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Saving a landmark

Historic bridge is part of beloved lake park

Photos by Julie Hoppe of Mead and Hunt Inc.

Photos by Julie Hoppe of Mead and Hunt Inc.

Designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, the mastermind behind New York City’s Central Park, Milwaukee’s spectacular Lake Park has been a source of city pride since 1894.

“The people who live in the area really love their park,” said project manager Julie Hoppe of Mead and Hunt Inc., Madison.

Two of the park’s most recognizable features are its Lion Bridges, which span two ravines near a lighthouse that overlooks Lake Michigan. The bridges and their ornately chiseled lion sculptures at each end are enduring symbols of the celebrated city landmark.

But years of wear and tear had deteriorated the steel and limestone structures, requiring rehabilitation of both the North and South Lion Bridge.

Mead and Hunt, a structural engineering firm specializing in historical preservation, was commissioned to restore the 100-foot long pedestrian bridges, starting with the North Lion Bridge. Work on the South Lion Bridge will commence this year.

Throughout construction on the bridge, a bevy of concerned parties, including community special-interest groups, collaborated with the builders, the city, county and state to show their deep appreciation for the history and beauty of Lake Park.

Groups such as the Lake Park Friends and North Point Lighthouse Friends contributed money to further grant money from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Milwaukee County Parks Department.

“(Many people) were very interested in doing what they could to see the improvements made and they helped keep the focus on doing it in a historically respectful manner,” Hoppe said. “Members of both community groups took part in many of our meetings and helped re-create what Olmsted had envisioned back in the late 1800s.”

To maintain historical accuracy — mandated in part by the requirements of the National Historic Preservation Act — Mead and Hunt used the original invoices to find the most similar quarry for replacement limestone in the bridge abutments, Hoppe said. A county parks department botanist was employed to oversee tree removal that helped re-create the views and vistas from Olmsted’s design.

“I’ve been in this business 20 years,” Hoppe said, “and all I can say is that it’s a really cool bridge.”

North Lion Bridge

Location: Milwaukee

Submitting company: Mead and Hunt Inc., Madison

General Contractor: Vista Design & Construction LLC, Milwaukee

Engineer: Mead and Hunt Inc.

Owners: Milwaukee County Department of Parks, Recreation and Culture; Milwaukee County Department of Transportation and Public Works

Project size: 100 feet long

Project cost: $1.3 million

Start date: February 2009

Completion date: October 2009

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