Road Trips

A long ago Wabash River crossing on US 50 in Indiana

Main Street and old US 50 in Vincennes ends at the Wabash River today, but until the early 1930s a bridge over the Wabash River connected Vincennes to Illinois. Not only did I find brick pavement in the last block leading up to the river, but I found postcard images of the old bridge.

This eastbound photo shows the old bricks, which probably date to the 1920s.

The old brick road

Here’s a better look at the bricks as they head toward where the old bridge’s approach once lay.

The old brick road

The old bridge itself was quite a contraption. At its center was a swing bridge which pivoted 90 degrees to allow boats to pass. Originally, wooden covered bridges connected the swing bridge to both shores. In researching this bridge at my favorite bridge site, bridgehunter.com, I found these postcard images that show how the bridge evolved.

In this image, a covered bridge stands on the Illinois side and a bowstring arch swing bridge stands in the middle. By this time, however, the covered bridge on the Indiana side had been replaced with two bowstring arch spans, probably on the same piers and abutments.

The Lincoln Memorial Bridge was completed in 1932, but this image suggests that the old bridge stayed in service for a while. By this time, the bowstring arch spans on the swing bridge had been replaced by Pratt pony truss spans, and the covered bridge on the Illinois side by Parker through truss spans. (Pratt and Parker are kinds of trusses; they differ primarily in that Pratts are flat on top and Parkers appear curved on top. Pony trusses are open on the top; through trusses have connecting members across the top.)

The Lincoln Memorial Bridge still stands, though it hasn’t carried US 50 in some time. At the end of this bridge in Illinois, a great monument stands commemorating the crossing of young Abraham Lincoln and his family into Illinois. If you stop to see the monument, you can see that the old highway leading away from the old bridge remains on the Illinois side as well. It, too, is brick.

Brick segments of old US 50

I wrote all about the Illinois side of this crossing last year. Check it out.

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Last updated on 22 February 2020 by Jim Grey

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2 thoughts on “A long ago Wabash River crossing on US 50 in Indiana

  1. Lone Primate says:

    With reference to last year’s post… yeah, I bet that guy who parks on the old highway has no idea, either. That’s the irony. :)

    • Reminds me of the time I got my car stuck while exploring the abandoned brick National Road in Illinois. A lady who lived nearby came out to help and asked why I was out there, and when I said, “I’m exploring the National Road!” and pointed to the bricks, she said, “Oh, that.”

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