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Harlem Avenue Bridges

Harlem Avenue Bridges

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: March 2008

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Harlem Avenue Over Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal
Location
Lyons: Cook County, Illinois: United States
Structure Type
Metal Rivet-Connected Warren Deck Truss, Movable: Double Leaf Bascule (Fixed Trunnion) and Approach Spans: Metal Stringer (Multi-Beam), Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1931 By Builder/Contractor: Unknown

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
1990
Main Span Length
224 Feet (68.28 Meters)
Structure Length
456.4 Feet (139.11 Meters)
Roadway Width
56 Feet (17.07 Meters)
Spans
1 Main Span(s) and 3 Approach Span(s)
NBI Number
16031504057

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Bridge Documentation

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

These two bridges are aside from Congress Parkway Bridge, the only other two bridges in the entire Chicago/Cook County movable bridge collection to feature a Warren deck truss design. Since Congress Parkway is listed as a 1956 structure, the 1931 Harlem Avenue Northbound Span is the oldest example of this structure type, and undoubtedly served as a model for Congress Parkway, and certainly its newer southbound near-twin companion here at Harlem Road. The main difference visually between the northbound 1931 span and the southbound 1966 span is the lack of v-lacing and lattice on the built-up beams of the newer span, which instead features oval-shaped cutouts on its beams, typical of 1960s structural steel in bridgework.

It is unclear why these three bridges... and only these three bridges... were constructed with the Warren deck configuration.

Unfortunately, these bridges are difficult to photograph. Getting the elevation view from beside the canal which you need to see these bridges clearly involves trespassing on Chicago Sanitary District property, according to the Chicago Sanitary Police/Security officer who told HistoricBridges.org as much during an on-site visit. Providing said officer with a HistoricBridges.org card and honest discussion about the historic value of the bridges and need for photo-documentation may have averted fines or worse, but did not yield invitations to continue the good work of bridge documentation. The small blue signs displaying the restricted nature of the property are not very clearly shown. Chicago/Cook County would do well to promote its historic bridges outside of downtown, since they are just as worthy of attention, and in many cases have been well-maintained, including here at Harlem Avenue. Certainly, fencing off prime viewing areas and having police officers scare photographers away is not a good start and likely also discourages casual Chicago tourists from exploring the city beyond the downtown area.

Fortunately, a significant number of photos were taken of this bridge prior to this incident, and HistoricBridges.org is proud to present them here, free for public viewing just as the bridge itself... a publically owned and funded structure... should be.

1970 Rehabilitation Plaque (1931 Bridge)

STATION 33 + 21.96

SANITARY & SHIP CNAL

REBUILT 1970 BY

COOK COUNTY

F. A. 42 SEC 207 - 0709.08 - CF

PROJECT U - 4 (78)

LOADING HS 20 - 44

1990 Rehabilitation Plaque (1931 Bridge)

STATION 132 + 73.68

REHABILITATED 1990 BY

STATE OF ILLINOIS

F. A. P. RT. 848 SEC 207 - 0708.1 CF

LOADING HS 20

STR. NO. 016 - 0991

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Historic Bridges of Chicago and Cook County

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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.

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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