The first State Street Bridge was completed in 1864. The bridge was 184 feet in length and cost $32,000. It was built of wooden braces and chords.
State Street Bridge #1
State Street Bridge #1, Looking North from Lake Street
Left: Drawing from Andreas’ History of Chicago
Right: John Carbutt Photograph
Since half-tones (photographs) did not reproduce well in early magazines and newspapers, line drawings were created from photographs for clarity.
Chicago Tribune May 5, 1872
STATE STREET BRIDGE (#2)
It is a matter of profound regret among citizens, if not among contractors, that State street bridge is as yet in the womb of the future, existing principally on paper, and, perhaps, as an idea in the minds of several anxious persons of conflicting interests. Its speedy completion would be of immense advantage to many, but the many are ruled by the few, after all, snd in municipal affairs the world over, the sovereign people wait on the will of their subjects and servants. The contractors for the completion of State street bridge required its readiness by human foot (workmen and the like excluded) before September, it will be proof that the age of miracles has not passed away, and that there is still reason to expect the advent of a day when forty immaculate gentlemen will legislate in the Council Chamber with no end in view but the general good.The contract for this necessary link to bind the North and South Sides into actual union was let to Fox & Howard for the sum of $52,000, including 500 feet of very expensive viaduct. No work has been commenced upon it, and, as stated by a contractor, “it hasn’t yet been touched,” and, as above remarked, it will not be touched, as a complete bridge before December.
State Street Bridge #2
1873 & 1875
State Street Bridge #2
Robinson Fire Map 1886
Volume 3, Plate 9
Chicago Tribune September 7, 1887
STATE STREET BRIDGE (#3)
The New Structure Now Open for Traffic.
Yesterday, for the first time since last June, State street bridge was thrown open for public travel. The new structure is 198 feet long, being the same as the old bridge, but the width has been increased to 23 feet and 7½ feet each for sidewalks. It is the rim-bearing turn-table bridge, without centre-pin, all steel except gearing, and will turned by steam as soon as the machinery can be placed in position, but in the meantime will be turned by hand. City Engineer Artingstall said the contractors, A. Gottlieb & Co., have completed the work in a satisfactory manner. It is as substantial and reliable a bridge as any yet completed in the city.
State Street Bridge #3
State Street Bridge #3 Turntable
STATE STREET BRIDGE (#4)
Chicago Tribune March 1, 1903
The new State street bridge (#4), which required more than a year to bring to perfection, was formally opened to the public yesterday and at the same time received its first knock as inadequate, antiquated, and an all ’round mistake. The knocker would like to see the bridge moved to Dearborn street, where an old fashioned structure wouldn’t be so bad, and a new, really up to date bascule built at State street.
This knock on Chicago’s latest production in the bridge building line was placed in circulation before the subway subcommittee of the council traction committee yesterday afternoon. H. D. Dean, a constructive engineer from Benton Harbor, Mich., was explaining the details of the subway plan proposed by capitalists represented by Abijah O. Cooper and Arthur R. Wolfe.
Declares Structure Too Narrow.
“The bridge at State street is not wide enough by fifty feet,” announced Mr, Dean, begging pardon of the committeemen for producing the hammer and swinging it upon an institution that might be dear to their hearts. “It was a mistake to build so narrow a bridge there on account of the awkward bend in the river at that point. I would advocate building piers at Dearborn street and moving the bridge to that point. Then a new bridge adequate in every respect to the circumstances could be substituted at State street for the present unsuitable affair.”
Dean Explains Subway Scheme.
Mr. Dean went on to explain the scheme of his employers, which is essentially a double subway system. In addition to the loops of a dozen car lines in the downtown district there is to be a belt line inclosing a larger area than the elevated loop. The latter is designed for the transfer of passengers from any loop to any portion of the downtown section not served by that particular loop. It may also be used for baggage and parcel traffic, and to this end will have spurs serving all of the railway depots.
The combination of the belt line with the individual loops will crowd four tracks into State street and many other thoroughfares, but Mr. Dean stated that he considered this practicable. In most cases, he said, there would be plenty of room beneath the street itself, but in a few instances the side walls of the subway would have to be extended beneath the sidewalks.
