I visited Vincennes, Indiana, on my State Road 67 road trip in October, because that’s where SR 67 ends. It gave me a good chance to revisit two old alignments of US 50 as they cross the Wabash River into Illinois.

When Abraham Lincoln’s family moved to Illinois in 1830, in Indiana they followed the Buffalo Trace to Vincennes and rode a ferry across the Wabash River into Illinois. Many years later, a road that would become US 50 was built just north of that spot, and a bridge was built to cross the river. In 1932, US 50 was realigned to just south of that spot where a new bridge was completed. Much later still, US 50 was realigned again to bypass Vincennes entirely. But for many, many years, driving US 50 from Indiana into Illinois put you within sight of that ferry landing.

I parked on Main Street in Vincennes, which was US 50’s original alignment, and walked to the river. Part of the last block before the river is paved in brick dating back probably 100 years. Here’s that segment eastbound, with the river behind me.

EB Old US 50 at the Wabash River in Vincennes

This is where the original bridge crossed the river. A new bridge was built one block south in 1932, but the old bridge remained for a little while after that. The old bridge reached land again at about the middle of the photo below.

Where US 50 used to connect in Illinois over the Wabash River

Over the years I’ve scraped a few post card images of the old bridge off the Internet. They’re small images, but better than nothing. The bridge had two bowstring arch spans, a central swing span, and then two wooden covered spans. At some point, the wooden covered spans were replaced with Parker through truss spans.

The 1932 Lincoln Memorial Bridge is a stunner. I made this image while standing where the older bridge once began.

Wabash River looking south, Vincennes

Between these two spots is a small marker for the place where the ferry used to cross.

Where Lincoln crossed into Illinois

I walked up onto the Lincoln Memorial Bridge. Traffic was light, so I got this photo of the portal.

Lincoln Memorial Bridge

I walked across the bridge (on the sidewalk) and entered Illinois. This memorial to Lincoln’s crossing stands on the other side.

Monument to Lincoln entering Illinois

See the house that lurks behind this memorial? Its driveway is the older alignment of US 50, ending where the former bridge once stood.

Monument to Lincoln entering Illinois

The newer alignment is elevated over the older one. I walked down the hill to photograph the house and the old (brick!) alignment. Notice that a hill was built over the old road.

EB Old US 50 toward Indiana

But the old road emerges from under that hill, as you can see. The house’s gravel driveway curves around this little hill and meets those bricks on the other side.

EB Old US 50 toward Indiana

I turned around from this spot and photographed this old alignment westbound. The Lincoln memorial is on the left, up high on ground level with that retaining wall.

WB Old US 50

A short concrete segment is at the end of the bricks, where the later alignment of US 50 curves in. It looks to me like it was built when US 50 was realigned, given how it curves slightly left.

WB Old US 50

I headed back to the bridge and back across into Indiana. Here’s the Wabash River, looking north from the bridge.

Wabash River, looking north

The George Rogers Clark memorial is visible to the southeast of the bridge.

George Rogers Clark monument

Here’s one last look at this beautiful bridge, from near the Clark memorial.

Lincoln Memorial Bridge

I’ve written about this crossing before, here, here, here, and here.

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Comments

11 responses to “Following Lincoln’s footsteps into Illinois”

  1. brandib1977 Avatar

    I spent a beautiful fall morning there a few years ago, watching the sunrise, walking the bridge, paying my respects to the Lincolns and getting a tour of the George Rogers Clark Memorial. That was such a fun trip. Thanks for taking me back to that place today.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      How nice! I’ve visited this place several times on road trips now. It always feels like a homecoming of sorts.

      1. brandib1977 Avatar

        I swore that weekend that I would go back soon and I still haven’t done it. That trip was fantastic. Indiana never disappoints.

        Actually, I’ve never seen the St Louis Arch and it seems like I could combine all of that into a trip someday.

  2. Kurt Weisner Avatar
    Kurt Weisner

    My wife and I took a lot of those same pictures on a US 50 trip last summer. Also visited the Cannonball bridge about 7 miles downstream.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve not yet visited the cannonball bridge. It’s on my list!

  3. Richard C Kraneis Avatar
    Richard C Kraneis

    How nice to find a Jim Grey blog post on Vincennes, Indiana and Abraham Lincoln for coffee.

    There’s a lot of Hoosier in Lincoln. His formative years were spent in Indiana, a good walk with long legs from the Ohio River.

    Lincoln was a Hoosier before he became a “sucker” from Illinois. That’s what he called himself.

    Thanks Jim.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve visited a lot of Lincoln sites in KY, IN, and IL. It’s become kind of a quest. Nice to see you around these parts again!

  4. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Central casting, and an animal wrangler to get that cat in the road?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Just a lucky moment!

  5. Scott Bennett Avatar
    Scott Bennett

    Thanks, Jim. Those bridges are beautiful!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Happy you enjoyed seeing them!

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