The substructure for this bridge was built by the Fitzsimmons and Connell Company of Chicago, who appears to have built most of the substructures for Chicago's bascule bridges. For most Chicago bridges, the superstructure was built by local contractors, or at least small contractors who are not well-known nationally. This bridge is an exception, with its superstructure being built by the Mount Vernon Bridge Company of Mount Vernon, Ohio. The Mount Vernon Bridge Company was one of the bridge companies that existed back during the height of the pin connected truss era, and built bridges like Michigan's Martin Road Bridge. The company did not die out or get absorbed by the American Bridge Company during the turn of the 20th century, and instead continued on as a bridge builder and fabricator allowing it to make an appearance here in Chicago during the 1930s.
This bridge was constructed with the aid of a temporary bobtail swing bridge built to carry traffic while the bascule bridge was constructed following demolition of the previous lift span. This temporary bobtail swing bridge was later reused as a temporary bridge for Ashland Avenue.
The first documented bridge at this location was built in 1861 and was a wooden bridge built by Fox and Howard. In 1872, this bridge was rebuilt by the King Iron Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio as an iron bridge. This bridge was destroyed by a collision with the Steamer Tioga on June 21, 1892. The next bridge at this location (which preceded the existing bridge) was one of the first modern vertical lift bridges constructed in the United States. As such, it enjoyed a great deal of attention from engineers and appeared in many different engineering texts and periodicals. The bridge was designed by J. A. L. Waddell, who became a leading designer and advocate for vertical lift bridges. The portal bracing for this bridge originally included three plaques, a large plaque in the center and two smaller circular plaques at the knee braces. The knee braces also had ornate scrollwork. The bridge superstructure was constructed by the Pittsburgh Bridge Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Above: Historical Photos Showing Previous Vertical Lift Bridge. Source: Library of Congress
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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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