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Savanna-Sabula Bridge


With the completion of more cement roads in the state, came an increase of east-west traffic in the early 1930s. A bridge was badly needed between Clinton and Dubuque.

In spite of the fact that the nation was in its worst economic depression, and probably in large part due to the great number of unemployed men willing to work, the Savanna-Sabula Bridge was brought to reality by selling subscriptions, or pledges, to those with enough money to invest in the project.

The Savanna -Sabula Bridge Company was formed and its 800 stockholder were headed by Savanna Mayor C.N. Jenks, president; Bruce Machen, vice president; John Grande, secretary/treasurer; and directors J.F. Stransky, John Young and E.M. Peters.

The main river crossing would be at the north end of Main Street, then follow a causeway to a small bridge over the slough at the north end of Sabula.

Jan. 1932

Work began in the winter of 1931. The bridge approaches and the islands used were cleared of timber with the good timber being used to create the forms for the cement pylons. Work continued throughout the next 18 months.

The entire project include building two bridges and the causeway along as many existing islands as possible. The two-mile long span was a massive undertaking for that period.

The cost was $750,000 for the steel and cement structure of 2,248 feet. The main span was 530 feet with an overhead clearance of 55 feet at high water stage. The slough bridge is 342 feet and the total length of the roadway between the two bridges is 11,217 feet.

July 1932

The concrete used totaled 4,500 cubic yards, 2,200 tons of steel, 650,000 feet of lumber, 56,600 feet of asphalt  planking and 35,000 feet of piling. Labor costs came to $250,000.

The Savanna-Sabula Bridge was officially dedicated by delegations from four states on Oct. 12, 1933. The bridge had been officially open to traffic earlier in the year but was closed to all but the delegation traffic on that day. Gov. Henry Horner led the Illinois-Wisconsin delegation across the bridge, meeting the delegations from Iowa and Minnesota in a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the middle. The ceremony featured four ribbons, one for each represented state, which were cut by the Miss America contestants from each state.

Dedication ceremony

The mayor of Savanna, George Becker, and Sabula, George Ulmer, shook hands over the ribbons. As the governors procession started across the bridge, a 19-round salute was fired from a three-inch gun on the pinnacle from the Savanna Ordnance Depot, under the command of Sgt. Homer Poteet. The Iowa-Minnesota delegating included 116 automobiles departing from Sabula.

Hundreds of people were on the bridge for the ceremony and the celebration culminated with a luncheon in Savanna with many political speakers. Gov. Horner was quoted by the Savanna Times Journal as say that the bridge was built “in the spirit of pioneers.”

The bridge was put out of service on Nov. 17, 2017, and its was demolished on March 9, 2018. The new bridge was built at a cost of $80.6 million and as named by the Illinois House of Representatives as the Dale Gardner Veterans Memorial Bridge.

January of 1931 looking towards Savanna.

Jan of 32
January of 1931 looking west towards Iowa.

Laying asphalt planking on the bridge deck. 

Cement work SAv-Sab