Visiting the Ashuelot, New Hampshire covered bridge on October 15, 2018.
In the early 1970’s Robert Parker Coffin looked for some inspiration when designing a cover for Long Grove’s 1906 metal truss bridge over Buffalo Creek. According to the story, the covered bridge spanning the Ashuelot river in New Hampshire provided some ideas to Mr. Coffin (an architect and former Village President) who oversaw the building of what later became the iconic village symbol in Long Grove, Illinois.
This week, finding myself in New England on a vacation to enjoy the fall colors, I had to satisfy my curiosity by paying a visit to Ashuelot to view the original bridge. In addition to the beautiful autumn foliage, we spotted many wild turkeys as we made our way into the tiny town, spread along the riverside. The bridge itself is quite long, painted white with a red roof and a covered walkway on both sides. I did notice a striking similarity in the appearance of the entrance, and in the way that the posts and arches over the openings felt familiar.
Another bit of nostalgia was the warm feeling of goosebumps that I got driving underneath the wooden covering from one side to another. I can’t wait until we are able to experience that once again in Long Grove. As we concluded our visit several cars of tourists arrived with cameras in hand, verifying the attraction feature this bridge also shares with our hometown symbol back in Illinois. There is no doubt that covered bridges evoke a special kind of charm appreciated across the country.
The demolition crew started bright and early this morning on removal of the damaged wooden canopy over the Long Grove bridge.
It was a bittersweet moment today watching the remains of the covered bridge being dismantled. Feeling sad as I gathered early this morning with members of the Historical Society, Arts & Music Council, and downtown merchants, it was a comfort to see the care being taken by the demolition crew to salvage as much of the original boards as possible. Village staff has arranged for storage of the old wood and the local non-profits are hopeful that they will be allowed to re-purpose it to benefit our Village and commemorate the bridge’s historical significance.
The demolition is expected to be completed this coming Monday, September 10th. Temporary clearance bars are planned to be installed on both sides of the bridge in addition to jersey barriers. This is to keep overweight and over-height vehicles and trucks from using the bridge and causing damage to the historic metal supports and foundations. Once these measures are in place IDOT engineers will inspect the bridge and if all goes well it could be opened to vehicular and pedestrian traffic as early as next week. In the months ahead the Village Board will be considering bids for the reconstruction of the wooden covering, which is likely to occur in the spring of 2019.
To those of us that worked so hard towards getting the bridge on the National Register, it was certainly melancholy to witness our icon coming down. But when I stopped back late this afternoon to check on the progress, I began to notice something more:
With the bridge covering two-thirds removed, the historic iron truss and walkway begin to emerge and become more visible.
With the covering gone on the majority of the bridge, the original 1906 Pratt Pony truss and walkway is now fully visible and no longer partially hidden by the wooden “hat” it was given in 1972. The historical elements that qualified our bridge for federal recognition are now on glorious display. As I snapped a few additional photos I chatted with shop owners, Montessori school moms, neighbors, friends, and the Village Engineer who all joined in with me to admire the beautiful ironwork from a century past. The real treasure of our covered bridge is still intact. The wooden covering will be rebuilt in a matter of months. The demolition this morning is really just the first step towards another century in the life of our iconic covered bridge, with a special inner beauty shining most vividly today.
Notice a picture of our Long Grove Village Hall on the upper right of the cover of the Muttersholtz municipal newsletter.
Earlier this summer I was contacted by Martine Kilcher, the Deputy Mayor of the town of Muttersholtz, France. She was putting together a feature for their September, 2018 municipal newsletter on places around the world that have a special connection or “twinning” with their village. Long Grove was founded in part by descendants of settlers from Muttersholtz in the mid-1800’s, and went by that name for several years before officially becoming the Village of Long Grove. I was glad to be able to write a short piece about our history and current events, and provide a few pictures for our friends in Europe to see what our village in America, inspired by Muttersholtz, looks like today. From Martine I learned that Muttersholtz is also very ecology minded, even receiving a special designation for this. Our villages both share a historic downtown crossroads with vintage buildings, and have had local craft breweries open in the past few years. It was a delightful experience to connect with Martine and we have even kept up with each other’s organizations through Facebook. When our covered bridge was listed on the National Register our Historical Society received congratulations from France, and when it was damaged a few weeks later they shared in our sorrow. To learn more about Muttersholtz, France click on this link.
