CLARK STREET BRIDGE #1
The bridge and ferry troubles commenced when Chicago became a city, continued through many variations of heat and cold (mostly heated), for a period of five years, and culminated in 1840. The cause of this sectional warfare between the North and South sides is thus detailed by a writer in the Chicago Times:
The Chicago Times, About 1840
Every night there came up out of the south a great fleet of prairie schooners that anchored on the Reservation. It often numbered five hundred, and came laden with wheat and corn and all sorts of produce. All the warehouses were in that day built on the north bank of the river. The South Side opposed the Clark-street bridge, in order that their prairie schooners might not reach those warehouses, and thus be compelled to trade on the south bank. The old Dearborn bridge, the first drawbridge ever built in the city, had been demolished in 1839, and a scow ferry substituted. At Clark Street, there was another ferry; these were not of the most approved pattern. They were simply scows hauled to and fro by ropes. The North Side warehouses were in sore distress. They needed a connection with the other two towns. The Council was evenly divided. At the time when the question was at its height, Messrs. Newberry and Ogden presented to the Catholic ecclesiastical authorities the two blocks now occupied by the cathedral. It was said at the time that the present was to influence votes on the bridge question. It undoubtedly was. The North Side won her bridge. Mayor Raymond cast the deciding vote.1
CLARK STREET BRIDGE #2
Chicago Tribune, September 9, 1853
CLARK STREET BRIDGE—The sunken wreck of the Clark street bridge prevented all vessels from passing up and down at that point till near noon yesterday. With a dredge, one or two scows, and a block and tackle it was finally thrown round forward toward the North shore, and in the afternoon the channel was clear for sail vessels and steamers. The steamer London, which caused the disaster, passed through at 5 P.M. for Grand Haven.
CLARK STREET BRIDGE #3
Clark Street Bridge #3
Chicago Tribune, July 29, 1858
FALL OF CLARK STREET BRIDGE
Yesterday morning about 10 o’clock the swing bridge which crosses the river on Clark street while being opened to let a vessel pass broke in two in the centre, and both sections dropped into the river. Jeremiah Donahue an Irishman who was formerly employed on the Chicago St. Paul and Fond du Lac Railroad, was on the south end of the bridge when it broke and he was precipitated in the water injuring him very severely, but probably not dangerously. (?) was cut completely in two from the (?) down, there is a bad bruise over the right eye and he had other wounds of less magnitude on other parts of the body. There were three or four other persons on the bridge besides
Fortunately there were fewer persons on the bridge when it fell as usually
The bridge was built by Mr. Harper and was first swung on the fourth of July, 1854. Last spring it was raised from one to two feet and it is supposed that the oak timber that was placed under the base swelled more than that was anticipated and therefore produced a weakness in the (?) which eventually caused it to break. We understand the bridge has been regarded well
It can hardly be repaired and a new bridge, without doubt, will have to take its place.
CLARK STREET BRIDGE #4
Chicago Tribune May 13, 1864
OUR BRIDGES.—There is more trouble than usual among the bridges this spring; it would really seem as if the very awkward weather has worked in a disintegrating way upon those structures and thrown them out of repair. Randolph street bridge (#4) is rotten, as everybody knows, and is partially demolished, the road bed being almost entirely removed yesterday. Now Clark street bridge (#4) is found to be rotting fast, the worms have got into it and are playing sad havoc. It has been out of repair three or four times this spring already and may soon be condemned. Polk street bridge (#2), the poor old rackety thing, is soon to go the way of all floating nuisances. Yesterday the bridge over the river at Madison street was found to be shaky, and the chances are that the rails laid along Market street will be of little use, as the tide of travel will probably have to be entirely diverted to Lake street before the Randolph street bridge (#5) is completed. To use a homely, but expressive phrase, “We are in a pretty pickle.” Fully one-half the bridges in the city are in a bad way, liable to break down at a moment’s notice, when the tide of travel is such as to give a constant stream overall. We really want more bridges. There is such a community of feeling between the denizens of the three divisions of the city that they cannot refrain from a constant interchange of visits. The interminable array of one, two, and four wheeled vehicles which belong to our city seem, at times for hours together, to have nothing else to do but to cross the bridges, while every team that comes in from the country finds also a bridge to cross before it gets to its destination. Of course, when there least opportunity there is most to be done. When we have no accommodations there are always more to be accommodated than at any other time. We may be speaking on a tense subject, but there is no use in shutting our eyes to the fact that we may as well swing in the information that our Mayor will have to hove-in revers! bridges before his term of office expires.
