Chicago River Bridges | South Branch Bridges | North Branch Bridges | Main Channel Bridges
ADAMS STREET BRIDGE #1
Chicago Tribune, December 22, 1866
The great trouble with Chicago is that it is like a fast growing boy, whose clothes are always too little, let the original proportions be as ample as you like. We make provisions for the present demand, but even before the suit be purchased, the boy has grown beyond the size to which the clothes will fit. We build a school-house in the centre of a given district, calculating for twice the number of children needing educational training when the plans are drawn. By the time that the structure is opened the school is full, and in less than six months comes a plaint to the authorities that hundreds of children are without seats. So with our roads, our horse car facilities, our steam railroads, court house, harbor, fire alarm telegraph, police force, Bridewell, jails, &c. There is reason to fear that even our great lake tunnel will be found too small for the supply of Chicago, though we now consume but between nine and ten million gallons of water daily, and the tunnel, under a heavy pressure, can give out seventy-five million gallons, or enough for a million and three-quarters of people. The water will not have been long set running, before another tunnel will be required; indeed, it is already talked of as a safety measure, in case the present one should at any time fail.
The question of crossing the river is with the people of Chicago almost as perplexing a one as it was to the Israelites when pursued by the Egyptians. If its waters were anything like pure, the Chicago River might be forded, if the cost of bridging is could not be af-forded; but experience shows that this is equivalent to instant death. We build a bridge or two every year, but like the school-houses, their accommodations do not increase so rapidly as the demand. It is a problem of continually augmenting difficulty to get from one Division of the city to the other, as the long lines of vehicles which wait for hours at a nominal crossing practically show. The time lost is waiting is worth millions of dollars a year to a go-ahead Western people while a more fearful deficit is exhibited in the fouling up of the Christian virtues under the heading of “Satan Cr., by profanity — — — — — — souls.”
The South Branch Bridges
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map
Some little relief will be given by the tunnel under the river at Washington street, when that is finished, but it will be but partial; relieving principally that section of the South Division lying within one block of Washington, and a little greater width in the West Division. All that great and rapidly growing sections of the city lying south of Madison will be comparatively unaffected by it. About three bridges are scattered along the river, but more are wanted—needed imperatively. The distance from Madison to Van Buren is half a mile within one block, and there are no means of crossing in the interval. From Van Buren to Eighteenth street, a distance of about a mile, we have another river stretch, unbroken by anything except two rickety structures—mere apologies for bridges, on which a team can scarcely be trusted, and whose opening and shutting is almost the work of a decade.
The most pressing want just now is for a bridge at Adams street, to serve the double purpose of saving time and distance to those on or near that street, and relieving greatly those who will continue to cross at the other points north of that. It would be an especial boon to those who travel by the horse cars, and those vehicles would that be patronized by many who cannot now afford wait in line at the bridges, and therefore, foot it. With a bridge at Adams and the tunnel at Washington, they and the Lake street bridge would take the great army of teams and carriages=, and leave Madison and Randolph comparatively free for the home cars.
The South and West Divisions are rapidly filling up southward, and especially in the former the course of trade in moving with no uncertain steps in that direction. What is now a nuisance will soon become intolerable, and ere long the one hundred thousand residents of the West Division will be shut off from all communication with the South, and may be strongly tempted secede and set up a city government of their own. Should the new City Hall be built near the Rock Island depot, as now proposed, the necessity for a bridge at Adams street will be still more imperative, and will admit of no further delay.
It should be remembered that the longer the construction of a bridge at Adams street is deferred, the more difficult will it be, the more expensive to the city, and the more awkward to deal with vested interests. The bridge is wanted now and every month that it is delayed tens of thousands of dollars are lost to the citizens of Chicago, in the destruction of that time which, to the business man, is always money.
Chicago Tribune, June 22, 1869
The item: For deficiency in appropriation for Adams street bridge and viaduct, $32,000, was adopted—yea’s, 23; nays, 3—McRoy and Russell (S. L.)
ADAMS STREET BRIDGE #2
Chicago Tribune, June 19, 1872
Adams street bridge is now completed, with the exception of about fifty feet of planking on the viaduct over the Pittsburgh and Fort Wayne railroad. It is expected that this portion of the work will speedily be finished.