Construction of State Street Bridge #4
Total Cost Put at $30,000,000
The entire cost of the subway on this lan Mr. Dean estimated at $30,000,000. There would be twelve miles of subway, costing about $2,000,000 a mile and six miles costing 1,000,000 a mile. The plan provides for spaces lateral to the subway for all gas and water mains, all conduits for electric, telegraph, and telephone wires. The advantages urged for this disposition of the pipes is their accessibility for repair without tearing up the streets. The proposition provides for the paving of all streets above the subway with asphalt.
Mr. Dean declined to reveal to the committee the identity of the capitalists interested in the project, but declared that they were prepared to give a security company bond of $500,000 immediately as an evidence of good faith and as surety for efficient construction. Ald. Herrmann, chairman of the committee, was somewhat insistent upon discovering with whom he was dealing, but Mr. Dean replied that it would be impossible to tell for a week. Some of the men are New Yorkers, said Mr. Dean, and their permission to publish their identity had not been obtained. The ordinances providing for this subway is already before the council, having been introduced by Ald. Scully.
Given a Wine Christening.
The bridge was christened yesterday. The christening party consisted of members of the South Water and State Street Business Men’s association, who have seen their business dwindle much more rapidly than the bridge grew during the last year.
An event not down on the program was the breaking of a bottle of wine on the structure by Mrs. Adelaide Smedberg of 184 North State street. Mrs. Smedberg hurried across the bridge while President J. T. Keane was delivering his dedicatory address. Keane promptly corked his eloquence, chased the woman, explained to her that she was the first to cross the river, and took her back to break the bottle of wine.
I christen thee State street.
Said Mrs. Smedberg, and the dedicators hurried away to a banquet at which there was more oratory and spilling of wine.
Declares Progress Was Satisfactory.
Engineer Randolph of the sanitary district said the progress on the structure had been satisfactory in spite of the public’s view to the contrary.
“The contractors started to tear the old bridge down just a year ago,” he said. “By November the substructure was completed and the rest of the work is now almost completed. In about a fortnight, I presume, the street car people will have their wires strung and everything then will be in running order.”
Construction of State Street Bridge #4
Chicago Tribune, October26, 1902
Chicago Tribune March 15, 1903
I am Sam—”Old White Sam” they call me—and I am first assistant to Ald. John Minwegen in his duties of caring for the interests of the Twenty-first ward. The other day I conducted the formal opening of the new State street bridge (#4) and I understand that the newspapers spoke highly of the performance. I, myself, think I did well for an old fellow like me—25 years old next June.
These ceremonial functions, like bridge openings and that sort, are right in my line and I’ve seen a sight of them in my day. I know I’m getting along toward the prosy state of life, when a =meditative sort of dog trot is a whole lot more agreeable than a mad canter and I don’t pretend any more to keep pace with smart boulevard cobs, but when it comes to a delicate public formality I pride myself, if I do say it, that I can deliver the goods.
Now, the other day nine horses out of ten would have whinnied and snorted and probably balked on the approach to that new bascule bridge. And then the chances are they would have cut up all sorts of capers before they had got across.
How I Opened the Bridge.
But I—I just threw up my head a trifle, breathed in deep, and stepped out with a fancy little “side fling” fox trot that I used to be in great vogue twenty years ago. I stepped it off straight as a chalk line, and eased up gracefully at the finish to receive the congratulations from the crowd.
“O, don’t congratulate me,” the alderman said to half a dozen who crowded about to shake his hand. “Just give Old Sam a pat and a lump of sugar—he opened the bridge.”
I tell you it does an old heart good to hear such words. Well, I wasn’t a bit put to shame by the next outfit over the new bridge, which was Ald. Palmer’s automobile, Gray Wolf. It made a fearful racket and smoked a lot, and swerved once or twice as if it were new at this ceremonial business. I tell you it takes experience for these polite stunts and I’ve had plenty of it, as you shall see.
I was born out on an Illinois farm about 100 miles west of Chicago, I should say. My parents were taken away before I was old enough to remember them, but I know that they were both well born. An old roan plow horse used to tell me many a story of my mother who, as a fleet footed Kentucky belle, was well known at the county fairs of the countryside. My father was a descendant of naturalized foreigners from Normandy.
