Chicago has an enormous number of railroad overpass bridges (grade separations) but only a very small number stand out among this large population for having considerable attention given to the aesthetic quality of the bridge by the inclusion of noteworthy architectural detailig. The Damen Avenue Bridge is one of the best examples of a beautifully designed railroad overpass. With one steel span over the street and two small concrete spans over each sidewalk, the bridge has elaborate architectural details on the concrete above the sidewalk. Over the street, the ornamental steel railings which have a strip of detailed concrete running below them are the highlights for this portion of the bridge. Both the railing and the detailing over the sidewalk is unlike the details found on other "aesthetic" overpasses in Chicago. The piers of the bridge as well as the abutments and retaining walls are also nicely decorated, even if more subtly and using a design found on a few other Chicago overpasses. The handsomely designed bronze plaque mounted on the abutments also follows a design found on a couple other of Chicago's nicer looking overpasses. As the plaque indicates, this bridge was built using Depression era federal funding programs, which adds to the historic significance of the overpass. The overpass retains excellent historic integrity and is one of the finest railroad overpasses in Chicago. Parallel to this bridge immediately to the north and sharing the same retaining wall system is another plate girder overpass. While this bridge has a few nice looking aesthetic details, it does not have the elaborate design seen in this bridge. A few photos of this additional bridge are included in the photo gallery.
Main PlaqueFEDERAL WORKS AGENCY
PUBLIC WORKS ADMINISTRATION
JOHN M. CARMODY
FEDERAL WORKS ADMINISTRATOR
FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
S. DAMEN AVENUE IMPROVEMENT
BUILT BY THE
CITY OF CHICAGO
EDWARD J. KELLY, MAYOR
BOARD OF LOCAL IMPROVEMENTS
WORK COMMENCED UNDER
JAMES P. BOYLE, PRESIDENT
WORK COMPLETED UNDER
MICHAEL F. MULCAHY, PRESIDENT
WILLIAM W. LINK, VICE PRESIDENT
BRENNAN MCNICHOLS CONSTR. CO.
SEC. S. DAMEN AVE - 0606 - C. S.
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Chicago and Cook County are home to one of the largest collections of historic bridges in the country, and no other city in the world has more movable bridges. HistoricBridges.org is proud to offer the most extensive coverage of historic Chicago bridges on the Internet.
Chicago / Cook County Bridge News
October 2015 - Patrick T. McBriarty, author of Chicago's River Bridges, informs HistoricBridges.org that in recognition for the "outstanding and original reference work that will support future scholarship in the history of technology", the book was awarded the biennial Eugene S. Ferguson Prize by the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) at the SHOT Annual Meeting's awards banquet. See press release. This is the third award for this book. Order Now Direct From The Publisher! or order on Amazon.
September 2015 - Fall Bridge Lift Season is Underway. View Schedule.
October 2014 - A visit to Chicago revealed that the Van Buren Street Pedestrian Bridge was not demolished, but instead extensively rehabbed. The railings are new, but replicate the original design. The concrete encasement was removed and not replaced, and instead the exposed riveted steel beams have been painted. The riveted beams look quite nice, and given the condition of the bridge prior to the project this seems like a good outcome. In other news, the rehabilitation and repainting of the La Salle Street Bridge is ongoing, and the project to extend the Chicago Riverwalk under additional bridges on the Main Branch is continuing.
September 2014 - Chicago's dubious distinction of offering numerous boat tours that pass under the bridges but offer narration only of the buildings has ended with the start of a Wendella tour that focuses on bridges! Information is here.
July 29, 2013 - A project study has been initiated for the reconstruction of historic North Lake Shore Drive. This project puts a large number of historic bridges at risk for demolition and replacement. However, it could also be an opportunity to rehabilitate the bridges. Visit the project website.
April 30, 2013 - Illinois Landmarks has included Chicago's Bascule Bridges as one of their Top 10 Most Endangered Historic Places. View The Official Page.
General Chicago / Cook County Bridge Resources
Chicago's Bridges - By Nathan Holth, author of HistoricBridges.org, this book provides a discussion of the history of Chicago's movable bridges, and includes a virtual tour discussing all movable bridges remaining in Chicago today. Despite this broad coverage, the book is presented in a compact format that is easy to take with you and carry around for reference on a visit to Chicago. The book includes dozens of full color photos. Only $9.95 U.S! ($11.95 Canadian). Order Now Direct From The Publisher! or order on Amazon.
Chicago River Bridges - By Patrick T. McBriarty, this is a great companion to Holth's book shown above. This much larger book offers an extremely in-depth exploration of Chicago's movable highway bridges, including many crossings that have not existed for many years. Order Now Direct From The Publisher! or order on Amazon.
Chicago Loop Bridges - Chicago Loop Bridges is another website on the Internet that is a great companion to the HistoricBridges.org coverage of the 18 movable bridges within the Chicago Loop. This website includes additional information such as connections to popular culture, overview discussions and essays about Chicago's movable bridges, additional videos, and current news and events relating to the bridges.
Additional Online Articles and Resources - This page is a large gathering of interesting articles and resources that HistoricBridges.org has uncovered during research, but which were not specific to a particular bridge listing.
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