Adams Street Bridge #2
Moved to Taylor Street in 1889
Chicago Tribune, September 29, 1883
ON THE GROUND.
The Crash and the Result.
The schooner David Vance (US No. 6855), one of the largest vessels of her class on the lakes, was towed stern foremost yesterday noon by the tugs Shields and Hood (US No. 145243) against the masonry abutment of the Adams street viaduct. The shock was a terrific one, and the viaduct could not stand it. The stonework was shattered, the iron girders sprung from their supports, iron braces were broken, and almost simultaneously with the striking of the vessel a section of the viaduct about seventy feet in length fell with a crash, carrying it half a score or more of people, two vehicles, and three horses.
Not Many There.
By a fortunate chance, owing doubtless to the hour, the viaduct was not crowded with people waiting for the bridge to close. Had it been the loss of life would certainly have been appalling. As if by a miracle, too, the few who were on the viaduct when the crash came escaped without death, although as it was several were seriously injured, two persons fatally.
One man was thrown in the river, while his wife was buried beneath the debris of the little bridge-house which tumbled down on the wharf below a confuced mass of bricks and boards. Another man was pitched headforemost down on the wharf, a distance of about fifteen feet, and lay as if dead. A light wagon, drawn by a single horse, was broken into a hundred different pieces, having stood just where the divide in the flooring of the viaduct occurred. A piece of a large iron brace was driven through the dash-board, which was twisted from the box and hurled off to one side, the box was torn into splinters and the four wheels were scattered about in the rubbish. The horse was so badly maimed that it had to be killed, and yet the occupant of the wagon, by a wonderful piece of fortune, was not killed. He was wedged in between two big iron braces and seriously hurt, but was not struck by any of the flying pieces of iron.
The above cut shows the wreck as it appeared shortly after the accident. The abutment against which the schooner struck is seen on the left, and on the extreme right is shown a portion of the span which remained in place.
An express wagon, drawn by two horses, which stood a few feet in front of the other vehicle, went down with a section of flooring which fortunately did not divide, and while the wagon was considerably broken up by the shock the driver and the horses escaped with slight bruises. One young woman who stood near the west end of the falling part saved herself by clinging to the railing, but was thrown into a fit by fright. If any other people were on the viaduct at the time they must have escaped injury and run off home before recovering from the fright, for none others could be found who numbered themselves with the reckless lot.
Nor was any one standing on the wharf under the viaduct when it fell, which was another singularly fortunate of the affair. The men employed about the large freight-house of the Fort Wayne Road, which is divided by the viaduct, were all taking their noonday meal and rest, otherwise some of them would very probably have been underneath the tumbling mass and met their death.
The news of the accident spread with rapidity over the city and hundreds of people came flocking the scene. The first reports were as usual ridiculously exaggerated, some having it that more than a hundred people had been killed. Wives and children of men employed about the fright-house hurried down from their homes with the dread of hearing terrible news of fathers and husbands. Every patrol-wagon in the city and a large squad of police were summoned to the spot, and for a time everything was confusion. The work of rescuing the injured, however, had already been commenced by the laborers on the wharf and from the fright-house, and from the statements made by unfortunate ones, which are given below, come idea can be gathered of the experience through which they passed yesterday at noon:
They Are Surveyed By A Bridgetender Of A Contemplative Turn Of Mind.
For an hour after the crash the air was filled with a fine dust of splinters, which fell upon the hundreds of curious people fho flocked to the spot. The wrecked viaduct could be plainly seen from Madison street bridge and other points of observation; but the crowds were not satisfied without a closer view. The two horses that had escaped the wreck were driven along the dock, and were almost white with duct, although they showed no signs of injury. The ruins were a confused mass of rotten iron, twisted bars and braces, heaps of blocks from the broken pavement, a couple of prostrate street-lamps, the remnants of a buggy in small pieces, a demoralized express-wagon, and, lying on the dock beside the great pile of rubbish, was the body of a horse. The iron railing which had been torn from the viaduct was used by the police to keep back the crowd. And standing on the bridge at midday, while the clocks were striking the hours—on the bridge which was swung in the middle of the river—was the bridge-tender, contemplating the desolation in silence and alone.