Here is the English translation for the article (above) that appears in the September, 2018 issue of the Muttersholtz municipal newsletter:
“Long Grove is an American city, located at about 50 km from Chicago, Illinois. It has about 8,500 inhabitants. It is not twinned with our commune, but part of its population is made up of descendants of Muttersholtzois who founded a village after having migrated to the United States. The name was Muttersholtz firstly. These are also our faraway cousins who erected the parish church at the end of the 19th century. The people of Long Grove have been able to preserve their environment, which is composed of grasslands, forests and wet areas. The inhabitants are particularly proud of their covered bridge, which spans the Buffalo Creek and which has just been registered in the American Heritage. As with us, they like to party there. Each year a Strawberry Festival, an Apple Festival, a Festival of the chocolate and Saint Nicolas is honored. A brewery opened last year. To honor the story of the village, one of the first beers brewed was named Muttersholtz and, on July 21, the brewery organized a Muttersholtz Fest to celebrate the first year opening.”
News reporter Mark Rivera stands next to Aaron Underwood (holding the bridge poster) after spending the morning in Long Grove on August 22nd.
Last week, Mark Rivera of ABC Channel 7 came to Long Grove to interview members of the Historical Society, merchants, and residents about our covered bridge. To view the story that aired on the evening news on Friday, August 24th, click on the picture link below:
All summer long, it seems that everyone I interact with is curious about the covered bridge. At a gathering this morning in Long Grove with Brad Schneider, even the Congressman asked me for an update on the topic. Here are where the repairs stand currently, according to the Village of Long Grove’s 8-23-18 newsletter:
Having Robert Parker Coffin Road closed to traffic at the bridge for two months now has caused inconvenience to residents and hardship to the downtown businesses. Everyone agrees that it is a priority to get the road opened again.
The most historic parts of the bridge, the metal truss and walkway and the foundations, are in the same condition as prior to the accident.
The damaged wooden cover needs to be either demolished and rebuilt or repaired. The Village engineers have recommended demolition and reconstruction, and the insurance company has proposed repairs to what is currently left. The Village Board will be weighing these options at their next meeting this coming Tuesday, August 28th.
If the cover is removed, the Village Board is also considering making other long-term needed repairs such as repairing or replacing the limestone abutments.
Because the bridge is a historic structure, the Village has recently become aware of potential federal funding that could help with the costs of restoration up to 80%. However, details and availability of this funding option have not yet been confirmed.
Stay tuned to see how the decisions unfold in the months to come.
Lining up the camera shot and getting miked for my interview with ABC Channel 7’s Mark Rivera inside the Covered Bridge Creamery.
Working the volunteer lemonade/lemon cookie stand are (L to R): Angie Underwood, Long Grove Historical Society President, Laurie Wilhoit, Caring Women’s Connection President, and Karen Korenkiewicz.
During Sidewalk Sales weekend in July, the downtown Long Grove merchants provided the opportunity for local charities to raise funds by manning lemonade stands scattered throughout town, in front of participating shops. The Long Grove Confectionery chose the Long Grove Historical Society Covered Bridge Fund as their charity designee, and in a creative twist provided homemade lemon bars for us to sell in place of lemonade. We were stationed in a tent on their outdoor patio, right next to members of the Caring Women’s Connection, who were chosen by gift shop Within Reach as their charity of choice. Caring Women’s Connection raised nearly $80,000 last year to provide grant requests for projects that serve women and children in need in Lake County. It was great to partner with Laurie and Karen (pictured above) to learn more about their successful service organization, while raising funds to help restore the bridge and sampling delicious frozen lemonade. The afternoon turned stormy, but it provided lots of opportunities to interact with residents and visitors who all wanted to know what is up with the downtown road construction and “What happened to your bridge?!”
Merchant Rachel Perkal, owner of Epilogue, gets kudos for the most clever marketing idea by inviting Young at Heart Senior Pet Rescue to be her charity lemonade stand recipients. All afternoon we got to watch pet parents bringing their furry children for a visit to our dog-friendly historic downtown to support pet adoption. Epilogue was packed! So when life gives you lemons, remember the Long Grove prescription: shopping, cute dogs, and lots of lemonade.
Picture of the damage to the covered bridge on June 27th, 2018, taken soon after the accident. The wooden covering has continued to slowly collapse in the days since. The long term work needed to stabilize, open the road to traffic, and repair the damage is still being evaluated.
Shock, sadness and disbelief only begin to describe the emotions felt by those of us in the Long Grove community, Chicago area, and other parts of the country as the news of the severe damage to our covered bridge spreads, coming less than two weeks after the Historical Society was informed of the bridge’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places. For those of you who have not yet heard the details of the accident, the following report from WBBM CBS Chicago, which aired on Thursday, June 28th gives a good synopsis:
The day before the accident, the Village Board had approved plans to temporarily close the bridge on July 12th so that the community at large could celebrate the new federal listing. Plans were already underway by several community groups to participate in the party, and excitement among residents was high. Just look at these smiles below…
Former Trustee John Marshall (left) and downtown businessman Ryan Messner are shown installing the National Register marker on the bridge exactly one week before it was severely damaged.
