Chicago River Bridges
Chicago Tribune, April 26, 1904
Park Commissioners Adopt The Tribune’s Plan for Connecting North and South Sides with a Bascule Bridge and Abandon Subway Plan
It is proposed to build a bridge suitable for a boulevard and slanting eastward across the river at such an angle as to run the extended driveway directly into Pine street. This would require the acquirement of a small piece of the Goodrich docks and of the Kirk soap factory.
Chicago Tribune, July 11, 1911
Diagram of North and South Boulevard Connection. showing width of street North and South of the River and the zone of the proposed Improvement indicating all intersecting thoroughfares.
Michigan Avenue Bridge construction
The Chicago Tribune, May 15, 1920:
HORN TOOTS ITS LOUDEST BLAST AS LINK OPENS
Noise Shakes and Flowers Cover New Bridge
The Michigan boulevard link was officially opened to traffic at 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon. At that hour Mayor Thompson, whose administration has the credit for bringing to reality this dream of thirty years; Michael J. Faherty, the driving boss of the bridge builders, and Charles H. Wacker, head of the Chicago Plan commission, stepped from an automobile and stood before a tiny ribbon stretched across the south end of the upper level.
Dedication ceremony, 14 May 1920
At 4:00 p.m. on the sunny afternoon of May 14, 1920, Chicago Plan Commission Chairman Charles Wacker and Board of Local Improvements President Michael Faherty stood beside Mayor William Hale “Big Bill” Thompson as he cut the ribbon to open the upper level of the new Michigan Avenue Bridge.
Heads uncovered. The crowds surged against the ropes. The band began to play “The Star Spangled Banner.” Then Big Bill’s show broke loose. Airplanes over the bridge sending showers of booster literature, noats under the bridge blowing shrill whistles, sirens, calliope; bombs exploding and sending gay umbrellas and flower designs fluttering down upon the massed heads, confetti and music and flying banners everywhere.
Terrific Noise. Feature.
It was a sparkling day, cheerful and full of zest. Everything combined to make the event memorable. It was all packed into a few minutes of terrific noise. The bands a few feet away sounded like the thin droning of mosquitoes.
The mayor’s cowboy hat was pressed against his breast, and his face was a mingling of gravity and pleased emotion as he waited to cut the thin ribbon, sensing the great measure of the achievement. He had lived half a century. He had reached a mark. He was looking toward a new mark. Let him remember this day.
They would have thought him crazy, if old John Kinzie, fishing in the river at Rush street a hundred years ago, had said:
“Yes, sir, I predict that in about a hundred years there will be the third largest city in the whole world right here, and there’ll be a bridge over this here river that will open like a knife, and that 50,000 new fangled things called automobile will cross that bridge every day, and that boats run by the stuff that comes out of as tea kettle when its boiling will dash up and down the river, and that flying machines will fly every which way, and that property round here will be worth over a hundred dollars an acre.”
May 14, 1920
Followed by Deluge.
A lull came in the din, and the mayor pulled a pair of shears from his pocket, snipped the silk ribbon, stepped into his machine and was whirled smiling across the bridge. From blocks the people lined the way and cheered him. He was followed by the deluge. Panting at the gates, Chicago’s automobile racers followed him along the new highway in an unbroken stream. The dam was broken. The snarl at the Rush street bridge was relieved. Traffic officers smiled.
The upper level will remain open to traffic while the builders are working underneath. They were working yesterday even during the ceremonies. A few toil stained men in overalls climbed the slippery steps from the river bed and gazed upon the glory that their hands had created.
Road Wonderful Sight.
The smooth, wide perfect road, capable of lifting to let the ships pass through, was a wonderful thing to behold. It was lined with police and decorated from stem to stern in flags of America and gay Japanese lanterns. The iron work was painted a cheerful red. The paving was still fresh with tar, untouched by wheels until the mayor crossed. Then came Chief of Police Garrity with flying banners. Everywhere the Boosters. They had signs on their cars telling of the glories of Chicago. They spent money a decorating their cars.
Flowers by Ton
There were floats that were dreams of grace and color and beauty. Flowers by the ton. Pretty girls by the shipload. The members of the Commercial club, an organization which gave great help in the bridge project, rode near the head of the parade. Bankers mostly, in limousines. Behind them came members of the Bridge Operators and Boosters’ union men with hard hands and weather beaten cheeks, riding close in small cars. The building of the bridge called for them both.
The photograph above shows the old Rush street bridge, the new Michigan avenue one, and points of interest along the river banks. It was taken from an airplane for The Tribune by Pilot Dallas M. Speer, whose picture is inset
There was an official reviewing stand at the north end of the bridge where all the guests of the city and the men and women who had to pick out the gold and silver medal winners for the best cars. The occasion was unique in that there was no speechmaking. The people did the speaking. All the way down, the new wide avenue, from the Art Institute to the bridge the roads were packed. All new, bright, sunny—a view of Chicago at its best. Someone put up a big sign reading:
All hats off to our mayor—what do we live for?
But the cars are rolling over the bridge.
Narrow Escape for Autos.
The opening ceremonies were nearly marred by an accident. While bands were still playing and fireworks being displayed the lumber steamer Herman H. Hettler signaled for the opening of the bridge. Bridge Tender George B. McLaughlin started to raise the south span, unaware that four autos were on it. The cars slid backward and would have dropped through the opening made by the raising to the abutment of the bridge if policemen had not attracted the attention of the bridge tender by firing their revolvers. The machinery was immediately stopped and the occupants of the autos saved from injuries.
