See the Light Part 1: A Historical Perspective

A local historical icon is being transformed into a dazzling display of color and light. Hundreds of spectators are gathering to see the light for themselves. But first, let’s illuminate this event with a brief history of the Phoenix Park footbridge…

I spoke with Carrie Ronnander, the director of the Chippewa Valley Museum, about the bridge’s history:

“The story of the bridge is that it’s a lot older than we think. That bridge was built in 1903, but it’s built with pieces of bridges brought from LaCrosse. The piers were built in 1903, and the trusses, there’s 3 parts to them, they were all brought up from LaCrosse, they were all built in 1876.

“You had skilled tradesmen who would’ve done some of the welding, the craft-type work and then there were general laborers who were doing general construction. But 33 men worked on it for about a year.

“Anything that the community was needing in large quantities would come in, go out, early years it was timber in later years tires as well as farmer’s produce.

In 1979 the Chicago Milwaukee St Paul line then discontinued using the line. In 1980 they tried to find another owner for the railroad, they did find one, but again they didn’t really make it go. in 1981 the whole line was abandoned, at that time it was discontinued being a railroad bridge.”

Over the past 36 years, the bridge has found a new purpose. Instead of trains hauling freight, there are dads pulling kids, friends carrying on conversations, and dogs walking people. The Phoenix Park footbridge has become an essential and iconic part of downtown Eau Claire. But tonight is the dawn of a new era…

Big thank you to Liz, Carrie, and Olaf at the Chippewa Valley Museum for their invaluable support in creating this video!

Make sure to watch “See the Light Part 2: Light It Up” (coming soon)

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