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Michigan Avenue Bridge

DuSable Bridge

   


Michigan Avenue Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: August 12, 2006 - September 2011
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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Michigan Avenue Over Chicago River
Location
Chicago: Cook County, Illinois
Structure Type
Metal Rivet-Connected Pratt Deck Truss, Movable: Double Leaf Bascule (Fixed Trunnion) and Approach Spans: Metal Stringer (Multi-Beam), Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1920 By Builder/Contractor: Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company of Chicago, Illinois and Engineer/Design: City of Chicago

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
2009
Main Span Length
256 Feet (78 Meters)
Structure Length
400 Feet (121.6 Meters)
Roadway Width
64 Feet (19.5 Meters)
Spans
1 Main Span(s) and 2 Approach Span(s)
NBI Number
16603527325

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Bridge Documentation

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 The Michigan-Wacker Historic District Nomination Form

Michigan Avenue Bridge

About This Bridge

Michigan Avenue Bridge RaisedMichigan Avenue Bridge ConstructionThis bridge is commonly known as the Michigan Avenue Bridge, but officially renamed the DuSable Bridge in October 2010, to honor Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable. DuSable was the first non-native settler in Chicago.

Connecting the downtown Loop to the Magnificent Mile, this is essentially the "Main Street Bridge" of Chicago, since it carries a busy roadway including as many as 30,000 pedestrians daily, and has been decorated to give it the feel of a gateway bridge. It is the most well-known of the Chicago bascule bridges. The composition of the trusses are comparable to other bridges in the city, except that this bridge is one of the uncommon common double-deck bridges in the city. The decorations such as the bridge-tender towers on this bridge, and the plaques on the bridge also set this aside from other Chicago bridges. The city has furthered this bridge's unique appearance by flying various flags on the bridge as well.

Most recently, the city of Chicago demonstrated not only their commitment to maintain this landmark historic bridge, but to restore and increase the historic integrity and beauty of the bridge in a unique restoration project executed in 2009. This project actually removed the modern and relatively mundane pedestrian railings on the bridge and placed replicas of the original ornate railings that were present when the bridge was built and had been replaced some years ago. The project has dramatically increased the historic appearance and beauty of the bridge. The project is significant because often railings are ignored during bridge preservation projects. However, the truth is railings are often play a significant role in the aesthetic quality of a historic bridge. Chicago has recognized this and set an example of other owners of historic bridges to follow.

Michigan Avenue Bridge Newly Completed BridgeThe southwest bridgetender house of this bridge contains the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum. With an entry fee of only four dollars, this small museum offers a history of the bridge and the Chicago River, but perhaps one of the most exciting parts of the museum is that they have opened up a viewing area to the public where you can view the motors, breaks, trunnion, and other mechanical parts of the movable bridge that are normally hidden and restricted from the view of the public. Some of the original electrical equipment that was saved from a previous renovation project is on display here as well.

From a distance this bridge looks square like the Wells Street Bridge, but if you walk on the lower sidewalk, you will note the bottom chord is arched a bit, and rises above the sidewalk at the middle of the span. Its truss design is more like Ohio Street.

Michigan Avenue Bridge ConstructionThe Michigan Avenue Bridge was constructed as two parallel bridges, and could actually be lifted independently of each other. If you are on the lower level or on the Chicago Riverwalk which runs under the bridge, you can see how there are two trusses at the center of the bridge, and can thus visualize how the bridge is really two bridges side by side.

An unusual random trivia for this bridge is that in the 1920s, the city installed rubber tile pavement as an experimental surface type.

Both the substructure and superstructure for this bridge was built by the Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company. This is somewhat unusual, since a lot of Chicago's bascule bridges had separate contractors for superstructure, substructure, and electrical work. Great Lakes Dredge and Dock was a frequent contractor for the substructures of bascule bridges in Chicago. This is an unusual case where the company also erected the superstructure. Formed in 1890 as Lydon and Drews Company, the company changed its name to Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company in 1905. A local advertisement from that period shows that by that time the company had acquired several other companies. The company survives today and does work around the world according to the company's website.

