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Lake Street Bridge

   


Lake Street Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: August 12, 2006 and 2010 - May, 2012
View Photos
and Videos
View Maps
and Links

Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Lake Street and Railroad (Chicago El) Over South Branch Chicago River
Location
Chicago: Cook County, Illinois
Structure Type
Metal Rivet-Connected Warren Through Truss, Movable: Double Leaf Bascule (Fixed Trunnion) and Approach Spans: Metal Stringer (Multi-Beam), Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1916 By Builder/Contractor: Ketler-Elliott Company of Chicago, Illinois and Engineer/Design: City of Chicago

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
1995
Main Span Length
245 Feet (74.7 Meters)
Structure Length
333 Feet (101.5 Meters)
Roadway Width
38 Feet (11.6 Meters)
Spans
1 Main Span(s) and 4 Approach Span(s)
NBI Number
16602926799

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Bridge Documentation

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

Lake Street Bridge

About The Lake Street Bridge

Lake Street Bridge Construction At TailpitMeneely Bell Company AdvertisementThis fixed trunnion bascule bridge and its design is one of the finest and most impressive in the city of Chicago. Along with its near-twin on Wells Street, these are the only two movable bridges along the loop that carry the CTA "L" trains. These two bridges are also the only two double-deck bridges in Chicago that carry trains on one deck and vehicular traffic on the other deck. On both, the trains travel on the upper deck, allowed the already-elevated trains to seamlessly connect to the bridge at this level, while vehicular traffic travels on the lower deck. Sidewalks are also located on the lower deck. The double-deck configuration of the Lake Street Bridge makes for a very massive bridge. Because it is so massive, this bridge is very impressive to watch being raised or lowered. The Lake Street Bridge was built before Wells Street Bridge and as such the slight differences in the design and construction process of the Lake Street Bridge represent its prototypical nature, but overall the appearance of the two bridges is very similar. The Lake Street Bridge is technologically significant for its double-deck design, the first of its kind on the river when built.

Lake Street Bridge is the site of where Chicago's first crossing of the river was made, when a ferry was ordered at this location by the Commissioners of Peoria in 1829. Costs for crossing were listed in an Annual Report of the Department of Public Works as follows: Foot passenger: 6 1/4 cents, man and horse: 12 1/2 cents, horse and pleasure vehicle: 50 cents, one horse and wagon: 25 cents, two horse wagon: 37 1/2 cents, and each bushel of grain: 6 1/4 cents. The first documented bridge at Lake Street was built of wood in 1849. This bridge was rebuilt by N. Chapin in 1859, rebuilt by Fox and Howard as a wood/iron combination bridge. In 1885, an iron bridge was built by the Detroit Bridge Company. This bridge was converted into a double-deck bridge in 1893.

The design of the existing bascule bridge was not arrived at immediately. Early plans called for a vertical lift bridge at this location. The city had sought competitive plans and estimates for a bridge, and had those plans reviewed by City Engineer John Ericson, alongside J. E. Greiner (a noteworthy consulting engineer based out of Baltimore, Maryland) and Chicago and NorthWestern Railroad Acting Chief Engineer W. H. Finley. They arrived at the vertical lift design. However, the second choice, that of the bascule bridge was later decided upon for "reasons of public policy" according to the Annual Report of the Department of Public Works.

A Virtual Tour: The Lake Street Bridge Tender House Control Room and Machinery Basement

The Chicago Department of Transportation's Michelle Woods was kind enough to arrange a few moments out of her very busy schedule to give HistoricBridges.org a brief tour of the Lake Street Bridge's bridge tender house control room and machinery basement, following a similar tour provided to a school group. In addition, for comparison, a brief visit to the control room of the nearby modern Randolph Street Bridge provided a comparison to how the control rooms have changed from the era of the historic bridges to the modern bridges. Some of Chicago's bridge tender houses were documented in black-and-white photos by the Historic American Engineering Record in a minimal fashion, however HistoricBridges.org is proud to be the first bridge website to provide a complete set of full-color digital photos of a Chicago bridge tender house's interior. While there undoubtedly are variations between the bridge tender houses and associated operating equipment between Chicago's many historic movable bridges, the tour provided for this bridge is intended to not only document the Lake Street Bridge, but to provide an overview of the general type and design of equipment likely found in many other movable Chicago bridges. The Lake Street Bridge retains original design control house operating equipment, and the mechanics in the basement are largely unchanged from the original design as well. The only significant updates appear to have been changes to the sensor equipment in the basement, and the addition of a device that relays the status of the bridge locks to a nearby CTA control tower, so that the CTA knows when the stop or start running trains on the bridge.

A full tour of the bridge tender house control room and machinery is available as one of the photo galleries available for this bridge. Additionally, the below two diagrams are available.

