LOUISIANA – For 90 years, Henderson Park provided a stunning view of the soaring arches of the Old Champ Clark Bridge. Now the bridge is gone — but a memorial, made from recovered pieces of the bridge, will allow visitors to the park to remember its history.
A ceremony Wednesday formally welcomed the memorial and marked the end of the Champ Clark Bridge project.
The event took place under a gray and eventually drizzly sky, but MoDOT project engineer Keith Killen said the crowd of about 50 exceeded his expectation for turnout.
Some commemoration of the bridge, built in 1928, was a legal requirement for the project under historic preservation laws.
Local high schools were given the chance to provide the design and wording of the marker. Their proposals were put through the same design-build process that Massman Construction went through to win the contract to build the new bridge itself.
“The students that participated in this challenge ran with it farther than we even dreamt they would,” MoDOT Historic Preservation Specialist Karen Daniels said.
The award was ultimately divided, with the wording taken from students from Pittsfield High School and the design from Hannibal High School.
“It conveys a really strong message about the way the bridge originally came into being: it was a connection between two sides of a river. The way it ended up being memorialized is a connection between the two sides of the river, between the young people of Pittsfield and the young people of Pittsfield and the ones of Hannibal,” Pittsfield teacher Mike Smith said.
Aaron Gander of Hannibal High School added that the project was a valuable practical experience for his students that required one idea after another to be drawn up and discarded before they reached the final product.
The base of the monument consists of portions of the diagonal beams that ran along the sides of the Old Champ Clark Bridge and the plate that connected them. A plaque with information about the dedication was attached to the back of the monument during the event.
Public officials in attendance at the event included Pike County Eastern District Commissioner Justin Sheppard, Pike County Presiding Commissioner Chris Gamm, Louisiana Mayor Marvin Brown, Louisiana City Administrator Kelly Henderson, Pittsfield Alderman Robert Wood and Missouri Highway Commissioner John Briscoe.
Columbatto said after the ceremony that Massman planned to vacate its site on the Louisiana riverfront by the end of February, but noted that some of its maritime construction equipment would remain in the area until locks downriver reopen.