Stone arch bridge

Second 1830s stone-arch bridge found on the National Road in Illinois

Second 1830s stone-arch bridge found on the National Road in Illinois

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Stone arch bridge

The National Road, our nation’s first federally funded highway, was authorized in 1806 and built between 1811 and 1837. It connected Cumberland, Maryland to Vandalia, Illinois — and was supposed to go to St. Louis, but money ran out. US 40 runs along the National Road corridor for the most part today.

The road reached Illinois last. The road was likely little more than a dirt path through the woods, with trees cut down and stubs ground out along the way. Some number of bridges were built to cross various streams and rivers, of which two are known to remain. The best known of them is on the west end of Marshall, Illinois, and it still carries traffic.

Completed sometime between 1834 and 1837, this bridge is built with no mortar of Indiana limestone cut on site.

Stone arch bridge in Marshall

Another stone-arch bridge was rumored to exist near Clark Center, an unincorporated town about 4½ miles west of this bridge. Fortunately, the rumors are true and the bridge has been found! I went to see it recently. Unfortunately, it was well hidden by brush.

Stone arch bridge on concrete National Road alignment

It’s a little hard to see in there, so let me enlarge the relevant area for you. I thought about moving through the brush to get closer to the bridge, but I was alone. I would have not enjoyed stepping in a hole I didn’t see and twisting my ankle with nobody around to help me.

This bridge is three miles west of the Marshall bridge. You’ll find it at 39.370413382359715, -87.75797032200374, which is approximately at the marker on this map.

Imagery ©2024 Landsat/Maxar Technologies. Map data ©2024 Google.

Reader Ward shares my interest in the National Road in Illinois. He visited this site last fall and was able to get close. Here are two of his photos of the bridge, used with his permission.

This bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places; here is the nomination form. It lists the bridge’s construction as having happened sometime between 1828 and 1837.

This bridge is on an intact alignment of the road. Three separate alignments of the National Road and US 40 are within 400 feet here — the current road built in the 1950s, the brick alignment built in the early 1920s, and the one this bridge is on. I’ve visited this area a few times before, and did not detect the concrete road here. It must have been heavily overgrown. But it’s cleared now, and I walked its length. Here’s the eastbound road from the bridge’s deck.

Concrete alignment from on the bridge, eastbound

The road is paved in concrete. I believe this concrete to have been laid between 1912 and 1916. I’ll explain in an upcoming article.

I have traveled the National Road extensively. Click here to see everything I’ve ever written about it.

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Hi, I’m Steven, a Florida native, who left my career in corporate wealth management six years ago to embark on a summer of soul searching that would change the course of my life forever.