The recent news of the National Register status had seen major media attention in the Chicago area, and it was picked up by the Associated Press last weekend. Many individuals had reached out to the Long Grove Historical Society following the National Register news with congratulations and elation over this story. The feeling in the community had been one of pride and happiness.
Which makes the turn of events this week so incredibly dramatic. At the scene of the accident just an hour after it occurred, I talked with a woman from California who was a history buff and had heard the news of the National Register listing. She flew across the country specifically to see our iconic bridge, only to arrive minutes after it was severely damaged. I met a resident from a neighboring community who works nearby and purposely goes out of his way to and from work to drive over the bridge because he loves it. He was devastated. Again, our inbox has been full of emails from bridge aficionados near and far, expressing sadness and anger at what has happened. I heard today from a gentleman who is the Vice President of the Theodore Burr Covered Bridge Society of Pennsylvania, with, “support for your efforts to see that the bridge is repaired.” He also stated that, “this is a bridge that I now have on my list to visit.”
As disheartening as the past few days have been, I know without a doubt that this community is resilient, and that we will rally and come together once again to save our bridge and restore it. Many, many passionate people have worked very hard to get the bridge on the National Register, and we will work just as hard to have that long-awaited celebration when the repairs are completed. I am looking forward to it! In parting, be heartened by the lovely image below, recently taken and sent to me by someone who grew up loving this bridge and loves it still today. Truly, a picture is worth a thousand words.
A beautiful picture of local boys searching for crayfish in Buffalo Creek under the bridge, taken and sent to me a few days before the tragic accident.
The iconic covered bridge in historic downtown Long Grove is a symbol of our village around the globe. As of today, it is officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
It’s Official! Our covered bridge in downtown Long Grove has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places! I’m so excited to be able to finally post this happy news! Please see the press release below for more details:
Long Grove’s Iconic Covered Bridge listed in National Register of Historic Places
The National Park Service has announced today that the Buffalo Creek Bridge, more commonly known as the Long Grove Covered Bridge, is being placed on the National Register of Historic Places. This is the first property in Long Grove to receive this prestigious designation.
Originally constructed in 1906 by the Joliet Bridge and Iron Company, the bridge is one of only two remaining of its kind in the greater Chicagoland area. Grass roots efforts for historic preservation and national recognition were rekindled early in 2017 when some local officials questioned the historic value of the one-lane bridge and favored a plan that would require removal of the current structure and increase truck and auto traffic through the pedestrian friendly downtown. In April of 2017, Landmarks Illinois, named the bridge to their annual “List of Endangered Historic Places.” A change.org petition urging local officials to save the historic bridge gathered over 4,900 signatures/testimonials and a fund-raising campaign has raised over $50,000 in monetary donations and pledges. Despite these efforts, local officials remain undecided on a long term course of action to restore or replace the bridge.
“For many years, the Long Grove Historical Society has been at the forefront of efforts to receive this designation, and we are thrilled to hear the news. Achieving National Register status confirms our belief in the bridge’s historical value as well as the sentimental value we know it holds for our community. This is a source of pride for all of Long Grove and we will continue to advocate for preservation of our beloved covered bridge,” noted Historical Society President Angie Underwood.
Ryan Messner, Vice-President of the Historic Downtown Long Grove Business Association added, “It’s our icon and our brand. For decades, Long Grove was a destination, and now the general feeling is that with the recent new business openings we’ve turned the corner and are solidly on our way back. It’d be foolish to destroy this treasure that has now been recognized with national historical status, and open up the quaint downtown to cut through traffic.”
An impromptu public celebration will be held in the coming weeks. Please check the Long Grove Historical Society website at longgrovehistory.org for updated details. More information about the bridge and the efforts to save it can be found online at SaveTheBridge.net
Members of the Long Grove Historical Society giving thumbs-up to the good news!
The namesake mural at the new Covered Bridge Creamery provided the perfect backdrop for our Historical Society committee meeting this week.
After spending the first several weeks of 2018 in a warmer climate, it was a pleasant surprise for me to return to Long Grove and find two new businesses in our historic downtown. I’m very excited to be able to feature one of them today, Covered Bridge Creamery.
