By Steve Long, firstname.lastname@example.org
It made a splash on Arsenal Island when it first debuted, but it dried up over a century ago. That's the topic of this edition of "Rock Island Arsenal: Inside the Gates".
General Thomas J.Rodman is known for laying out a grand plan for the Arsenal: including the Stone Shops and the luxurious home known as Quarters One. But one feature he planned, vanished after only a decade.
It's one chunk of land with three prominent uses. In the 1860's, "this was the P.O.W. Camp in the Civil War," says Historian George Eaton. Then in the 1880's, "There was a lake here, an artificial lake," he says. And today, "We are at the receiving end of the driving range," Eaton tells us.
The crumbling remains of Lake Avenue still stand. "We like to call it the bridge to nowhere," says Eaton who is the Command Historian for the US Army Sustainment Command. Now overgrown with weeds, it once carried horses and buggies over Crystal Lake. "I think it was probably to create just a space between the Industrial Plant and the housing area," he tells us.
But details are sparse, even for historians. "They put the bridge up in 1881 and the lake about the same time," says Eaton. Both the bridge and the lake were beautiful but the lake itself didn't last real long. Eaton says, "It only lasted 10 years because they realized there was no outlet source for it. So it immediately began to spawn mosquitoes and turned into a swamp."
So the lake was drained but the bridge remained. "It appears all this rubble below me and all most of the bridge was rubble taken out of the excavation of the foundations for one of the Stone Shops," says Eaton.
A bit of a bargain basement project. " So they never actually paid for this. It was basically what was left over and free," he says. But it wasn't completely free. "Some of this is dressed stone as well so there was some cost to it and the lions, very nice touch," Eaton says.
There were pedestrian tunnels under the bridge one beside each arch . And four of those decorative lions still remain. "The plan that was provided to the Chief of Ordnance in 1881 doesn't have the lions on it," Eaton tells us. But the lions are here, nonetheless.
" The one report I mentioned that we did find says that because it's prominent on the Arsenal they added some extra ornamentation on it," says Eaton.
Once a peaceful place to cross a pool of water, it's glory days evaporated long ago. Eaton says, "So it's blocked off on both ends because they don't want anybody up here. So really all it is, is just some nice ornamentation on the golf course."
It's kind of an odd sight, out in the middle of dry land to see a majestic looking bridge, but at least now we know why it's there.