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Halsted Street North Branch Canal Bridge

   


Halsted Street North Branch Canal Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: August 12, 2006 and October 2010
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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Halsted Street Over North Branch Chicago River Canal
Location
Chicago: Cook County, Illinois
Structure Type
Metal Rivet-Connected Pratt Through Truss, Movable: Double Leaf Bascule (Fixed Trunnion) and Approach Spans: Metal Stringer (Multi-Beam), Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1909 By Builder/Contractor: Jules E. Roemheld Company and Engineer/Design: City of Chicago

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
206 Feet (62.8 Meters)
Structure Length
302 Feet (92 Meters)
Roadway Width
36 Feet (11 Meters)
Spans
1 Main Span(s) and 4 Approach Span(s)
NBI Number
16602226640

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Bridge Documentation

This Bridge No Longer Exists!

View Archived National Bridge Inventory Report - Has Additional Details and Evaluation

View Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) Documentation For This Bridge

HAER Data Pages, PDF

View A Selection of the Original Plan Sheets For This Historic Bridge

This extremely early and rare historic bridge was demolished by Chicago Department of Transportation January 2011!

Halsted Street North Branch Canal Bridge

Heritage At Great Risk

Halsted Streen North Branch Canal Bridge RaisedFitz Simons and Connel Company AdvertisementHistoricBridges.org has normally considered Chicago to have one of the strongest commitments to historic bridges seen in any large city in North America. Chicago has chosen to preserve, maintain, and rehabilitate many of its historic movable bridges. However this exemplary track record is beginning to develop a serious crack, since with the exception of the Cortland Street Bridge, there appears to be a trend to demolish all of Chicago's earliest bascule bridges with the exception of the Cortland Street Bridge. With the North Avenue Bridge demolished, this Halsted Street Bridge demolished, and the only other two bridges from this generation of bridge remaining in Chicago appearing to be in need of paint with no recent signs of rehabilitation visible, Chicago is at risk for losing one of the most important groups of historic bridges in the city. While the preservation of the nationally significant Cortland Street Bridge is to be applauded, the preservation of these earliest (pre-1910) bascule bridges should not be limited to a single example. Worse, when Chicago does choose to demolish these bridges, there is no effort to reincorporate the original materials into the replacement bridge. Instead, Chicago chooses to construct bizarre looking ultra-modern bridges that have no heritage value whatsoever and offer no interpretation of the history that has been lost. Furthermore, these bridges do not fit with Chicago, which is a city that has a stronger connection to historic structures than it does modern structures (particularly in the context of its bridges), one of the reasons why heritage tourism is a significant part of Chicago's economy. A better solution, which would better coexist with Chicago's rich atmosphere of heritage, would be to place the historic trusses of the bascule bridge onto a replacement bridge as decorations. This has been done successfully with truss bridges elsewhere.

The replacement bridge is shown below. As is clearly visible, the bridge looks nothing like the historic bridge, nor could it reasonably be described as "context sensitive" since its overly modern appearance conflicts with the broad, diverse collection of historic bridges in Chicago. The bridge looks out of place and inappropriate among the collection of Chicago bridges. To further the case, consider the new light posts installed along Halsted Street at the same time this bridge was built. This new lighting is a historical style, with a very ornate and detailed appearance. This style of lighting would go nicely with any historic bridge in Chicago, or alongside the many historic buildings in the city as well. However, the lights really do not go well with the extremely modern and simple appearance of the replacement bridge.

Replacement BridgeHalsted Street Lighting

About This Bridge

Andrew CarnegieThis bridge was the eighth bridge built to the first bascule bridge design seen in Chicago. Note that there are not eight bridges of this design remaining in Chicago however, due to demolition of bridges like the North Avenue Bridge. The superstructure for this bridge was built by the Jules E. Roemheld Company, and the substructure was built by the Fitzsimons and Connell Company both of Chicago. Both the period in which this bridge was built as well as the complexity of a movable bridge both suggest that a bridge like this would have been designed by an outside consulting engineer or bridge company. However, Chicago engineers were very skilled and creative and normally took the lead in the design of the city's movable bridges, often to the chagrin of bridge companies run by well-known engineers such as Joseph Strauss. Indeed, this Halsted Street Bridge is one such example of the City of Chicago's engineering team which was spearheaded by City Engineer John E. Ericson. Chicago played a leading role in the development of what is the most common and perhaps most versatile type of movable bridge, the bascule bridge type. As an early, prototypical example of the Chicago trunnion bascule that would be influential to bridge construction nationwide, this bridge should be considered to have national significance, along with all surviving first generation bascule bridges in Chicago.

The substructure of this bridge was built by February 1, 1908 while the superstructure erection had begun on December 10, 1907. The superstructure was completed and the bridge opened to traffic on November 4, 1908. Each leaf of this bridge as originally built was powered by two 40 horsepower electric motors. The substructure cost $88,742.75 and the superstructure cost $159,240.00 with a complete cost of $247,982.75.

