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Main Street Bowstring Bridge


Main St Bridge over Fox River in Ottawa, IL, looking south

Bowstring arch, built by Canton Bridge company in 1872, cost $14,400, replaced previous structure constructed in 1854-1855

Art of Ottawa & Vicinity, Reddick Library, Ottawa, IL


BH Photo #329399



This may have been the largest tubular bowstring span that WIBCo. ever erected.

Brief History 

excerpts from Ottawa Times article by Ed Green, 2-22-1999

A wood toll bridge across the Fox River was built by the Fox River Bridge Company in 1854-1855. By 1867 the tolls had risen to what the populace considered "oppressive" and the township attempted to purchase the bridge from the company with the intent of making it a "free" bridge. The company responded by lowering the rates and creating a new rate schedule which allowed unlimited usage for a yearly fee of between $7 and $10. The purchase plan was dropped.

The plan later resurfaced in another form but it also failed. This time the company responded by raising the tolls for non-stockholders in the company. This resulted in some nearby townships refusing to do any business in Ottawa and encouraged another attempt to purchase the bridge. This time they succeeded and the bridge became a "free" bridge on January 14, 1869.

A group of disgruntled former stockholders filed suit to regain ownership of the bridge but dropped the suit when it was discovered that the western edge of the bridge was sinking.

The bridge was replaced in 1872 by this bowstring arch which remained in service until 1922.


Lost Bowstring through truss bridge over Fox River on Main Street
Ottawa, LaSalle County, Illinois
Built 1872; Replaced 1922
- Wrought Iron Bridge Co. of Canton, Ohio
- Chicago, Ottawa & Peoria Railway (CO&P)
- Interurban
- Ottawa Street Railway
- Streetcar
16 panel 237' span Bowstring through truss Keystone Column arch
Length of largest span: 237.0 ft.
Total length: 387.0 ft.
Approximate latitude, longitude
+41.34578, -88.83973   (decimal degrees)
41°20'45" N, 88°50'23" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
16/346084/4578775 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Inventory number
BH 67542 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • October 29, 2019: Updated by Art Suckewer: Added number of panels and main span length
  • February 27, 2016: New photo from Gene Smania
  • June 14, 2015: Essay added by Gene Smania
  • May 12, 2015: Added by Luke

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