THE TALES THEY TELL.
How The Tugmen, The Vessel Captain, And The Bridge-Tender Account For The Accident.
Immediately after the collision Capt. Charles McCarle, of the tug Thomas Hood, and Capt. William Kirby, of the tug M. Shields, surrendered themselves to the police officers and were taken to the Central Station, where Capt. McCarle made the following statement, which was verified by Capt. Kirby:
Capt. M’Carle’s Statement:
- We were towing the schooner David Vance stern first up the river to Armour & Dole’s elevator A, where she was to take on her cargo of grain. The Hood, of which I am Captain, had the head line, or more properly speaking, the stern line, and was what we term the stern tow. I signaled Adams street bridge just before entering the port draw of the Madison street bridge. The bridge-tender swung the bridge promptly, but as another vessel had the port draw of the Adams street bridge I was obliged to cross the river at a angle and take the starboard draw. The Vance is a very large grain vessel, of nearly 800 tons of burden, and as she was light she was pretty hard to handle. That is the reason why two tugs had hold of her, instead of one, which is all that the majority of vessels require. The river at that point has a very sharp bend, and I was obliged to pull hard ahead in order to bring her up stream so as to pass through the draw. In doing so the vessel took a sheer over towards the bridge, and I signaled the Shields to back her, so as to prevent colliding with the protection to the bridge. She then swung over to the starboard side, and before I could check he she struck the abutment of the viaduct which immediately gave way and the structure fell in with a terrific crash. For an instant I could hardly realize what had happened, but when I saw the clouds of duct and debris arising from the wreck, I was horrified at the thought of how many people might possibly been carried down with the structure and been killed or frightfully injured. As soon as possible both myself and Capt. Kirby gave ourselves up. I understand that we are accused of running too fast. That is not true. The bridge-tender claims that we were running at the rate of seven miles an hour, but he is very much mistaken, as it is impossible for any tug to run at that speed in the river even if she was light, as the suction caused by the shallow water holds the boat down. The reason why we were towing the schooner stern first is because it is much easier to wind a light vessel before taking her up stream on account of the narrowness of the river above. I don’t believe the accident could have occurred had we been towing any other vessel that enters this port. The Vance has a very high stern, which, when she is light sits up out of the water about twenty feet from the surface to the taffrail. The accident is a bad one, but I thank God, it is no worse.
Capt. Vance’s Story.
Capt. Louis Vance is the master of the schooner David Vance, which is owned by Hibbard & Vance, of this port. About two hours after the accident occurred Capt. Vance appeared at the Central Station and was placed under arrest. His statement does not materially differ from that of Capt. McCarle, but he thinks that there would have been no trouble had the abutment been protected by piles. He says the piles which are driven there are, wholly inadequate to protect the structure, or his vessel could never have struck. He also believes that the masonry must have been very weak, as, according to his statement, the vessel did not strike it with more than ordinary force, and in proof of this he says not a single stanchion in the vessel was broken. A hole above the stove in her port quarter and a portion of the bulwarks carried away, but the entire damage to the schooner will not likely exceed $125, and some estimate it at about one-half that amount.
Signing The Bonds.
Capt. Higgie, of the V. O. T. Company, owner of the tugs Hood and Shields, signed the bonds for the release of the tug Captains, which were placed at $5,000 each. Capt. Vance was also released on a bond of $5,000 signed by Capt. Higgie and Capt, John Keith.
The Bridgetender’s Story.
William McAuliffe is the bridgetender at Adams street, and his statement, shorn of its Irish dialect is as follows:
- The tugs signaled me and I turned my bridge promptly. The Hood was towing the Vance stern first up the river and the Shields had the checking-line. They came through the east draw of Madison street and swung across the river to enter the west draw of Adams street. The tugs were going at the rate of seven miles an hour at least, and were unable to hold the vessel, which swung over against the abutment, and knocking about three feet of the stonework out caused the whole span to fall in. It was pure carelessness, and would not have occurred had the Captains obeyed the ordinance in regard to speed. James Foley is a friend of mine who is employed on a dock near by dumping coal, and when his wife brought his dinner down I told them to go in the bridge-house to eat it. That is the way they happened to be in there when the viaduct fell and carried them down with it. I am a great loser myself by the accident, as I had a new coat and a brand-new pair of shoes which———
and the story was cut short by the interviewer.
