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Lake Shore Drive Bridge

Outer Drive Bridge

   


Lake Shore Drive Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: August 12, 2006 - May 15, 2012
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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Lake Shore Drive (US-41) 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
1937 By Builder/Contractor: Ketler-Elliott Company of Chicago, Illinois and Engineer/Design: City of Chicago

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
264 Feet (80.5 Meters)
Structure Length
356 Feet (108.5 Meters)
Roadway Width
80.7 Feet (24.6 Meters)
Spans
1 Main Span(s) and 3 Approach Span(s)
NBI Number
16603027328

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 Original 1929 Plan For This Bridge and Viaduct

View An Article About The Creation of Lake Shore Outer Drive

Lake Shore Drive Bridge

About This Bridge

Lake Shore Drive Bridge Historical Aerial ViewLake Shore Drive Bridge RaisedThis monstrous bridge is an extremely impressive gateway to the city of Chicago for boats. This completion of this bridge was a product of depression relief programs. Although the bridge construction was started in 1929, the depression halted construction until federal aid got the bridge completed in 1937. When it was completed, this massive hulk of a bridge broke all sorts of records. It was the longest bascule bridge in the world, and was also the widest bascule bridge in the world! The lower deck of the bridge also added enough weight to enable each leaf of the bridge to claim the title of heaviest in the world as well! This is a bridge that should be fully experienced by walking on the lower level sidewalk and observing the shear mass of the bridge: four evenly spaced lines of trusses make this the wide bridge it is.

This is the first bridge at this location. The bridge and the road it serves was the result of a desire to connect parks along Lake Michigan on either side of the river with a large parkway system that connected all the major parks of Chicago. Originally called Outer Drive, it is today known as Lake Shore Drive. The system of parks and parkway was influenced greatly by the 1909 Plan of Chicago. Although perhaps originally conceived as a parkway to carry recreational traffic enjoying the park systems, it quickly became a major travel corridor, a characteristic it retains today.

Planned Expansion of the Eastern Sidewalk

Anyone who has walked on the eastern sidewalk of this bridge knows that it is an extremely busy and narrow sidewalk, since in addition to being a normal sidewalk, it also carries the highly popular Lakefront Trail, which is a very popular bicycle route. It is common for bicycles to become entangled with other bicycles and pedestrians on the bridge. At one time, there was a hideous proposal to construct a separate bridge next to the Lakeshore Drive Bridge that would be a dedicated trail bridge. The design was a high level cable stayed bridge and it would have clashed terribly and obstructed the view of the Art Deco beauty of the historic Lakeshore Drive Bridge. As of 2014, another plan has been introduced. This plan would widen the existing sidewalk through an innovative project that would not only widen the existing cantilevered sidewalk on the bridge, but would cut a tunnel through the bridge tender houses, enabling the sidewalk to remain wide at what would otherwise be a choke point in a wider sidewalk. The wider sidewalk would maintain the lane divisions for bicycles and pedestrians found elsewhere on the Lakefront Trail. While obviously, this project would alter the bridge tender house, HistoricBridges.org believes this is a good solution and far better than constructing the independent cable stayed bridge. Another benefit of this project is that the railings on the sidewalk would be replaced with railings that replicate the Art Deco design of the original railings that were originally found on the upper deck of the bridge. Those railings were some of the most beautiful railings found on Chicago bridges, and they were unlike the other ornate railings found on other downtown bridges. The replica railings on the sidewalk would be a nice way to bring the architecture of those ornamental railings back to life on the bridge.

Additional Historical Photos and Notes

Lake Shore Drive BridgeLake Shore Drive Bridge Upper Deck View

The Lake Shore Drive Bridge did not originally have sidewalks on the lower level. The photo, above left, shows the bridge before sidewalks were added to the lower deck. Additionally, the upper level of the bridge which did originally have a sidewalks, had unique, beautiful railings that were unfortunately lost during the conversion of the upper deck to support vehicular traffic lanes throughout the entire width of the bridge deck. This conversion removed the upper deck sidewalks. The ornate railings can be seen in the  photo, above right.