Michigan Avenue Bridge ChicagoMichigan Avenue Bridge RaisedMichigan Avenue Bridge Raised

Daniel BurnhamGreat Lakes Dredge and Dock Company

Information and Findings From Chicago Landmarks Designation

General Information

Address: Chicago River, between Michigan and Wabash
Year Built: Bridge and Bridge House, 1920; Esplanade, 1926
Architect: Edward H. Bennett , Pihlfeldt & Young
Date Designated a Chicago Landmark: October 2, 1991

Conceived as part of Daniel Burnham's 1909 Plan of Chicago, the bridge and upper-level Wacker Drive were designed to improve transportation and to enhance Chicago's riverfront. The completion of the bridge, followed by the Wacker Drive esplanade (1926) and the monumental sculptures (1928), provided an impressive gateway to North Michigan Avenue and led to its development as one of the city's premier thoroughfares.

Architect Information

Raised and educated in Chicago, Daniel Hudson Burnham (1846-1912) gained his early architectural experience with William Le Baron Jenney, the so-called "father of the skyscraper." In 1873, Burnham formed a partnership with John Wellborn Root (1850-1891) that produced such commissions as the Kent House, Masonic Temple (demolished), Monadnock Building, Reliance, Rookery, St. Gabriel's Church, and the Union Stock Yard Gate.

Following Root's death in 1891, the firm became known as D.H. Burnham and Co. Its design output continued to be prodigious, including department stores (Marshall Field's), office buildings (People's Gas and the Railway Exchange, at 122 and 224 S. Michigan, respectively), and public buildings (e.g., park fieldhouses, railroad stations, city halls) all across the country.

However, Burnham gained an even greater reputation for his influence as a city planner. He supervised the laying out and construction of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition and, in 1909, Burnham and his assistant Edward H. Bennett (Michigan Avenue Bridge) prepared The Plan for Chicago, which is considered the nation's first example of a comprehensive planning document. Burnham also worked on other city plans, including ones for Cleveland, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Manila in the Phillipines.

Numerous important architects worked for Burnham's firm, including Peirce Anderson, Charles Atwood (Museum of Science and Industry), Ernest Graham, and Frederick Dinkelberg (35 E. Wacker Building, Heyworth Building). Following his death, the firm continued as Graham, Anderson, Probst and White; its commissions include the Civic Opera Building, Field Building, Field Museum, Merchandise Mart, Union Station, and Wrigley Building. Burnham Park, which is located along Lake Michigan south of the Loop, is named in honor of the famed architect-planner.

This Bridge Is A Designated Chicago Landmark

Visit The Chicago Landmarks Website

Rush Street Bridge ChicagoRush Street Bridge ChicagoRush Street Bridge Chicago

Above: The infamous Rush Street Bridge, the predecessor to the Michigan Avenue Bridge. Located a short distance west of Michigan Avenue, Rush Street and its bridge were an extremely busy bottleneck for Chicago. The extent of this bottleneck can be seen in two of the above photos, where what could only be described as a horse and buggy traffic jam is visible. Although the statements validity cannot be verified, one photo caption describes the bridge as "the most crowded vehicular bridge in the world." What was certainly true however, was the need for the Michigan Avenue Bridge.

Rush Street Bridge Chicago

Above: This photo shows an earlier Rush Street swing bridge that preceded the final Rush Street swing bridge. This earlier bridge, the first at this crossing noted in the Annual Reports of the Department of Public Works, was built in 1856, and was described as an "all iron bridge." As such, this bridge would have been among the earliest iron bridges built in the United States. The bridge was 211 feet in length. The hand-turned swing bridge was built by contractors Harper and Tweedale for $54, 000. An Annual Report of the Department of Public Works described the bridge as the "First iron bridge of the West." This was the first bridge to move beyond the simple wooden bridges built previously in Chicago. From this point forward, bridges tended to be built of either metal or a combination of metal and wood. However, for the next several decades, the bridges built, while an improvement over earlier bridges, still lacked a detailed structural and traffic analysis and tended to have a relatively limited service life. The 1856 Rush Street Bridge was rebuilt in 1864 by Fox and Howard, destroyed in the fire of 1871, and replaced in 1872 by another iron swing bridge, built by the Detroit Bridge Company. The bridge was 211 feet in length and 33 feet wide. This bridge was destroyed in a collision with the Schooner Granger on November 22, 1883. In 1884, a third iron swing bridge was built, this time by Rust and Coolidge, and the bridge was 240 feet long with a width of 59 feet.