Clark Street Bridge #4
Clark Street Bridge #4
Photographer: John Carbutt #53
Clark Street Bridge #4
Clark Street Bridge #5
Remains of Clark Street Bridge #5
Chicago Tribune May 5, 1872
CLARK STREET BRIDGE (#6)
Bids for rebuilding Clark street bridge were advertised within a weeks of the destruction, and the contract was awarded to Fox & Howard, who were to have it completed by Dec. 30, 1871, in consideration of the sum of $32,000. The bridge, as constructed, has a span of 181½ feet and a width of 31 feet. The foundation of the centre pier was constructed by cutting off the old piles and filling in with rubble-stone, so as to make a solid foundation, for the dimension-stone above. It is 29 feet in diameter at the base and 25 feet to the top and made in the style known as “rock faced.” It was ready nearly at the time required and has been of immense advantage in mending up the almost hopeless gap between the past and the present, and reconciling the Teutons to their Nord Seite in its forbidding condition.But beer can still be found on the North Side, as well as good citizens; and if by the fire that extraordinary portion of the city has lost Turner Hall and its Sunday musical treat, the elegant residences near the lake, and the full-grown shade trees which we shall miss so much in the coming summer, it has gained celebrity by the production of the philanthropic Mr. Weber (who intends to violate the Fire ordinance, provided he can raise a thousand dollars), and can boast at least one citizen whose counterpart the other divisions of the city have as yet failed to bring forth.
Clark Street Bridge #6
Robinson Fire Map
Chicago Tribune April 15, 1889
Moving Clark Street Bridge
The old Clark street bridge now spans the North Branch at Webster avenue, about fiour miles from its former abiding place. The work of lifting it from the centre pier, where it had so long rested, began Saturday night at 8 o’clock. It was swung across the river and scows placed under it. Then the bridge was lifted bodily from the pier and was floated around to the west. Two of Dunham’s tugs were then attached to the floating bridge, one in front and one behind it. Just five hours were required to make the four miles, the start being at 6 o’clock in the morning.
The trip up the North Branch was without incident. The bridge never touched an object on the way, and with the two tugs was as easily handled as could have been desired. The experience gained in moving the old Wells street bridge to Dearborn street was of great aid in the undertaking, and bridge moving, over which the contractors once lost a great deal of sleep, has now become an easy matter.
As the bridge moved along the river it attracted a great deal of attention, crowds waiting its passage at many points. The principal inconvenience was the closing of the river for ten hours just at the time boats wished to start for the lower lakes.
CLARK STREET BRUDGE #7
Clark Street Bridge #7
The Inter-Ocean October 6, 1901
City Engineer Ericson, in a report to Commissioner of Public Works Blocki, declared that the Clark street bridge (#7) was in such a shaky condition that before long it would have to be blocked to traffic. Every bridge connecting the North and South Sides is defective. Those at Rush and Wells streets are also in dangerous condition. There is no money in the treasury to fix them. “Without money to repair these bridges,” said Mr. Ericson, “I will be forced to close them. At the first warning of collapse traffic ought to be stopped. The watchmen at the various bridges have been instructed to close them at the slightest sign of danger. All the bridges in the city are antiquated, and ought to be replaced by modern steel bridges.”