View Showing Ogden Slip BridgeOgden Slip Bridge

At one time a single leaf bascule bridge on this highway crossed the nearby Ogden Slip, a canal that ran between Illinois Street and North Water Street. This span has unfortunately been removed and replaced. Look at the historical photos above showing aerial views of this lost bridge.

Ogden Slip BridgeOgden Slip BridgeOgden Slip Bridge

The above three photos show the demolished and replaced Ogden Slip Bridge. Composed of a single leaf of short length, it was quite a contrast to the nearby enormous bascule over the Chicago River. However, despite its short length, it maintained the same impressive width as the Chicago River Bridge, giving the bridge unusual proportions. The bridge had two bridge tender houses, both located at the southern end of the bridge.

Daniel BurnhamDaniel Burnham

Lake Shore Drive Bridge

Main Plaque

OUTER DRIVE IMPROVEMENT

ERECTED BY
CHICAGO PARK DISTRICT

EDWARD J. KELLY
MAYOR

COMMISSIONERS
R. J. DUNHAM    PRES.
P. S. GRAVER     V. PRES.
HARRY JOSEPH
J. C. PETRILLO
S. I. WITMANSKI

EDWARD EAGLE BROWN
J. FRANK LYMAN
TREASURER
SECRETARY

CHICAGO PLAN COMMISSION

FEDERAL EMERGENCY ADMINISTRATION
OF PUBLIC WORKS

ENGINEERING PERSONNEL:

GEO T. DONOGHUE    GENERAL SUPT.
RALPH H. BURKE    CHIEF ENGINEER
W. I. BELL    ASST. GENERAL SUPT.
ROBERT A. BLACK    ASST. CHIEF ENG.
FRANK RANDALL    CON. BRIDGE ENG.
W. R. WEIGLER    ARCHITECTURAL DES

HUGH E. YOUNG    CHIEF ENG
OF CHICAGO PLAN COMMISSION

STRAUSS ENGINEERING COMPANY

CONTRACTORS:

AL JOHNSON CONSTRUCTION CO
M. E. WHITE COMPANY
WARNER CONSTRUCTION CO
PASCHEN BROTHERS
FITZSIMONS-CONNEL DREDGE & DOCK CO
GREAT LAKES DREDGE COMPANY
KETLER-ELLIOT COMPANY
MACKIE-THOMPSON-TAMM
BETHLEHEM STEEL COMPANY
W. E. O'NEILL CONSTRUCTION CO
AMERICAN BRIDGE COMPANY
OSCAR DANIELS COMPANY
PIERCE ELECTRIC COMPANY
THOMAS MCQUEEN COMPANY

DEDICATED OCTOBER 5, 1937
BY
FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT
PRESIDENT OF
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Rehabilitation Plaque

RECONSTRUCTION
OF
LAKE SHORE DRIVE STRUCTURES

1987

CITY OF CHICAGO

HAROLD WASHINGTON
Mayor

PAUL A. KARAS
Commissioner of Public Works

DAVID S. WILLIAMS
First Deputy Commissioner

LOUIS KONCZA
City Engineer
MICHAEL J. PAULIUS
Deputy Commissioner

RONALD J. BRONSON
Chief Construction Engineer

TED KACZKOWSKI
Chief Bridge Engineer

DAVID CROW
Resident Engineer
EDWARD WILEYTO
Project Manager

EUGENE PENDLETON
Resident Engineer
KURT TENNENWALD
Project Manager

ARTHUR KORZENIEWSKI
Resident Engineer

Lake Shore Drive Bridge RaisedLake Shore Drive BridgeStandard Oil Company Advertisement With Lake Shore Drive 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: Lake Shore Drive 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
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 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.
View Video
Lowering The Bridge, Distant View
Full Motion Video
Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.
View Video
Raising The Bridge, Distant View
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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