The Historic American Engineering Record documentation for this bridge mentions that this bridge, when built, had a "displayed an aesthetic concern that was totally lacking." While the large, truss-filled bridge might have been considered an eyesore back in the early 20th century, today the bridge can be considered very beautiful and certainly eye catching for its unique appearance composed of curves and angles that are unlike those found on any other bridge type. In a world where simplicity and lack of aesthetic concern is the order of the day in modern bridge design, this bridge displays a complex geometric art not seen even in the so-called aesthetic North Avenue Bridge replacement. From the curved shape of the overall bridge, to the truss configurations, to the extensive v-lacing and lattice on this bridge's built-up beams, the complexity is evident. As one of the largest of this early bascule design seen in Chicago, the bridge is even more impressive. While the complexity and massive design of the trusses might have not looked as good in a 1900s city filled with similar industrial features, today, the bridge stands out as a complex and intricate work of art compared to the simple concrete and steel beam bridges built today. Further, the bridge actually did try to incorporate some design features to make the bridge more aesthetically pleasing to the people of the time. These designs today continue to add beauty to the bridge. The knee braces that are on the portal bracing overhead at each end of the bridge are curved and feature circle designs cut out of them. Also, the sway/portal bracing has an arched design on top as well.

Carnegie Steel marks were found on some of this bridge's steel indicating the source of at least some of the steel used in this bridge.

Ogden Avenue used to cross Goose Island via two bascule bridges. This viaduct was built many years after after the Halsted Street Bridge... yet demolished many years before the Halsted Street Bridge was replaced. It crossed the canal just west of this Halsted Street Bridge and passed over Halsted Street as it curved north. The demolition of the Art Deco influenced Ogden Viaduct also marked a major loss of Chicago heritage.

The previous bridge at this location was the first bridge at this location, and was built in 1874 as a hand-turned iron bridge by Fox and Howard. It was 228 feet long and 32 feet wide.

Halsted Streen North Branch Canal BridgeHalsted Streen North Branch Canal Bridge

The below drawing was actually taken from the demolition plans for this bridge, but it has some of the parts of the bridge labeled, and so is included here for reference.

Halsted Streen North Branch Canal Bridge Drawing

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Historic Bridges of Chicago and Cook County

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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.

October 23, 2015 - The Franklin Street Bridge celebrates its 95th Anniversary. Please view this announcement prepared by Chicago Loop Bridges or view it on the Chicago Loop Bridges Website.

September 2015 - Fall Bridge Lift Season is Underway. View Schedule.

May 2015 - Michigan Avenue Bridge celebrates its 95th Birthday this month! Click here for a news article.

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.

May 15, 2013 - The Ashland Avenue Bridge over North Branch Chicago River has been recommended for Chicago Landmark designation by the Chicago Art Deco Society.

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.

View Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) Overview of Chicago Bascule Bridges (HAER Data Pages, PDF)

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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Photos and Videos: Halsted Street North Branch Canal Bridge

Available Photo Galleries and Videos

Click on a thumbnail or gallery name below to visit that particular photo gallery. If videos are available, click on a video name to view and/or download that particular video.

 
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Structure Overview
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A collection of overview photos that show the bridge as a whole and general areas of the bridge. For the best visual immersion and full detail, or for use as a desktop background, this gallery presents the photos for this bridge in the original digital camera resolution.
View Photo Gallery
Structure Details
Original / Full Size Photos
A collection of detail photos that document the parts, construction, and condition of the bridge. For the best visual immersion and full detail, or for use as a desktop background, this gallery presents the photos for this bridge in the original digital camera resolution.
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Demolition and Replacement
Original / Full Size Photos
Photos showing the demolition and photos showing the replacement bridge. For the best visual immersion and full detail, or for use as a desktop background, this gallery presents the photos for this bridge in the original digital camera resolution.
View Photo Gallery
Structure Overview
Mobile Optimized Gallery
A collection of overview photos that show the bridge as a whole and general areas of the bridge. View the photos for this bridge in a reduced size which is useful for mobile/smartphone users, modem (dial-up) users, or those who do not wish to wait for the longer download times of the full-size photos. Alternatively, view this photo gallery using a popup slideshow viewer (great for mobile users) by clicking the link below.
Browse Gallery With Popup Viewer
View Photo Gallery
Structure Details
Mobile Optimized Gallery
A collection of detail photos that document the parts, construction, and condition of the bridge. View the photos for this bridge in a reduced size which is useful for mobile/smartphone users, modem (dial-up) users, or those who do not wish to wait for the longer download times of the full-size photos. Alternatively, view this photo gallery using a popup slideshow viewer (great for mobile users) by clicking the link below.
Browse Gallery With Popup Viewer
View Photo Gallery
Demolition
Mobile Optimized Gallery
Photos showing the demolition and photos showing the replacement bridge. View the photos for this bridge in a reduced size which is useful for mobile/smartphone users, modem (dial-up) users, or those who do not wish to wait for the longer download times of the full-size photos. Alternatively, view this photo gallery using a popup slideshow viewer (great for mobile users) by clicking the link below.
Browse Gallery With Popup Viewer

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