Taking stock of my favorite topic – Chicago’s bridges – it is of particular note that this year four Chicago bridges will see their 100th anniversary. Amazingly all four are still in use serving the Drawbridge Capital of the World. That is, Chicago.
- Jackson Boulevard Bridge opened on January 29, 1916
- Chicago & North Western Railroad Bridge (near North Ashland Street) opened July 30, 1916
- Webster Street Bridge opened August 3, 1916
- Lake Street Bridge opened November 6, 1916
Looking forward to Spring in Chicago and increasingly warmer weather, it occurred to me as the bridge lift and sailing seasons get closer with the opening of the harbors on May 1st, these four are not the only one-hundred-plus bridges in Chicago. I did some research and found that by the end of 2016, Chicago will boast a total of 24 centenarian moveable bridges spanning Chicago’s waterways!
That is, of the 61 drawbridges within city limits — second only to Amsterdam — nearly half are one hundred or more years old! Is this surprising given the most recent new drawbridge was constructed more than 32 years ago at Randolph Street?
We are regularly reminded of our crumbling infrastructure, constructed mostly during the first half of the 20th century. One wonders when this bill will come due. When will we renew, revitalize, and improve our transportation systems to meet the needs of the 21st Century?
All hope is not lost, as many of Chicago’s bridges have recently undergone significant rehabilitation. For instance, the 94-year-old Wells Street Bridge received a $48 million overhaul in 2013. And in January, a 13-month project to improve the 79-year-old Adams Street Bridge and viaduct was begun.
For those of you who are not fanatics about our city’s fantastic bridges, an inventory of the staid and reliable centenarians is below, listed oldest to youngest. All of these bridges still carry street or rail traffic, except the CM&StP Bridge which transports pedestrians and bicycle traffic to Goose Island.
|Chicago, Milwaukee, & St. Paul Z-6 Bridge||1899||A block south of Cortland Street used to move scrap for recycling.|
|Chicago, Madison, & Northern Railroad Bridge||1899||Near Kedzie & 35th Street|
|Illinois Northern Railroad Bridge||1899||Near Central Park & 35th Street|
|Atchinson Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad Bridge||1899||Near 46th Street|
|Eight-Track Railroad Bridge||1901||Four alternating single-leaf Scherzers the structure was constructed in 1901 and converted from fixed to moveable in 1909-1910.|
|Chicago, Milwaukee, & St. Paul Z-2 Bridge||1902||Refurbished for bicycle & pedestrian use in 2009 connecting to Goose Island near the North Avenue.|
|Cortland Street Bridge||May 24, 1902||The world’s first Chicago-type, Chicago Landmarked in July 1997|
|West Division Street Bridge||June 4, 1904||The third Chicago-type ever built, connects the west side to Goose Island|
|Cermack Road Bridge||September 7, 1905||Built by the Sanitary District for the City. Only remaining Scherzer carrying street traffic in Chicago|
|Chicago & Alton Railway Bridge||1907||Only known John W. Page bascule in existance by this Chicagoan.|
|Chicago & North Western Railway Bridge||September 19, 1908||Nnear Kinzie Street and operated once per year to maintain right of way.|
|Kinzie Street Bridge||May 10, 1909||Only remaining single-leaf, first generation Chicago-type remaining.|
|Washington Street Bridge||May 26, 1913||Features bridge house with raised panel walls and hipped roof.|
|Grand Avenue Bridge||December 13, 1913|
|Pittsburgh, Ft. Wayne, & Chicago Railroad Bridge||1913||Near 97th Street|
|Chicago Avenue Bridge||October 5, 1914||First Chicago-type integrating the architecture of the approaches and the bridge houses.|
|92nd (Ewing) Street Bridge||1914|
|Chicago & Illinois Western Railway Bridge||1914||Only existing Theodore Rall bridge in Chicago by this Chicagoan.|
|Pennsylvania Railroad Bridge||1915||Near Chinatown and 18th Street, operates on demand due to low river clearance.|
|Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway Bridge||1915||Permanently raised near 97th Street|
|Jackson Boulevard Bridge||January 29, 1916||Joseph Strauss received one of his 14 bridge patents for this bascule design.|
|Chicago & North Western Railway Bridge||July 30, 1916||Joseph Strauss received one of his 14 bridge patents for this bascule design.|
|Webster Avenue Bridge||August 3, 1916|
|Lake Street Bridge||November 6, 1916||First Double-Deck, Double-Leaf in Chicago|
May we all live to still be relevant and useful after one-hundred or more years!