Located in the former location of Beans & Leaves (on Old McHenry Road next to the Chatterbox), this new shop offers a variety of premium ice cream flavors as well as coffee, tea and assorted pastries. New counters and seating complement the classic wood paneling with the addition of a giant mural showcasing our beloved and iconic covered bridge. It provided the perfect spot and perfect inspiration for our recent Covered Bridge Preservation Committee meeting. Our group enjoyed the ambiance and the delicious lattes while also getting some advocacy work underway. Business owner Eric Wallor was gracious enough to sit with us and tell us a bit about his new venture.
Manager Nicholas Modlin and crew member Rachel Temple are two of several employees waiting to make your experience great at Covered Bridge Creamery.
Eric, along with his sister, brother in law and another partner first came to Long Grove this past summer to open Signature Popcorn, which is located next door to the new Creamery. Signature Popcorn started as an online business three years ago, and when the opportunity for a storefront in Long Grove became available they jumped at the chance to add a brick and mortar store to the expanding business. They were very attracted to the history and potential Long Grove provided, so much so that they now own two businesses and are very optimistic about the future of our town. Excited to, “bring our passion for ice cream, coffee and tea and our concept for Covered Bridge Creamery,” to Long Grove, Eric is definitely filling a need. One request that I repeatedly heard from residents during my term as Village President was to bring back a spot to get ice cream treats in our downtown. Thanks to Eric and his team, your wish is now reality. While I can vouch for the tasty hot beverages, I will be returning soon to sample the sweet stuff.
Covered Bridge Creamery is open currently, M-F 6:30 am to 4:30 pm, Saturdays 8:00 am to 4:30 pm and Sundays 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. As the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, they will eventually be open later into the evening hours. Stop by and check it out!
The wild turkey shown in the photo above was caught on the cell phone camera of one of my neighbors, trotting through a Long Grove backyard in June of 2015. Today we had Turkey Trotters of a different sort in town, as thousands of fitness enthusiasts (and those just wanting to burn off a few calories in advance) got their steps in under our covered bridge in the annual 8K/5K event. Our historic downtown benefited from the many post-race revelers toasting the holiday with a beverage of choice, be it craft beer or coffee from one of our new local gathering spots. I myself was trotting this morning down the aisles of Sunset Foods, gathering supplies for the family feast we are hosting tomorrow. I was pleasantly surprised at how many racers I encountered in the store, fueling up or picking up those last minute items for the turkey dinner ahead. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
Pictured (L to R) are my husband Aaron, father-in-law Joe, and son Alex at the 2013 Turkey Trot.
The fundraising campaign to save the covered bridge now exceeds $50,000 in donations and pledges.
The Village of Long Grove was featured recently in two Chicago Tribune stories (see links below) and both articles spoke of the current efforts by the community to get our covered bridge on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition, several fundraising efforts are underway to generate private donations to help offset the public funds that must be allocated to pay for preservation of our iconic bridge. More and more concerned community members are becoming involved with efforts to keep our one-lane bridge by signing the online petition, purchasing raffle tickets, making donations to the covered bridge fund, and speaking up in support of preservation at community events and gatherings. The gauge at the downtown crossroads will be updated soon to show that private efforts have now surpassed the halfway mark of the goal of raising $100K in donations and pledges to save our historic bridge. More information on ways to help can be found by visiting SaveTheBridge.net.
After the bridge was ultimately recommended by the historians on the State of Illinois review committee, the Historical Society was expecting to hear earlier this month from the National Park Service regarding the application to be placed on the National Register. A request came for more documentation pertaining to the scarcity of this type of bridge in our area of Illinois and it’s local significance. The listing process is iterative, with each draft of the application being reviewed by a new historian who brings individual interests and experiences into what is significant and worthy of elaboration. The federal application itself plays a role in documenting our national history, so all involved in the process want to take their time and get it right. With this being the last level of review, the end is now in sight even if it takes a bit longer than desired to get there. More information on this topic can be found at LongGroveHistory.org.
This past weekend my husband and I took a drive up to Michigan to enjoy the fall colors, and we purposefully visited the town of Allegan, Michigan to see their one-lane iron truss bridge over the Kalamazoo River. Built in 1886, this bridge was almost lost in 1979 when rehabilitation was deemed more costly than replacement with a two-lane federally funded structure. The local community rallied and got the Second Street Bridge listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Because the bridge was not a critical transportation corridor, Allegan city officials were able to persuade the federal government in 1981 to fund rehabilitation, even though the project would not meet the federal standards. The bridge is beautiful, with a pedestrian walkway decorated with iron latticework and end post finials. It is a centerpiece and source of pride for the small town and is featured in the logo for the city of Allegan.
This story and it’s positive outcome and correlations to Long Grove make me hopeful. But we all know that for every historic bridge that has been saved, many, many more have perished. I truly hope that the story history writes years from now about our Long Grove covered bridge will be a happy one.