Ald. Minwagen’s old white horse Sam hauled the first vehicle across the new State street bascule bridge last Thursday. The horse is 25 years old, and has been in the service of city politicians for the last twelve years. The formal openings of streets and bridges have been right in his line since he emerged from the circus ring phase of his existence.
My Gay Young Life.
My youth was spent where all youngsters should be reared: in the country. I ran the pastures, the wheat stubble, and the woods till they decided to saddle me make a runner of me. I suppose it was about this time—I was 2 years old—that I began to sow my wild oats. I can chuckle over the recollection now, but once it was a scandalous topic and not to be mentioned in polite equine society. Often they used to say that “Young Sam was going straight to the dogs.” I used to run away, buck and throw my riders, generally into ditches or ponds, when I got the chance.
Finally my owners decided that I would never make a respectable riding or driving horse and they sold me to a circus. I can recall even now the snort of ecstasy with which I first bounded into the sawdust ring. That life of beautiful bareback equestrian queens in pink tights, of tumblers hurling through the air around me, and of the great paper hoops ripping before the leaps of my riders—that world was evidently the world I had been yearning for.
I spent ten of the best years of my life in that delicious atmosphere and I was always considered a gay young buck ready for any kind of a stunt that the circus people could invent.
John Minwegen’s Minwegen & Weiss Manufaturing company at 195 washington street.
Why I Entered Politics.
But one day I cut my foot on a broken bottle while the men were pitching the tent. I was forced out of commission, and when the wound healed I was not quite so frisky in the arena as of old. So I was sold to a man named Carson, who brought me to Chicago. I hadn’t been in the city long before I discovered that politics was the only calling worth following, and I resolved to watch my opportunity. At last it came—I was sold to Street Commissioner William Eisfeldt during the Roche administration1 and from that day to this I have dabbled more or less in the great game.
It was during these years that I began to get a few lessons in public ceremonies. We used to open new thoroughfares—Eisfeldt and I—with great formality. I remember half a dozen such functions when blocks were cut up and new streets opened to the public. The residents would gather at each end and along the route, and then I would be the first horse to trot down the avenue to the cheers of the multitude.
Then Cregier succeeded Roche, and Mr, Eisfeldt lost his job. But I was soon purchased by Mr. Minwagen, and to my joy, he lost no time in getting into politics. I was instrumental in electing him, for I don’t how many speeches we made—Minwegen and I—and I don’t know how many hundreds of voters we hauled to the polls on registration and election days.
We were pretty busy all the tIme—Minwegen and I. When a street needs to be cleaned, or a manhole mended, or a gang of loafers licked, why we aqre off in an instant for the scene of the action. I don’t need hitching nowadays, and I tell you it is a thrilling sight to see us pull up, the alderman leap out of the trap and plunge into his task while I stand by and give the matter my benignant approbation.
I’m getting old, but I want you to understand that I’m quite a fly old fellow yet, especially along in spring time, when the circuses begin to come to town. This politics is great business, but, crack my whip and shake my old flanks, how I’d like to touch that sawdust ring once more!
State Street Bridge #4
Scherzer Rolling Lift Bridge Across the Chicago River at State Street
State Street Bridge #4, Wabash Avenue Bridge #1 and Michigan Avenue Link Bridge
STATE STREET BRIDGE (#5)
Chicago Tribune March 5, 1946
Work on Bridge at State St. to Start in April.
Work on the bridge, delayed for the last four years because of the war and the lack of priorities, will be resumed in April., Public Works Commissioner Hewitt and Stephen J. Michuda, city bridge engineer said yesterday. It is expected the new structure will be completed in a year.
The bridge will cost $2,200,000 and will be a double leaf trunnion bascule type. There will be two 36 foot roadways and two 11 foot sidewalks. When raised, it will provide a 210 foot channel for river traffic. It will be the fifth bridge to be built at this location in the last 80 years.
