About a year ago, the family of the late Walter Hanson was walking through Lincoln Memorial Garden trying to figure out how they could mark what would have been his 100th birthday.
Hanson, the founder of what would become Springfield's Hanson Professional Services Inc. and an engineer who loved designing bridges, had always enjoyed Lincoln Memorial Garden, so the family was thinking about donating a memorial bench. The plan abruptly changed when they saw that the 76-year-old Walgreen Bridge was closed due to its deteriorated condition.
The family quickly concluded that the best way to honor Walter Hanson's memory was to help replace the bridge.
On July 18, Karen Pletsch of Springfield, Walter Hanson's daughter, helped cut the ribbon to officially open the new Walgreen Bridge at Lincoln Memorial Garden.
"Last year would have been his 100th birthday, his centennial," Pletsch said. "We were wanting to find something to honor him... We were here, walking the trails, looking at the benches, and then we saw the 'bridge closed' sign. We were so enchanted. What could be more perfect to honor dad than to participate in something out here and see the bridge opened again?"
Joel Horwedel, executive director of the Lincoln Memorial Garden and Nature Center, said the bridge is an important part of the facility.
The original wooden bridge was built in 1940. Charles R. Walgreen of Chicago, founder of the Walgreen pharmacy chain, paid for the bridge. Myrtle Walgreen, Charles' wife, was a founding member of the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Garden Foundation and asked her husband to buy the material for the bridge as her birthday present.
For decades, the Walgreen Bridge was a popular site for wedding and class photographs. Unfortunately, by last year, it had deteriorated to the point where it had to be closed for safety reasons.
"It was in really poor shape," Horwedel said. "Our board president is an engineer and he did a structural analysis on it with a couple of other engineers and determined it wasn't structurally safe anymore."
The new bridge is a 70-foot-long steel structure that is about 14 feet above a tributary to Lake Springfield. Like its predecessor, it's the longest bridge at the garden and will retain the name "Walgreen Bridge."
The bridge cost about $100,000, which was covered by donations from the Hanson Family Fund, the estate of Molly Becker, a longtime volunteer at the garden, and other donations.
Springfield businesses also stepped forward with donations of labor, material and equipment to install the bridge.
Norman Brown of Brown Engineers Inc. did the structural engineering for the project.
O'Shea Builders demolished the old wooden bridge, Jones-Blythe Construction completed the foundation work, and Selvaggio Steel donated the anchor bolts.
The bridge was delivered to Springfield in two sections. Jones-Blythe unloaded and moved them into position to be bolted together. Martin Equipment hauled an excavator to and from the garden at no cost.
O'Shea Builders donated the use of a second excavator and the labor to set the bridge.
Horwedel said the new bridge is an essential part of Lincoln Memorial Garden.
"This bridge is going to last a lot longer than anybody here. Future generations are not going to have to worry about replacing it," Horwedel said.
Pletsch said Lincoln Memorial Garden has always been a special place for the Hanson family.
"My Girl Scout troop came here," Pletsch said. "Later, my children came here for camps and the Indian festival... I thought of it as fun and my dad did also, but Dad really realized early on what a community resource this was and how far-sighted it was."
Walter Hanson died April 4, 2010, at the age of 93.
Pletsch said that while her father was very humble, he would have been proud of his family's participation in the bridge project.
"We're a very small part of it when you look at the contributions and hard work," Pletsch said.
Source: The (Springfield) State Journal-Register, http://bit.ly/2gRxiTP
Information from: The State Journal-Register, http://www.sj-r.com
This is an AP-Illinois Exchange story offered by The (Springfield) State Journal-Register.