HWTN opposes demolition of Historic Lake Park concrete arch footbridge over Ravine Road or replacement with modern steel bridge

Milwaukee County has recently determined that the historic, iconic and beautiful (1905-’06) Lake Park Concrete Arch Footbridge over Ravine Road is in poor shape, and Parks Department officials are considering a range of alternatives:

  • Repairing the current bridge
  • Replacing the bridge with one with the same historic design and features
  • Replacing the bridge with a modern, steel-girder bridge
  • Demolishing the bridge without replacement

LakeParkBridgeHorseHistoric Water Tower Neighborhood is opposed to replacing the historic Lake Park Arch Footbridge over Ravine Road in Lake Park with a prefabricated steel truss bridge or any other architectural style different from the current bridge. HWTN also opposes simply demolishing the bridge.

Here is the resolution passed by the HWTN Executive Committee in October:

 

Whereas, The historic Lake Park Arch Footbridge over Ravine Road is considered an iconic and beautiful feature of Lake Park, one of Milwaukee County’s most popular parks;

Whereas, The bridge is of significant historic importance, having been designed by the prominent Milwaukee architecture firm of Ferry & Clas, which also designed Milwaukee’s Central Library, the Pabst Mansion and the Lake Park Pavilion;

Whereas, The bridge is an integral part of Lake Park, designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed New York City’s famed Central Park;

Whereas, The Lake Park Arch Footbridge over Ravine Road provides needed circulation through the park, connecting the north and south portions of Lake Park near the bluff and crosses Ravine Road, enabling north-south passage through the park without returning to Lake Drive;

Whereas, The bridge is used extensively by walkers, bikers, joggers, birders and others from around Milwaukee County;

Whereas, The City of Milwaukee Historic Preservation Guidelines for the North Point North neighborhood state that, for Lake Park, “every attempt should be made to maintain the historic vehicular and pedestrian circulation system in the park including drives, paths, stairways and bridges. New parking areas, roadways, paths or bridges should be designed so as to be compatible with the historic character of the park”;

Therefore, Be It Resolved, That the Historic Water Tower Neighborhood opposes replacing the historic Lake Park Arch Footbridge over Ravine Road in Lake Park with a prefabricated steel truss bridge or any other architectural style different from the current bridge. We also oppose simply demolishing the bridge. HWTN encourages the county to consider and act promptly on the other two alternatives outlined in the July 2015 inspection report on the bridge — either repairing the current bridge or replacing it with a new reinforced concrete arch bridge that matches the dimensions and aesthetic and architectural features of the current bridge.

Learn more about the issue by reading the county’s engineering study of the bridge, which discusses the bridge’s current condition and outlines several options and costs for each; and by reading this history of the bridge.

The styles of modern bridges being considered to replace the Historic Lake Park Arch Footbridge over Ravine Road

The styles of modern bridges being considered to replace the Historic Lake Park Arch Footbridge over Ravine Road

 

 

 

 

 

 

Milwaukee County Parks is holding a public meeting on the issue this Thursday, October 15 from 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. in O’Donnell Park’s Miller Brewing Room at 910 E. Michigan Street. There will be free parking. Public input is welcome, so consider going and telling county officials your thoughts on this matter.

These are the county officials who will be making the decision on the bridge, and their contact information, for those interested in voicing their opinions on the issue via phone or email:

The BizTimes recently published this interesting article on the issue, and OnMilwaukee.com ran a good story, too.

 

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Lakefront improvements hit front page – more than century ago

The front-page drawing in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this week depicts new plans to improve roadways along the city’s cherished lakefront. Yet it was — a mere — 117 years ago that the front page of the Milwaukee Sentinel carried a drawing of a different lakefront roadway plan. Both plans shared the same goals: improving transportation along the shore and offering the public better scenic views.

The articles below report on the 1895 plan — which called for two new bridges to cross the ravines near the lighthouse in Lake Park. As we know, the distinctive bridges were later built and are popularly known as the “lion bridges.” According to the Lake Park Friends website:

“The two Lion Bridges span the two lighthouse ravines. The bridges designed by Oscar Sanne were constructed in 1896-97. The oft-photographed lions, sculpted out of sandstone by Paul Kupper, were donated by Henry Clay Payne, then manager of the Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company. In 1964, the bridges were narrowed and closed to vehicles.”

An historically appropriate restoration and upgrading of the bridges was completed last year. And fortunately, the original concrete lions still stand sentry over the beautiful spans.

Click on the two articles below to read how the bridge plans were described in 1895. (Clippings downloaded from Milwaukee Public Library’s “19th Century U.S. Newspapers” database.)\

– Jeff Bentoff

The Milwaukee Sentinel; July 7, 1895

 

The Milwaukee Journal; February 22, 1895