Main Plaque

WILLIAM A. MULGAHY
CHIEF ENGINEER
OF CONSTRUCTION

GREAT LAKES DREDGE
AND DOCK COMPANY
CONTRACTOR FOR THE
SUBSTRUCTURE AND
SUPERSTRUCTURE OF
BRIDGE AND PLAZAS
WM. HALE THOMPSON
MAYOR

MICHAEL J. FAHERTY, PRESIDENT
BOARD OF LOCAL IMPROVEMENTS
DAVID W. CLARK    OSCAR WOLFF    L. WITHALL
IRENE PEASE MANTONYA
EDWARD J. CLACKIN  SEC

OPEN FOR TRAFFIC MAY 14TH 1920
C. D. HILL, ENGINEER BOARD
OF LOCAL IMPROVEMENTS

THOS. C. PIHLFELDT,
ENGINEER OF BRIDGES

HUGH E. YOUNG
ENGINEER OF BRIDGE DESIGN

CHICAGO PLAN COMMISSION
CHAS. H. WACKER, CHAIRMAN
E. H. BENNETT, CONSULTING ARCHT.
 

Library Landmarks Plaque

FRIENDS OF LIBRARIES U.S.A.

LITERARY LANDMARKS REGISTER

This site is designated a
Literary Landmark
in recognition of the use of
BRIDGES AS SYMBOLS
by such authors as

CARL SANDBURG, THEODORE DREISER,
AND UPTON SINCLAIR
in
CHICAGO'S LITERARY TRADITION

Friends of the
Chicago Public Library

June 22, 1990

Leaf Dedication Plaque

SOUTHEAST LEAF

NORTH MICHIGAN AVENUE BRIDGE

DEDICATED IN MEMORY OF

HARRY J. PASCHEN

NOVEMBER 26, 1992

Rehabilitation Plaque

MICHIGAN AVENUE BRIDGE
HISTORICAL RENOVATION

IN HONOR OF

FRANK H. PASCHEN

"QUIETLY BUT AGGRESSIVELY MEETING THE CHALLANGE"

MAY 22, 2009

Bridge Tender House Sculptures


Michigan Avenue Bridge The Discoverers Michigan Avenue Bridge The Pioneers Michigan Avenue Bridge Regeneration Michigan Avenue Bridge Defense

THE DISCOVERERS

JOLLIET, FATHER MARQUETTE, LA SALLE AND TONTI
WILL LIVE IN AMERICAN HISTORY
AS FEARLESS EXPLORERS WHO MADE THEIR WAY
THROUGH THE GREAT LAKES AND ACROSS
THIS WATERSHED TO THE MISSISSIPPI
IN THE LATE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY
AND TYPIFY THE SPIRIT OF BRAVE ADVENTURE
WHICH HAS ALWAYS BEEN FIRMLY PLANTED
IN THE CHARACTER OF THE MIDDLE WEST.

PRESENTED TO THE CITY BY
WILLIAM WRIGLEY JR.
1928

THE PIONEERS

JOHN KINZIE, FUR TRADER, SETTLED NEAR
THIS SPOT IN THE EARLY YEARS OF THE NINTEENTH
CENTURY. ONE OF A BAND OF COURAGEOUS
PIONEERS, WHO WITH THEIR LIVES AT STAKE,
STRUGGLED THROUGH THE WILDERNESS
BREAKING SOIL FOR THE SEEDS OF A
FUTURE CIVILIZATION.