Steel is the principal part of the new bridge and the Overland Construction company, which holds the bridge contract, has assured city officials that it has been promised the steel for April. The company added that the steel suppliers said they didn’t the recent steel strike would interfere with the scheduled April delivery.
$562,260 Spent Before the War.
Until the war interrupted construction, $562,260 had been spent on the substructure of the bridge and new trusses necessary in the machinery pits. The cost of removing the old structure was $57,600.
Work also will go ahead on the viaduct over the Chicago and Northwestern railroad tracks lying along the north bank of the river.
It is also planned to construct a viaduct to carry vehicular traffic along the nort bank of the river between State st. and Wabash av. This will be built thru the use of air rights to be acquired from the railroads.
Negotiations for the purpose of other property needed for the approach and the connecting link are underway and once the legal difficulties are ironed out the city will advertise for construction bids, Hewitt said.
The old bridge was removed in 1939 when subway construction work endangered its foundations and it became necessary to sink two tubes to carry the subway traffic under the river at that location.
Since then State st. merchants and other business men directly affected by the lack of a bridge have pressed for construction work to start.
State Street Bridge #5 Under Construction, 1941
Preparing for erection of heavy steel trusses which will carry center bridge truss over subway tubes which pass below river bed and bridge site. These trusses, erected in water, were later concreted into the front walls of boxlike pits constructed within steel cofferdam (dikes) after water was pumped out.
Chicago Tribune, May 29, 1949
Chicago, after waiting 19 years for the opportunity, dedicated the new State st. bridge yesterday with a solemn thought for the war dead, a fanfare or oratory, and a blare of band music.
Officially the bridge was dedicated to the men of Chicagoland who fought at Bataan and Corregidor, and the victims of the Pacific “death march.” Mayor Kennelly, Carlos P. Romulo, Philippine ambassador to the United Nations, Joel Goldblatt, president of the State Street council, gold star mothers and veterans had a part in the ceremony.
“Let none who use the bridge forget,” said a cablegram from Gen. Douglas MacArthur, “that the sacrifice of agony and blood in Bataan and Corregidor were the force that now enables us to pass this way in liberty and dignity and peace.”
A Wreath And Taps
Mrs. Edna Witt, 3735 N. Rosworth av., whose son, Robert, died in the war, placed a wreath at the dedicatory plaque. A bugler played taps from the reviewing stand and the call was echoed by a muted trumpet in the crowd.
Mayor Kennelkly cut a restraining ribbon. A State st. bridge bell, silent for 10 years, rang again and the first street car moved across the structure as the crowd of 3,000 made way.
The speakers, who included Public Works Commissioner Oscar Hewitt and Bridge Engineer Stephen J. Michuda, pointed out that the bridge spanned the river and its history spanned the period of World War II. The bond issue for the 3 million dollar project was passed in 1930, the old bridge removed in 1939. Then war time shortages of material and Personnel left State a dead end street until yesterday’s ceremony.
“Millions of persons will pass over this bridge every year,” said Mayor Kennelly, “and I hope that it will serve as a constant reminder to every one who reads the plaque of the sacrifices, suffering, and the lives that have been given, in order that he might continue to live in freedom.
Reminder of Duties
“I hope it is a reminder to all of us that citizenship carries with it responsibilities as well as privileges.”
Morton H. Eichner, president of the Bataan-Corregidor Foundation, accepted the name of the bridge for the veterans. He said it will stand as fitting and everlasting tribute to those who selflessly gave their lives on Corregidor and Bataan and “their comrades who submitted to years of starvation and humiliation as prisoners of the Japanese government.”
Ambassador Romulo paid tribute to the faith, courage and devotion of the few thousand Americans who were “outnumbered by the enemy and isolated fromall possible sources of help and re-enforcement from home.”
“You do well to honor the memory of those brave Americans,” he said. “Yet I trust that it will not appear unseemly for me to express the wish that this memorial, this structure of steel that is to be named after two of the most hallowed spots of my native land, shall stand also as a memorial to the Filipino comrades in arms of your fellow citizens who stood with equal valor and loyalty beside them, sharing their privations to the bitter end as well as their hope of final deliverance and victory.”
1 John A. Roche, Mayor, 1887-1889