Roosevelt Road was originally known as 12th Street and this associated bascule bridge and approach system were called the 12th Street Viaduct. This bridge is an example of a Chicago Pratt truss bascule bridge that is a true deck truss, where the truss does not partially extend above the deck and is also not a double-deck truss. There are only a few bridges of this type in Chicago, and the Roosevelt Road is perhaps most similar to the Ohio Street Bridge. Perhaps the most striking feature of the bridge is the two beautiful circular-shaped bridgetender buildings that feature decorative sculptures set into the buildings. These round buildings are unlike bridgetender buildings found elsewhere in Chicago, and they are very pleasing aesthetically. Large plaques mounted on the buildings are themselves curved so as to conform to the round shape of the buildings. The buildings appear to be in excellent, unaltered condition.
A very long (over 1000 feet total) length of viaduct provides an approach to the bridge. The viaduct approach structures are not considered part of the historic bridge as they appear to have been extensively altered and/or reconstructed.
This bridge was built at the same time that the South Branch of the Chicago River was being realigned to the west. Roosevelt Road is near the northern end of where the realignment project took place. The former swing bridge at this location was located just east of where the current bascule bridge is located. The historic construction photo to the right shows both the swing bridge crossing the old South Branch channel and the nearly completed bascule bridge crossing the new South Branch channel. The bascule bridge was built before the new alignment of the river was dug. Because of this fact as well as the desire to maintain traffic on the road during construction, the construction of this bridge took on an unusual appearance. The bridge was built in the raised position so as not to block the old roadway. One of the trusses can be seen in the historical photo to the left poking right up through the middle of the old roadway. Because the new alignment of the river had not been dug, it also would have looked like this was a bridge being built over nothing, since there would have been dry land under the bridge.
Given the large and complex nature of this bridge project, substantial preliminary studies were conducted prior to building the bridge. The 1914 Annual Report of the Department of Public Works included a discussion of some of the planning efforts. Several movable bridge types were considered. A city-designed vertical lift bridge was given serious consideration, with the city going as far as preparing detailed plans. Unsurprisingly, alternative designs of trunnion bascule bridges were also considered. Also of note, the city gave considerations for a plan submitted by the Strauss Bascule Bridge Company for a "direct lift" bascule bridge, an unusual type of vertical lift bridge designed by famous engineer Joseph Strauss. An example can be found in British Columbia.
Hugh E. Young was Chief Engineer for the Chicago Plan Commission when this bridge was built. Hugh E. Young also served as Engineer of Bridge for the city in previous years. Click his photograph shown to the left to view a larger image that includes a short biography.
Today, the bridge carries the very busy Roosevelt Road, with an Average Daily Traffic of 37,000. The Roosevelt Road Bridge's truss superstructure has been extensively built-up and strengthened during rehabilitation, which occurred in 1994. Numerous rivets have been replaced with bolts on the truss. These alterations have diminished the historic integrity of the truss, however the bridge does score very high structural evaluation ratings on the National Bridge Inventory suggesting that these alterations did extend the life of the bridge considerably. As of 2010 there is some rust forming on the truss however. If Chicago DOT continues its track record, it is likely the bridge will be repainted in the maroon paint color the city uses on all of its most recent bridge repainting projects.
The 1930 Annual Report of the Public Works Department stated a number of facts for the bridge. 620,000 pounds of reinforcing steel were placed in the bridge's substructure. The total weight of steel for the bridge was 1,950 tons. Each leaf, including counterweight was 1,560 tons. Each leaf was mounted on two trunnions, each with a 24 inch diameter and each carrying 780 tons. The total weight of machinery was 212 tons. The bridge was operated with two 75 H.P. electric motors. It was mentioned that the original railings were an aluminum alloy. Fitzsimons & Connell Dredge & Dock Company constructed the eastern substructure, while M. E. White Company did the western substructure. Ketler-Elliott Company constructed the superstructure. Norwood-Noonan Company installed electrical equipment. The bridge tender houses were built by the C. E. Carson Company. William J. Gormley Company installed plumbing.
Photo Credit: Patrick Hynes
Above: This is the swing bridge that preceded the existing bascule bridge. It was built in 1886 by the Chicago Forge and Bolt Company and was a steel swing bridge. The swing bridge was 220 feet long and 59 feet wide. It was powered by steam. This swing bridge was preceeded by the first documented bridge at this location, a hand-turned, combination wood/iron swing bridge built by Fox and Howard in 1868.
ROOSEVELT ROAD BRIDGE
WM HALE THOMPSON
RICHARD W. WOLFE
CHICAGO PLAN COMMISSION
FITZSIMONS & CONNELL DREDGE & DOCK CO.
NORWOOD - NOONAN CO
C. E. CARSON CO.
River Straightening Plaque
WM HALE THOMPSON
RICHARD W. WOLFE
EDWARD F. MOORE
COMMITTEE ON RAILWAY TERMINALS
CHICAGO PLAN COMMISSION
HUGH E. YOUNG, CHIEF ENGINEER
GREAT LAKES DREDGE & DOCK CO.
Bridge Rehabilitation Plaque
BASCULE BRIDGE RESTORATION
CITY OF CHICAGO
RICHARD M. DALEY, MAYOR
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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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