About Lakeshore Drive and Lincoln Park
Lakeshore Drive is a major non-interstate limited access highway which follows the Lake Michigan Shoreline in Chicago. The highway is historically significant as an early example of a limited access highway. As evidence of how early an example it is, portions of the highway are also historically significant for being constructed under a Depression-era Works Progress Administration project conducted between 1937 and 1941. The highway passes through Lincoln Park, which is a large park that runs along Lake Michigan for a significant distance in the area of Chicago which is itself known as the Lincoln Park neighborhood. Lincoln Park is considered historically significant and the park is home to a large Historic District included on the National Register of Historic Places. The section of Lakeshore Drive which passes through Lincoln Park is a section that was constructed as part of the aforementioned 1937-1941 WPA project. The project included a number of bridges which incorporate architectural/aesthetic detailing and design, most in an architectural style based on the ideas of Art Deco. As such, many of those bridges which survive today are considered contributing structures to the Lincoln Park Historic District. These bridges should also be considered historically significant as surviving infrastructure from an early limited access highway as well.
About This Bridge
This bridge carries Lakeshore Drive and a narrow sidewalk over the Diversey Habor Inlet and two sidewalks. The bridge has Art Deco architectural detailing. In 2001, the bridge was widened with the addition of an independent steel stringer bridge to carry non-motorized traffic. An attempt to make this new bridge fit in with the historic bridge and the historic park was made, since the bridge's architectural detailing was made to match design elements seen on the Fullerton Parkway Overpass and the original Diversey Harbor Inlet Bridge. This alteration however means that the only way to see the original Diversey Harbor Inlet Bridge in the way it was meant to be is to view the west side of the bridge.
This bridge also appears to be technologically significant. The bridge is a steel rigid-frame bridge, which is a rare type. The popularity of the rigid-frame type of bridge varies depending on the state or province, however in all cases the reinforced concrete rigid-frame was far more common than a steel rigid-frame. In Illinois, the nearby Fullerton Parkway Overpass appears to the only other example of a steel rigid-frame bridge on public roads in the entire state, according to the National Bridge Inventory. As such, this bridge should be assigned a high level of technological significance on a state level. Nationally, the bridges appear to be early examples of a steel rigid-frame bridge, having been built in 1940. Steel rigid-frames are more of a modern phenomenon.
Additional technological significance comes the fact that the bridge's steel beams are rolled beams that are built-up at the ends by way of welds. Near the abutments, small curved pieces of steel are welded to the rolled i-beams that provide the majority of the superstructure. These welded details appear to be original and unaltered. As such, this bridge is noteworthy as an early example of the use of welding for built-up beams in bridges.
Information and Findings From Lincoln Park National Register Historic District Nomination
Discussion of Bridge
South of the Barry Ave. underpass is the Diversey Pkwy. Bridge . This simple Art Deco style reinforced concrete structure, allows for automobile and pedestrian crossing on Lake Shore Dr. over the Diversey Harbor outlet into Lake Michigan. It spans over the inlet as well as an embankment with sidewalks on each side, allowing the passage of boats, pedestrians and bicycles. The smooth faced concrete rail is pierced by a band of double square openings. Flanking this band of openings are three incised horizontal lines, a reoccurring motif on Lake Shore Dr. bridges. For many years this structure, which is one of the only bridges that includes pedestrian sidewalks at the same grade as Lake Shore Dr. presented a safety hazard. The narrow sidewalk runs along the edge of the roadway, and the bridge's rail is quite low. Until recently, tall sections of chain link fence were used to divide the roadway from the sidewalk. As part of the City of Chicago's recent work on Lake Shore Dr., the chain link fence was replaced with a new ornamental concrete wall with a metal railing.
Discussion of Lakeshore Drive
The widening and improving of Lake Shore Dr. into a limited access highway between 1937 and 1941 was probably the most ambitious of all of the WPA projects in Lincoln Park. The intent was to create a continuous route for heavy traffic that would segregate" persons passing through the park as a matter of convenience and those who come to it to enjoy its many attractions and recreation facilities" (CPO Annual Report 1937,106). This included a grade separation system that resulted in stylized Art Deco concrete bridge overpasses at the La Salle Dr. extension, Fullerton Pkwy., Diversey Pkwy., Belmont Dr., Lawrence Dr. and Wilson Dr., most of which had attractive engaged lighting fixtures. There are also a number of underpass bridges that allow pedestrian access beneath Lake Shore Dr. Some are utilitarian concrete structures that are essentially unadorned. An underpass that allows pedestrians to cross beneath Lake Shore Dr. at Barry Ave. is a stylized Deco structure that was likely designed by Buchsbaum. It is documented that four simple lannon stone pedestrian underpass bridges in the Montrose Ave. extension east of Lake Shore Dr. were designed by Buchsbaum. There were also some small sections of Art Deco retaining walls on Lake Shore Dr. that can probably be attributed to Buchsbaum. There is a remaining section of wall at the Lake Shore Dr. curve east of the Oak Street triangle. Based on "modern principles of highway design" the Lake Shore Dr. improvements allowed for a straight two-way route which totaled eight lanes at its widest point between the La Salle Dr. extension and Belmont Dr. (CPO Seventh Annual Report 1941,157). This southern area of the drive included a flexible rush-hour traffic system of hydraulic lane separators. This mechanical system of concrete "movable fins," would raise to configure various lanes of traffic at different times of day (ibid.). The hydraulic separators did not continue north of Belmont Dr. to Foster Dr. This area had a width of only six lanes, allowing for a center island landscape that followed the earlier stylistic treatment of the boulevard system. Lake Shore Drive's grade separation system continued north from the La Salle Dr. extension. The section between Belmont Dr. and Foster Dr. had four cloverleaf ramps linking the drive with the park and city streets.
Today, Lake Shore Dr. is a major arterial spine that extends through the entire seven mile length of Lincoln Park. The drive's current appearance primarily resulted from a WPA funded project between 1937 and 1941. Lake Shore Drive was developed as a limited access highway that would provide a continuous traffic route through the park. Re-grading was done and a number of bridges were constructed so that many portions of the new drive were elevated above the roads and paths that allowed access throughout Lincoln Park.
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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.
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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