On Sept. 23, 1806, members of the Corps of Discovery drifted on the Mississippi River past Camp DuBois, their former winter staging area. Historians tell us the members of the Lewis & Clark expedition were eager to reach St. Louis about 1 mile downstream and return to civilization after more than two and a half years of wilderness travel. For the members of the Corps, Camp DuBois had served its purpose, and it was allowed to fall into disrepair, eventually to be reclaimed by the wilderness.

Two hundred years later, the abandoned camp has been reclaimed and has taken on an important role in preserving the memory of an important event in U.S. history. In September, history buffs met at the site and welcomed back a small flotilla of river travelers who had completed a two and half year trip on the same path of the Lewis & Clark expedition. According to the organizer's master plan, the site was host to a musical tribute at the end of the two-year Bicentennial celebration.

While Ol' Man River might keep on flowing along, there's been a recent addition to the historic campground. Overlooking the recently constructed Illinois State Park stands the Lewis & Clark Confluence Tower. This 200-foot prestressed/precast structure now not only creates a monument for the start of the trail of discovery, its supporters hope it will provide a much-needed lift to the economic future for the local area.

Around the country, producers are finding themselves developing a new market—commemorative structures. From carillons to observation towers to sculptures, concrete is preserving our deepest memories and important historical events. And for those involved in the design, casting, and ownership of these memorable structures, it's big business.

Legacy tower

Hartford, Ill., may be a small river town, nestled between Alton and Edwardsville, but it has a big place in the history of our country many people almost forgot. Fortunately for this community of about 1000, Hartford Mayor William Moore is a history buff.

Driven by the traditional interstate rivalry between Illinois and Missouri, Moore worked hard to establish that the Lewis & Clark expedition actually started in his state. “It's true that the expidition refitted and pushed off from St. Charles (Mo.), but they actually wintered here prior to the start of the journey,” Moore says with conviction.

Hartford's economy has been static for several years. Spurred by the national interest from the Lewis & Clark anniversary, city leaders wanted to create a legacy structure to mark the historical event and to help jump-start their local economy by creating a tourism draw. Their plan was to draw from the thousands of visitors to the Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis, about a 20-minute drive away.

Moore and other city leaders met several times to develop a plan to create a suitable memorial that would put Hartford on the tourist map. The tower design was actually one of four original ideas.

With the help of more than $580,000 in grants from the State of Illinois, the project is now almost complete. The funding came from a special state initiative called Opportunity Returns. The grants are designed to help spur local economies by providing seed money for special projects.

“Tourism plays a very significant role in the growth of our state's economy and, through Opportunity Returns, we're building our tourism assets in Southwest Illinois and throughout the state,” Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich said in announcing the second portion of the funding grant.