From Fort Dearborn Magazine June, 1922
New Boulevard Link’s Traffic Almost Double That of London Bridge
More Than 34,000 Vehicles Pass Daily Over the Double Deckers of the New Michigan Avenue Structure as Compared With 18,387 Over England’s Famous Bridge
Incidental to the putting of the finishing touches on the New Boulevard Link Bridge, it is interesting to know that the present traffic over this structure is nearly double that of the famous London Bridge. Statistics on record in the office of the city statistician, Frederick Rex, also show that traffic over this bridge is considerably in excess of that over the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg or Queenshoro bridges in New York City.
The new boulevard bridge which more than 34,000 vehicles pass
On an average week day 30,569 automobiles, 494 motor busses, 2,011 trucks and 1,414 wagons—a total of 34,488 vehicles—pass over the upper and lower decks of the Michigan Avenue Bridge every twelve hours. as compared with 18,387 over the London Bridge.
Cars numbering 9,700 and 5,188 vehicles—a total of 14,888—pass every twenty-four hours over the Brooklyn Bridge and 20,785 vehicles and 3,475 cars— a total of 24,260—pass over Manhattan Bridge. Traffic on W’illiamsburg Bridge includes 9,651 cars and 17,480 vehicles. a total of 27,131; on Queensboro Bridge, 2,4911 cars and 17,858 vehicles, a total of 20,332. Hence the traffic on the Chicago bridge during twelve hours exceeds that on any one of these important bridges for twenty-four hours.
In 1913 the City Council passed an ordinance for the widening of Michigan Avenue from 66 to 130 feet between Randolph Street and the river and to 141 feet north from the river to Chicago Avenue, a total distance of about one mile. The widening has been made on the east side of Michigan Avenue. south of the river, and on the west side of what was formerly Pine Street, north of the river. The plan included the construction of a double deck hascule bridge across the river, which was started April 13. 1918 and was completed May 14, 1920, with the exception of the two towers at each entrance and the stairways to the boat landings which were just recently fnished. The bridge and the steel structures supporting the upper level are designed to support 20-ton vehicles in motion. The bridge is operated by electricity.
One of the Four Towers of the New Boulevard Bridge
As a result of the development of north Michigan Avenue as a connecting link between the South Side, the “Loop” shopping district, and the North Side, this thoroughfare has practically become the base line of the city’s traffic.
The necessity for the Michigan Avenue improve ment \vas made plain by a traffic census that was taken in 1916 and 1917 at a cost of $10,000. At various periods of the year, during several days, a force of 250 investigators was employed to count all vehicles entering and leaving the central business district and to determine the character of the vehicles and the business of the occupants, the points from which they came and to which they were going.
This count showed that in a week of some 300,000 movements of automobiles about 85 per cent were used in connection with business, and 15 per cent for pleasure. Other counts indicated that about 60 per cent of all automobiles entering and leaving the central district drove along Michigan Avenue either at the southern outlet at 12th Street. or at the northern at Rush Street bridge. Between 7 a. m. and 7 p. m. the average daily number of automobiles passing over Rush Street bridge was approximately 12,000 and of this number 85 per cent were used for business purposes. There were approximately 2,000 auto trucks and other slow moving commercial vehicles passing over Rush Street bridge every day in addition to the passenger automobiles.
An aerial view of the new boulevard bridge showing traffic between 8 and 9am in the morning.
Because of this traffic congestion. particularly the interference of crossed lines of traffic, all concerned in the transportation of any kind of merchandise by vehicles through the streets in the central section of the city were put to serious inconvenience by the loss of time in the transportation of freight. The volume of freight represented by this traffic is indicated by the statement of the Chief Engineer of the Illinois Central Railroad to the effect that the freight business originating in the Illinois Central yards just east of Michigan Avenue and south of the river amounts to $24,000,000 a year, or about One-third of all the business done by the entire Illinois Central Railroad system.
Aeroplane View of the New Boulevard Link and the Wrigley Building.
The Site of Old Fort Dearborn Is on the South Bank of the River Immediately Adjacent to the New Boulevard Link Bridge.
The north tower of the Wrigley building would not be completed till May, 1924.
The widening of Michigan Avenue from Randolph Street to Chicago Avenue, and the construction of the double deck bridge, has relieved the traffic congestion that formerly existed along the north end of Michigan Avenue across the Rush Street Bridge and the streets on the North Side leading to the Rush Street Bridge. In addition to this great benefit to the city. the improvement has created a great plaisance for office buildings, hotels, clubs, theatres, stores and shops, thereby increasing the opportunity for continuing the erection of magnificent buildings, and making Michigan Avenue one of the most beautiful and busiest thoroughfares in the world.
The increase in the value of real estate due to the construction of the Michigan Avenue improvement has already exceeded $100,000,000 according to the estimate of members of the Chicago and Cook County Real Estate Boards. The total cost of the improvement was less than $15,000,000. Instances of increases in value of some properties on North Michigan Avenue show by actual sales as much as 1500 per cent increases, or from $5 to $100 per square foot.
Thousands attend the opening of the Outer Drive Bridge, also known as the Link Bridge, on what is now Lake Shore Drive at the mouth of the Chicago River on Oct. 5, 1937. In the background are signs for Baby Ruth, center left, and General Electric, right. The bridge was intended to ease congestion on Michigan Avenue and in 1937 it was one of the longest, widest, and heaviest bascule bridges
The Old Rush Street Bridge (#4) Which Was Supplanted by the New Boulevard Structure
The new Boulevard and the south tower of the Wrigley Building in 1921
Michigan Avenue Bridge Raised
Chicago Real Estate
Michigan Avenue Link
Michigan Avenue, North of the New Boulevard Bridge.
Fort Dearborn Magazine
Photo by E. J. Lembeke., Member of Chicago Camera Club