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Lake Park Footbridge


Footbridge Circa 1908

The Lake Park Footbridge as seen circa 1908, looking west at the north end of the bridge. Note the urn balustrades, long gone from the railings, and the hats the people are wearing. The photo was taken by Sumner W. Matteson.

Photo from the collection of the Milwaukee Public Museum and used with permission.

Photo taken by Summer W. Matteson, circa 1908

BH Photo #116012

Street View 

The Significance of Lake Park and the Lake Park Bridges 

Written by J.R. Manning

The west shore of Lake Michigan features a tall bluff, varying in height but as high as 70 meters, that overlooks the lake. In the mid 1800's, the civic leaders of Milwaukee recognized the importance of preserving public space in the form of parks and began to buy up land throughout the area. One of the spots was the area that is now known as Lake Park. The significance of this site is nothing new, burial mounds of Native Americans were found here.

In 1854, the U.S. Lighthouse service built the North Point Lighthouse on a two acre plat that divided the planned park area. The lighthouse was moved back 100 feet because of bluff erosion, a problem that continues to this day. The city and the federal government came to an agreement in 1893 that allowed the park to be developed as planned, and the lighthouse continued in operation until is was decommissioned in 1994. The lighthouse is now a part of the park and is being restored.

The Milwaukee Park Commission contracted with Frederick Law Olmsted, the noted landscape architect, to design Lake Park. (Ohlmstead is remembered for designing New York's Central Park, the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago and the grounds of the Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate.)

The Lion Bridges, that span the ravines that frame the lighthouse, were completed in 1897. The footbridge was built in 1906 and the Grand Staircase in 1908.

You can learn more about this wonderful park and the structures of it at the website of the Lake Park Friends.


Concrete arch bridge over Ravine Road on Lake Park in Milwaukee
Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin
Open to traffic
Built 1906
- F.E. Turneaure
- Ferry & Clas of Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- Newton Engineering Co. of Milwaukee, Wisconsin
This structure is a pierced-spandrel, reinforced-concrete, rib-arch bridge. There are two reinforced-concrete ribs, 12 inehs wide and 54 inches deep, placed 12 feet apart. They are reinforced with Kahn-patent trussed bars. Each rib supports a spandrel wall pierced wtih large openings. The overall effect is designed to reduce structure weight. This is among the earliest American rib-arch bridges and possibly the first rib-arch bridge to use the Kahn trussed-bar system of reinforcement. Detailing is neoclassical.
Historic Highway Bridges in Wisconsin, Volume 1, Wisconsin DOT 1986.
Length of largest span: 118.0 ft.
Total length: 216.5 ft.
Deck width: 10.0 ft.
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places
Approximate latitude, longitude
+43.06900, -87.86855   (decimal degrees)
43°04'08" N, 87°52'07" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
16/429285/4768843 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Milwaukee OE E
Inventory numbers
NRHP 93000339 (National Register of Historic Places reference number)
BH 34853 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • March 28, 2017: Updated by Dana and Kay Klein: Corrected typo per forum comment
  • March 30, 2013: New photos from J.R. Manning
  • August 8, 2008: Updated by J.R. Manning
  • June 27, 2008: Essay added by J.R. Manning
  • June 25, 2008: New photo from J.R. Manning
  • June 24, 2008: Updated by J.R. Manning



Lake Park Footbridge
Posted March 28, 2017, by Virginia Small (virginiasmall7 [at] gmail [dot] com)

The bridge was designed by Ferry & Clas (not Class).

The following report by the City of Milwaukee's Historic Preservation Office says it's believed to be the only bridge jointly designed by George Bowman Ferry and Alfred C. Clas, renowned Milwaukee architects who designed many major civic commissions. They also designed a nearby pavilion and the Grand Staircase as part of a neoclassical cluster in Lake Park.


Lake Park Ravine Road Footbridge
Posted September 3, 2016, by Virginia Small (virginiasmall7 [at] gmail [dot] com)

As of September 2016, there are rehabilitation options for this iconic bridge in a Frederick Law Olmsted park but it could face demolition and reconstruction. Supporters of a new bridge (estimated at $2.6 million) say it would be more practical over 100 years than a rehab with a 50-year life span for $2.3 million.

Articles about the planning process and community debate: