Circle Bridge was part of the 1953 original State Highway Authority plans, a single connection in the middle of town. Originally, Harlem, Elgin, Marengo, Circle, Hannah, Thomas, Beloit, Ferdinand, Lathrop and Desplaines were ground-level “through streets” with railroad crossings.
To make way for the Congress Expressway, 75 homes or structures were “doomed,” according to the July 3, 1953 article in the Forest Park Review. This single bridge, between Harlem and Desplaines was to be the midway connection in Forest Park.
By 1955, the Congress Expressway opened from downtown Chicago to Laramie and Forest Parkers were feeling the burdens of construction of the new highway and set out to demand a second overpass on Beloit.
Mayor Meyer and commissioners got busy notifying all churches and organizations to bombard Governor Stratton and the state highway department with letters informing them that an overpass connection at Beloit was a necessity. Which they did, in full force, from Chamber of Commerce members to citizens, but as we can see, the pedestrian bridge at Beloit never came to pass (or overpass).
It’s hard to imagine Forest Park without Circle Bridge, our central artery, well-traveled by locals. It’s even harder to imagine that the Circle Bridge was guarded by the modest rail, seen at the entrance and exit, until 1963 when the village council approved a bid for a fence to be erected (recently painted black by the Public Works Department).
Now a half a century later, locals have left their mark on the bridge. From themes of social justice to local history (including former Review publisher Claude Walker’s grandchildren), public services, volunteer organizations, dog park lovers, children, cat lovers, community groups, local businesses, schools, families who have stayed in town, and families who have left, everyone had a space on the bridge. The connection between the past and the future, marked by a single day of public art.
Forest Park bloomed this Saturday, and the bridge was the perfect place for local renewal. Gratitude for the day was palatable as Mother Nature was on our side, novice and experts meeting to leave their mark on Circle Bridge. Across a span of 12 hours and much history, the bridge had a journey and a story to tell — a revitalization of many hands, hearts and missions.