Celebrating a Centennial: Dixon Memorial Arch to turn 100 years old this summer

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DIXON (WREX) – When you drive through downtown Dixon, chances are you’ll see the Dixon Memorial Arch.

“It’s the iconic thing in Dixon,” says local historian Duane Paulsen. “It’s the identity of Dixon, really.”

And when it comes to the history of the arch, Duane is your go-to guy.

“I know more about the Arch than anyone in Dixon.”

Duane is one of five members of the Dixon Arch Committee, a group that formed back in 1979.

“And I’m the only one left,” says Duane with a chuckle.

Duane’s written the book on Dixon’s history, actually he’s written more than one.  He says Dixon’s arch is one of a kind.

“As far as I know this is the only Arch that traces itself back to 1919.”

Duane says during World War I, arches like Dixon’s went up all over the country to welcome soldiers home. In Dixon, a June 12, 1919 parade of soldiers marched through it after they were discharged from Camp Grant in Rockford.

“This one in Dixon cost only $465 it was just wood with a framework on it. It was supposed to last just a short period of time.”

But that short period of time, has stretched nearly a century as the arch will turn 100 this June. But reaching that birthday, hasn’t come without its hiccups.

“People said let’s take it down, it’s getting pretty shabby, but that didn’t happen.”

Not only did it face scrutiny to be torn down, Duane says a total of four different arches have been erected in the city and located at various spots on Galena.

“First it was down on the corner of what’s 2nd Street and Galena, right across from the post office. Then it moved up, and the final arch they had to move it way up. Not only did they have to move it up by the street was widened and there was a turn lane on to Highway 2.”

And where Duane’s work on the arch committee comes in, is work on the arch we all know today.

“In ’85 we knew it was in bad shape..”

Duane says back then, the arch was wood with a metal casing.  The committee raised money to refurbish it. But when the arch came down from repairs…..

“It was all rotten inside. We had to start getting money for a new one.”

So for months, Dixon was without its arch until the current fiberglass structure that is in the city today was built and installed in 1985.  And while the arch has called a few different spots home. Duane says all of them are the reason it’s still part of the community nearly a century later.

“I think location, location, location because it’s a perfect setting for it. Most arches were probably put up on downtown, on the sidewalk, and they got in the way of things. Dixon’s was perfectly located, it’s on a little hill, so if you were driving from either way you see the arch,  maybe a mile away.”

And for the people who live in Dixon, they can’t imagine their home without it.

“I love it,” says resident Joseph Patterson. “I can’t ever remember Dixon without it. Everybody comes through there, they see that arch up there.  That’s probably what they remember if they remember nothing else.”

“It’s an identifiable thing with Dixon, and you’ll know where you’re at because D-I-X-O-N right as you come into town,” says Books on First Owner Larry Dunphy.

“It’s really a huge statement that the community has made to our history and that it’s made it through this long,” says Chamber of Commerce Marketing Coordinator  Matthew Lenox.

So when it comes to the next 100 years, do residents think it’ll continue to stand over the city?

“It will, it will,” says Paulsen.”People wouldn’t let anything otherwise.”

“I think it’s here to stay,” says Patterson. “It’s here to stay. Dixon wouldn’t be the same without it really. If the wind blows it over they’ll put it up again.”

 

Mary Sugden

Mary Sugden

Investigative Reporter

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