in which it was created. In an effort to preserve some of them, I snapped a few pictures a few nights before the construction began.

 *Note: These are for historical reference only, and nothing more. The fact that I even took them at all means that I'm probably on some watch list somewhere, but whatever. 
Peoria's MacArthur Bridge Looks To Me Like It Belongs in the 1920's. A Gateway From the Moss Avenue, Uplands, and Bradley University Neighborhoods, This Bridge Remains a Quick Way to Get to Downtown, US-24, and Peoria's South Side.  

My Favorite Detail: The 8 Large "Obelisks" That Adorn the Structure. Similar Bridge Adornments Are Used to Line Chicago's Lake Shore Drive, And Throughout Newport, Oregon.

The Striped Column Detail is Carried Through Underneath the Bridge As Well. Such Details are Usually Not Duplicated in Today's Structures. You Can Also Tell Its in Need of Some Repair.

There you have it, the little MacArthur Highway Bridge. Without a trip to the library, that's all I can tell you about this structure. No visible plaque or markers could be found, but its a rare, surviving example of Art Deco in my 178 year-old city...and its days are numbered. Is the antique automotive enthusiast in me sad to learn this? Of course, on some level. On another, its a testament to its original design and construction that its lasted this long. 

I've often thought of the decades of different automobiles that have traveled on this bridge in all types of weather: Model A's with canvas tops folded to enjoy the summer sunshine to aluminum-framed hybrids in the winter. Chain-driven trucks carrying barrels of beer to thirsty workers in downtown bars in the 1930's, to modern diesel trucks carrying computer tablets to the big box stores on a wet spring day. Motorists would have been happy to have another quick access road to downtown back in the day, especially the well-to-do on Moss Avenue. I imagine a few high end cars traveled back and forth on this very stretch from the mansions on the hill to a dance club or theater below. I wonder if there was a big celebration when this bridge was built? If I had time and money, I'd love to have a classic car hill climb on this before they decommission it. It would make some part of me happy to see an open-air speedster rip up the hill and crest a Moss Avenue finishing line one final time.

I'm all for replacing and updating our roads, bridges, sidewalks and curbs. I'm just sure the bridge that replaces this old little guy won't have nearly the same character. 



Popular Posts