Chicago River Museum Marks its 10th Anniversary

McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum (Courtesy of the museum)

McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum (Courtesy of the museum)

It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years since the McCormick Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum opened on the downtown riverwalk.  Back then, there wasn’t much to the riverwalk compared to today, and hardly anyone knew about the museum cleverly tucked inside an 86-year-old Michigan Avenue Bridge bridgehouse.

Today it provides a fascinating glimpse into the history of downtown Chicago, and if you happen to be there during a bridge lift, you can see the cogs and gears and other mechanical elements at work up close.  It’s a unique, if slightly worrying, display.

Read more about the museum’s plans to celebrate its 10th year below the photo gallery.  All images courtesy of the museum:

McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum Sets 10thAnniversary Season

Friends of the Chicago River is pleased to announce the 2016 summer season program schedule for the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Intended to engage people in the river’s recovery and renaissance, the museum is the cultural anchor of the Chicago Riverwalk and celebrates Chicago’s river and world-famous movable bridges. Beginning at river level and spiraling five stories up, the Museum provides a one-of-a-kind opportunity to explore a historic landmark bridgehouse and learn about the Chicago River.

“Ten years after our doors opened, the museum continues to intrigue audiences and raise awareness of the river for local and international visitors alike. The Chicago River’s health is a top priority and the museum showcases the importance of continuing our efforts to make the Chicago River one of the world’s greatest metropolitan rivers,” said Margaret Frisbie, Friends’ executive director.

Recognized by the City of Chicago as a historic landmark, the iconic bridge tower was built in 1920 as part of the 1909 Daniel Burnham Plan. The Michigan Avenue Bridge (officially changed to DuSable Bridge in 2010) was meant to serve as a grand gateway connecting the south part of the Chicago River to the north. In 2006, Friends worked closely with the city to convert the tower into a museum to preserve the extraordinary story of the Chicago River’s turbulent past and recent renaissance.

Even before doors open for the season, the Bridgehouse Museum is proving to be a hot venue hosting several private parties including weddings, a branding event, an upcoming book launch, and a number of pop-ups. As it has for the last several years, the Bridgehouse Museum’s six-month season opens on Saturday, May 14 (Chicago River Day), with free admission to the public. It even falls on a spring bridge lift, come between 12 noon – 3 p.m. to see the gears in action. This year, its opening day is tied to a community fundraiser supported by Corner Bakery Cafe (at Michigan & Wacker). Fifteen percent of all proceeds will go to Friends of the Chicago River’s museum on that day only.

Friends starts the #towerturns10 season with the annual Summer Cruise fundraiser, Wednesday, June 22, taking a most unusual journey to Bubbly Creek with pop up performances along the river. Join us throughout the summer months for our free “lunch and learns” on the museum’s Riverwalk plaza, July 11 through August 29. Speakers include Gina Ford (Sasaki Design), Ernie Wong (Site Design Group), Dr. Phil Willink (Shedd Aquarium), and John Quail (Friends of the Chicago River). Enjoy live music as the Old Town School of Folk Music brings their 77 Beats project to the museum, Thursday, July 7. Taste Asian carp on Wednesday, August 24 with Dirk’s Fish & Gourmet and learn about the notorious aquatic invasive species.

The Bridgehouse Museum is open Thursdays through Mondays. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Private tours are available. Please call museum director, Joanne So Young Dill, (312) 939-0490, ext. 23 for details or rentals, or go to

Founded in 1979, Friends of the Chicago River is an award winning nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve and protect the Chicago River for people, plants, and animals. With over 6,000 members, volunteers, and online advocates, Friends works to make the river greener and more accessible, while building awareness of the benefits that a clean, healthy river can bring to communities across the watershed. For more information on Friends of the Chicago River, the museum, and the Chicago River, please visit the following:, and/or to explore all 156 miles of the Chicago River virtually, learn more about the river, and discover attractions and activities along the river.

Location: East Wacker Drive at North Michigan Avenue, The Loop

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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