Streetcar Traffic on Clark Street Bridge #7
Clark Street Bridge #7
Chicago Tribune May 1, 1929
The Clark street bridge (#7) was wrecked by the sandboat, Sandmaster, at 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon. So extensive was the damage that city engineers estimated that it would cost more than $50,000 and take more than a month to repair the bridge. They practically decided to condemn the bridge and there thus will be no traffic over the important thoroughfare until the new bridge now under construction is completed some time in September.
Moreover, the sandboat was so wedged between the bridge and the shore that it had not been extricated last night. No craft larger than a rowboat could pass up or down the river.
The Sandmaster is the same boat which, racing with another sandboat last De, 4, became jammed at the Michigan boulevard bridge and tied up traffic for half an hour.
Witnesses Describe Crash.
The manner if yesterday’s accident was this:
The Sandmaster was proceeding eastward on its daily trip down the river. It is a large boat, 251 feet long, and as its prow passed under the opened La Salle street bridge, which is of the jack-knife type, Bridgetender Martin Jeffers at the Clark street bridge pulled his levers.
The old bridge swings on a turntable. It turned is such a fashion that the south end pointed towards the oncoming point.
When the Sandmaster’s bow was still 150 feet from the bridge it became apparent that at the speed it was making a collision was inevitable. The bridge would not be opened wide enough when the boat arrived.’
Warning Shouts Unheeded.
Clarence S. Rowe, engineer in charge of construction of the new bridge; Policeman John Ahern, Frank Ward, bridgetender at the controls, all declared they signaled the oncoming boat to slow its speed, Apparently not noticing their arm wavings and shouts, the boat went on and its steel prow carved into the end of the bridge pointed towards it.
Under the terrific impact, the old bridge crashed from its rollers and tilted at a dangerous angle above the river.
Capt. Ava Smith ofd the Sandmaster was interviewed soon after the collision.
“It wasn’t my fault,” he said. “I had the port motor going full ahead and the starboard motor in reverse. There was plenty of room to pass through, but just before we got to the bridge, the tender must have swung it back about ten feet right into the ship.”
Clark Street Bridge #7
Aerial view taken immediately after the barge Sandmaster collided with the bridge.
April 30, 1929
Causes Confusion in Loop.
All Clark street traffic was rerouted over La Salle and Wells streets. This necessitated left hand turns in the loop and caused much confusion. Automobile traffic found one less route to the north side and the other thoroughfares were crowded to capacity.
The Sandmaster is owned by the Construction Materials company whose officials have led other ship interests in opposing longer closed bridge hours and fixed bridges.
A sand barge, the Gilbert, moving upstream in the north branch of the Chicago river, scraped the Diversey parkway bridge yesterday as the span was swung open to allow the barge to proceed. Several boards on the side of the bridge were torn loose but it was not put out of service. The boat was under the command of Capt. William Brown.
CLARK STREET BRIDGE PUT OUT OF COMMISSION BY SAND BOAT
The bridge as it appeared immediately after the Sandmaster crashed into it, knocking it from turntable.
CLARK STREET BRIDGE #8
Chicago Tribune July 11, 1929
Clark street had its day yesterday when the new bridge was formerly opened to traffic. City Engineer Loren D. Gayton was acclaimed for speeding the project to completion.2
The program was arranged by the North Clark street committee of the North Central association and it started at North avenue anf Clark street, where the marchers and floats assembled.
In the line of march were several Sac and Fox Indians in regalia and displays indicated the progress of the city from the days when the present Clark street was an Indian trail.
After the ceremony of cutting the ribbon the celebrators proceeded to a luncheon at the Sherman hotel.
NEW CLARK STREET BRIDGE (#8) OPENED TO VEHICLES AND PEDESTRIANS
Some of the floats that took part in the parade which was a feature of the program in connection with the formal opening of the new span across the river.
The first street cars to run across the new Clark Street Bridge (#8).
Clark Street Bridge #8
Clark Street Bridge #8
1 Clark Street Bridge #1 was destroyed in the Great Flood of 1849.
2 Clark Street Bridge #8 opened to street cars on June 17, 1929.