Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Interpretive Digital Essay : Water in Chicago
Essay: People and the Port
Photo Essays:
Solitary Lives
City of Bridges
Chicago Harbors
Essay: Using the Chicago River
Photo Essays:
Goose Island
Indiana Dunes
Essay: Sanitation in Chicago
Photo Essays:
The Sanitary and Ship Canal
Water-Related Epidemics
Essay: Water and Urban Life
Photo Essays:
Houses and Water
Shoreline Development
Growing Up Along Water
City of Bridges

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Building a Bridge

Bridge building is an ongoing process in the Chicago region. Sometimes bridges deteriorate beyond repair or are destroyed in a disaster. They may simply be rebuilt, with few changes to their design. But engineers have been steadily improving bridge design over the course of the last two centuries. The introduction of iron and then steel to bridge construction radically changed design possibilities in the second half of the nineteenth century. In Chicago, engineers refined the trunnion bascule bridge in what has become known as the "Chicago Style." The replacement of older swing and rolling bridges with bascule bridges continued across the twentieth century. The rolling lift bridge at Dearborn Street was built to the latest design standards in 1907. In 1959, the rolling lift bridge was demolished to make way for a more reliable double leaf bascule bridge, which is still in use today.

Dearborn Street Bridge, 1913


In 1907, an older swing bridge was replaced with a rolling lift style bridge at Dearborn Street. This is a 1913 view of that bridge looking northwest. A swing bridge at Clark Street is also visible.

See also: Bridges

Dearborn Street Bridge, 1918


This 1918 photograph shows the approach to the Dearborn Street Bridge looking north across the Chicago River. Note both the horse-drawn wagons and the electric streetcars in use.

See also: Transportation

Demolition of the Dearborn Street Bridge, 1959


In 1959, the City of Chicago decided to replace the half-century old rolling lift bridge at Dearborn Street with the proven reliability of a bascule bridge. This November 1959 view of the demolition of the bridge looks eastward toward the Michigan Avenue Bridge.

See also: Bridges; Loop

Close-up of Demolition of the Dearborn Street Bridge, 1959


Demolition of the rolling lift bridge over Dearborn Street included the elimination of this bridge tender control house, as well as the gearing and counterweights located below the gatehouse. This November 1959 view looks northwest across the Chicago River to the Central Cold Storage Building.

See also: Bridges; Near North Side

Dearborn Street Bridge Construction Sign, 1960


By April 1960, the old Dearborn Street Bridge had been demolished and new construction ready to begin. This view, looking northeast from Wacker Drive, shows the detour marked for vehicles and pedestrians. The sign on the construction bridge reads: “Another Bridge Improvement, Dearborn St. Bascule Bridge, City of Chicago, Richard J. Daley, Mayor.”

See also: Mayors; Infrastructure

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