Princeton’s iconic Red Covered Bridge suffers extensive damage after being hit by semi

Landmark loss leaves community in grief
The 149-foot-long span cost $3,148.57 to construct and was once part of the Peoria-Galena Trail, crossing over Big Bureau Creek.
Published: Nov. 17, 2023 at 8:32 PM CST
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PRINCETON, Ill. (KWQC) - The iconic Red Covered Bridge, built in 1863 and one of only five remaining covered bridges in Illinois, suffered extensive damage after being hit by a semi-truck Thursday morning.

The historic structure wasn’t only a landmark but also a cherished memory for generations.

“It’s historic in terms of Bureau County because it’s been here for 160 years,” Lex Poppens, Executive Director for the Bureau County Historical Society and History Center, said. “My grandparents used it, my parents used it, I’ve used it, and many of the children of my friends have used it.”

Poppens said the community is devastated over the loss of the historical landmark, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places back in 1975.

“It’s been very much a part of people’s lives during our Fall Homestead Days,” Poppens said. “There are people who make a sojourn out here because this is one of those things that reminds them of where they came from.”

Princeton City Council Clerk Peter Nelson, who has spent his entire life here, shared some of his many memories associated with this bridge.

“When I was a kid, my wife, my father used to drive us lotus up in the station wagon to drive us through the red-covered bridge,” he said. “And we always liked listening to the rickety planks down below. It would give us a little bit of a thrill as kids that that was a scary place or, but we have many fond memories here.”

Nelson said the city council is currently assessing the damage and strategizing the best course of action.

“We first need to find out what the extent of the damage is,” he said. “We spoke with the iData engineer on site here yesterday.”

It’s still unknown what the community’s plan is moving forward and whether the Bridge will be replaced or restored. However, The History Center in Princeton said the local residents would want to see it restored.

“It’ll all depend on how much damage actually has occurred, and their crews were here yesterday, assessing all that and gathering data and trying to figure out, you know, what the next steps will be. Depending on what that turns out to be will determine what the city’s role in the Historical Society’s role might be.”

The 149-foot-long span cost $3,148.57 to construct and was once part of the Peoria-Galena Trail, crossing over Big Bureau Creek.