Graf Road Bridge

Normally old road bridges are not considered worth saving. Fortunately, Steve Thomas thought otherwise. This bridge, constructed in 1937, originally spanned a small creek on Graf Road, east of Maxon Road near the small hamlet of Lawrence, northwest of Harvard, IL. Named after Frank Beck, a local road commissioner, the bridge has a “pony” truss design and was one of the last of these types of bridges in McHenry County. However, the old bridge only has a 12-ton weight limit, whereas other road bridges generally have a capacity of 36 tons. The county road commission decided to replace it in 1998 and the old bridge was scheduled for demolition and scrapping. This is when concerned local resident Jeannie Hill stepped in and contacted Steve Thomas, the owner of the Poplar Grove Airport.  Steve, along with Butch Rafferty, snapped into action and secured the acquisition of the Graf Road Bridge.  

The only problem was where to put the bridge. Originally, there were no plans to put a bridge on the museum campus or the airport, so the bridge “laid in the weeds” for some time. Luckily, the construction of a pond on airport property, which is utilized as a landscaping feature, opened up the potential to use this bridge.

One significant obstacle was the lack of any engineering for the bridge construction, which is important to insure a safe structure. Adding to this was the difficulty placing the bridge on a new site without knowing the specifications of the bridge, as well as having any building plans.

Poplar Grove resident Mark Dammeyer, a former highway engineer from McHenry County, managed to find the plans for the bridge, and came up with a new plan to place the bridge on the airport property. With generous support from Rockford Blacktop, the project was completed and the bridge now spans “Lake Thomas”, secure and firm beyond Graf Road.