History Of The Viaduct.
The Adams street viaduct was originally built in 1869 by the Keystone Bridge Company of Pittsburgh. It was of iron, the roadway, of course, being of wood, and cost $27,530, the Pittsburgh & Fort Wayne Railroad Company paying a third of the amount. The bridge was destroyed in the fire of 1871, but the viaduct not very materially damaged. It was rebuilt, however, in 1872, and two or three years ago was completely overhauled and put in good condition. At that time the railroad company put in a new span at the west end, where it runs through their depot, which is about 200 feet from the span that fell. This work had no effect upon the other parts of the viaduct. The spans still up are intact, and except the one immediately west of that which fell, will require no overhauling, City Engineer Artingstall having examined the remaining portion of the viduct and finding it to be in good condition.
A Tribune reporter asked the Mayor if he intended calling a special meeting of the Council to appropriate money to repair the viaduct at once. He said:
- No. I have sent the City Engineer over to examine it and see what is to be done. We have means for repairing such damages. I’ll him make an estimate of what the cost will be and present the matter to the Council Monday night. There are only two intervening days, and there’s no necessity for calling a special meeting.
Adams Street Bridge #2
Robinson Fire Map
ADAMS STREET BRIDGE #3
The Inter Ocean, August 9, 1889
ADAMS STREET BRIDGE
Work on the new Adams street bridge is progressing rapidly, and it is hoped the structure will be ready to swing by the end of the month, if not before. The bridge is almost a counterpart at Jackson street, one arm crossing the river and the other stretching across the tracks and joining the viaduct at the Union Depot. The main trusses are in place, and the tie rods are rapidly arriving. It is the intention that this bridge shall swing either way, in which respect it will be a vast improvement on the system followed in the Jackson street bridge, of only swinging the bridge one way.
Diagram of Track and Bridge Layouts at the Union Depot
The completion of the new bridge will of necessity releases Madison street bridge of considerable street car traffic, and will prove a boon to suburban residents and others who use the Union Depot. At the present time, if they take an Adams street car at State they have to slight at Jackson street and walk across the bridge and one block north to the depot, or else take a Madison street car and run the risk being run over while crossing at Canal street, for there is an almost continual stream of cars going both ways at that point.
It was assured when the new bridge at Jackson street was built, that the shifting of the center pier of the bridge from the center of the river to the west side would prove beneficial to river men, as it would give them a clear stream in which to navigate their vessels. While in one sense this may be true, in another it is not, as more than the width of the old center pier was taken from the west side if the river in constructing the new one, in addition to which the new pier forms such an obstruction to navigation on the west side of Van Buren street bridge that an ordinance was passed by the City Council to widen the river at that point.
As yet no attempt has been made to carry that undertaking out although it seems as if some measures should be speedily taken to facilitate navigation at that point, and thus prevent the possibility of an expensive if not disastrous collision, which seems at times almost inevitable when two large steamers are trying to pass there.
Adams Street Bridge #3
Adams Street Bridge #3
Adams Street Bridge #3 Demolition
ADAMS STREET BRIDGE #4
Adams Street Bridge #4
Chicago Tribune, August 27, 1927
A steady stream of traffic poured over the new Adams street bridge last night following its formal opening at 2 p.m. when Mayor Thompson, with a pair of golden shears, snipped a ribbon stretched across its center.
Nearly 1,000 boats and cars joined in a parade from Grant park preceding the ceremony and a crowd of 5,000 watched the ribbon-clipping and cheered the speeches of Mayor Thompson, Commissioner of Public Works Wolfe and Deputy Commissioner Edward F. Moore.
The new span cost $2,500,000 and has been under construction since 1923. It is 265 feet long, rests on piers sunk to bedrock 95 feet below the street level, and is equipped with the latest electrical safety devices.
NEW ADAMS STREET BRIDGE THROWN OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.
Crowd watching the first street car cross the structure which was dedicated yesterday by Mayor Thompson with ceremonies in which business men along the street participated.
Buckingham Fountain was also dedicated on this day.