Prior to the opening of the Upper Free Bridge in 1888, the Illinois River had to be crossed by ferry. Abraham Lincoln is believed to have taken the ferry during one of his first trips to Peoria.
When Peorians voted to construct the bridge in 1887, a parade was held from downtown to the site of the newly planned bridge. This was the beginning of what has since become the oldest continuous parade in the country: known today as the Santa Claus Parade.
In 1943, the Upper Free Bridge was struck by a towboat. Though it was repaired, the very same towboat struck the bridge again, and it never reopened. The Upper Free Bridge was demolished in 1947, though remnants of the structure remain today. iBi