Lake Street Bridge Tender House Control Room Diagram

Lake Street Bridge Basement Machinery Diagram

Bridge Construction and Previous Bridge

The construction of this bridge was innovative in that City engineers designed a way to construct this bridge while maintaining traffic on the previous swing bridge at the location. The bascule leafs were constructed in the raised position around the old swing bridge, with the ends of the deck left off the bridge to allow traffic to pass through onto the old bridge during construction. Other considerations for accomodating the needs of both the old bridge and the new bridge construction were made, requiring such activities as temporary supports for sections of the old bridge. The practice of maintaining traffic on a former bridge, while constructing a replacement bridge on the same alignment was common among railroads, but uncommon for the city engineers, and the double-deck design undoubtedly introduced a unique level of complication to the project. As such, the construction of this bridge as well as the nearby Wells Street Bridge represent some of the most complex and creative engineering projects ever undertaken by the City of Chicago.

Lake Street Bridge ConstructionLake Street Bridge ConstructionLake Street Bridge ConstructionLake Street Bridge Construction

Above: These photos show the construction of the bridge. Because the former bridge was kept in service during construction, the design of the previous bridge can be discerned from these photographs.

Above: The above photos shows the process used to transfer traffic from the previous swing bridge to the bascule bridge with minimal disruption of traffic. This involved demolishing the center portion of of the swing bridge when in the open position, which allowed the bascule span to be lowered and opened to traffic quickly. Then, the rest of the swing span could be demolished without a rush.

In 1886, Volume 15 of the Engineering News-Record described the construction of the swing bridge that preceded the current bascule bridge. The text of the short paragraph follows.

Lake Street Bridge. --- The iron swing bridge over the Chicago river at Lake street, Chicago, is completed, but the viaduct and approaches are not yet finished The bridge is 220 feet long. 23 feet high in center, and 20 feet high at ends; it has a width of 60 feet, composed of two 21-feet roadways and two 7-feet sidewalks: the floor will carry a weight of 125 pounds per square foot: The drum on which the bridge turns is 48 feet in diameter, and rests on 74 solid iron wheel-, 18 inches diameter and 8 inches wide on face: the gearing is of phosphor bronze. The bridge will be turned by a steam engine with a pair of 8-in. by 12 in. cylinders, and a 7-inch cylinder engine will be used to drive the electric light plant: the engine-house is on top of the structure. The bridge will cost $145,000, divided equally between the city and the West Division Street R. R. Co.: the viaduct will cost $55,000. paid by the railroads interested: total cost, $200,000. Work was commenced in November last.

Lake Street BridgeLake Street Bridge Raised

Above: Photos showing the newly constructed bridge.

Above: The Annual Report of the Public Works Department has a drawing of the bridge that showed several noteworthy details of the bridge, some of which were apparently not included in the final plans for the bridge, such as decorative details mounted on the trusses.

Ketler Elliott Erection Company Advertisement

 

Main Plaque

BUILT 1916

WILLIAM HALE THOMPSON
MAYOR

WILLIAM R. MOORHOUSE
COMMISSIONER OF PUBLIC WORKS
WILLIAM BURKHARDT
DEPUTY COMM'R OF PUBLIC WORKS

JOHN ERICSON
CITY ENGINEER

THOMAS G. PIHLDELDT
ENGINEER OF BRIDGES

A. VON BABO ENG'R OF BRIDGE DESIGN

CLARENCE S. ROWE. CONST'N. ENG'R.
HUGH E. YOUNG, ENG'R OF BRIDGE DES'N.

WILLIAM A. MULCAHY, RESIDENT ENG'R.

CHICAGO PLAN COMMISSION, E. H. BENNETT, ARCH'T.

SUPERSTRUCTURE BY

THE KETLER-ELLIOTT ERECTION CO.
CHICAGO, ILL.
SUBSTRUCTURE BY

FITZSIMONS & CONNELL D. & D. CO.
CHICAGO, ILL.

Historical Articles

View A Historical Article Discussing The Construction of Lake Street Bridge

View A More Detailed Historical Article Discussing The Construction of Lake Street Bridge

View A Historical Thesis Paper Discussing The Lake Street Bridge

View A Historical Meneely Bell Company Catalog

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Historic Bridges of Chicago and Cook County

Flag of Chicago Seal of Cook County

Browse Bridges In Google Maps
Complete Bridge List

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: Lake Street 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.

 
View Photo Gallery
Structure Overview
Original / Full Size Photos
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.
View Photo Gallery
Bridge Tender House and Basement
Original / Full Size Photos
A virtual tour of the bridge tender house control room, where the controls that operate the bridge are located, and the basement machinery room, where the motors and gears that raise and lower the bridge are located. 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
Bridge Tender House and Basement
Mobile Optimized Gallery
A virtual tour of the bridge tender house control room, where the controls that operate the bridge are located, and the basement machinery room, where the motors and gears that raise and lower the bridge are located. 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 Video
Raising Bridge, View Beside
Full Motion Video
Taken June 2011. View from southeast quadrant. Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.
View Video
Raising Bridge, View Beside
Full Motion Video
Taken June 2013. View from southwest quadrant. Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.
View Video
Raising Bridge, Fisheye View Beside
Full Motion Video
Taken June 2013. View from southwest quadrant. Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.
View Video
Lowering Bridge, Elevation
Full Motion Video
Taken June 2011. Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.
View Video
Raising The Bridge
Full Motion Video
Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.
View Video
Lowering The Bridge
Full Motion Video
Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.

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and Links

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