PRESENTED TO THE CITY BY
WILLIAM WRIGLEY JR.
1928



REGENERATION

THE GREAT CHICAGO FIRE, IN OCTOBER, EIGHTEEN
HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-ONE, DEVESTATED THE CITY.
FROM ITS ASHES, THE PEOPLE OF CHICAGO CAUSED
A NEW AND GREATER CITY TO RISE IMBUED
WITH THAT INDOMITABLE SPIRIT AND ENERGY
BY WHICH THEY HAVE EVER BEEN GUIDED.

ERECTED BY THE TRUSTEES OF THE
B. F. FERGUSON MONUMENT FUND
1928




DEFENSE

FORT DEARBORN STOOD ALMOST ON THIS SPOT.
AFTER AN HEROIC DEFENSE IN EIGHTEEN
HUNDRED AND TWELVE, THE GARRISON TOGETHER
WITH WOMEN AND CHILDREN WAS FORCED TO EVACUATE
THE FORT. LED BY CAPTAIN WELLS, THEY
WERE BUTALLY MASSACRED BY THE INDIANS.
THEY WILL BE CHERISHED AS MARTYRS IN
OUR EARLY HISTORY.

ERECTED BY THE TRUSTEES OF THE
B. F. FERGUSON MONUMENT FUND
1928




Above: Scale models of the bridge tender houses were created during the design of this bridge. As is clear from the photos of two models created, the final design of the sculptures ended up being different than those seen on the models.

Michigan Avenue BridgeMichigan Avenue Bridge

Below: In 1908, Albert Scherzer proposed the below "artistic" design for a Michigan Avenue Bridge. He got inspiration for the design from Pont Alexandre III in Paris, France, which had been completed in 1900.

Albert Scherzer Rolling Lift Bascule Proposal For Michigan Avenue Bridge

Below: Joseph Strauss proposed the below extravagant design for a Michigan Avenue Bridge in 1913. The appearance of the bridge appears to be somewhat inspired by the Tower Bridge in London, England. The bridge was described in The American City as follows:

"The design illustrated herewith shows a form of movable bridge which has been proposed by the Strauss Bascule Bridge Company for the span to be built across the Chicago River at Michigan Avenue, Chicago, connecting the North and South Side Boulevards. It is of the vertical lift form, having neither cables nor chains, the counterbalancing being effected through levers which form a part of the suspension trusses from which the span and the load it carries are hung."

Joseph Strauss Trunnion Bascule Proposal For Michigan Avenue Bridge

Historical Articles

View Detailed Articles About This Bridge's Substructure and Superstructure From Engineering News-Record

View A Selection of Additional Historical Articles Discussing This Bridge

 

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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: Michigan Avenue 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
Additional Overviews
Original / Full Size Photos
Additional overview photos including from before the 2009 restoration was completed, views during St. Patricks Day with the green river, night views, and other special events. 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
Buildings and Plaques
Original / Full Size Photos
Photos of the plaques and bridgetender buildings including the bas relief sculptures. 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
Interior
Original / Full Size Photos
Photos taken in the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum. Photos showing the structural interior of the bridgetender building, as well as the interior electrical mechanical equipment for the bridge including gears, drive system, and trunnion. Also includes views looking out from the top level of the bridgetender building. 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
Additional Overviews
Mobile Optimized Gallery
Additional overview photos including from before the 2009 restoration was completed, views during St. Patricks Day with the green river, night views, and other special events. 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
Buildings and Plaques
Mobile Optimized Gallery
Photos of the plaques and bridgetender buildings including the bas relief sculptures. 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
Interior
Mobile Optimized Gallery
Photos taken in the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum. Photos showing the structural interior of the bridgetender building, as well as the interior electrical mechanical equipment for the bridge including gears, drive system, and trunnion. Also includes views looking out from the top level of the bridgetender building. 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
Leaf Being Raised
Full Motion Video
Note: The downloadable high quality version of this video (available on the video page) is well worth the download since it offers excellent 1080 HD detail and is vastly more impressive than the compressed streaming video. Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.
View Video
Leaf Being Raised
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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