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Clarence Darrow Memorial Bridge

North Pond Bridge

Clarence Darrow Memorial Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: September 8, 2011

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Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Columbia Drive Over Jackson Park Lagoon (North Pond)
Chicago: Cook County, Illinois: United States
Structure Type
Metal Deck Girder, Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1895 By Builder/Contractor: Unknown
Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
130.0 Feet (39.6 Meters)
Structure Length
Not Available
Roadway Width
60 Feet (18.29 Meters)
1 Main Span(s)
Inventory Number

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

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

This bridge is an unusual deck plate girder that is composed of four shallow girder lines with floorbeams supporting a concrete deck system that is similar to a jack-arch deck system. The bridge is today closed to vehicular traffic and the bridge is in a severely deteriorated condition with many of the girders exhibiting areas of heavy section loss. This is most unfortunate since the bridge is listed as eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places and aside from the structural deterioration the bridge appears to retain good historic integrity. It has pole railings that feature decorative metal posts. The bridge sits on impressive stone abutments that feature curved wingwalls that terminate at decorative posts. Looking under the bridge at the abutments, each abutment wall has two slots or ledges that suggest that the abutments predate the existing bridge and these slots would have held the feet of a former superstructure. Based on the position of these slots, it appears that this former bridge would have been a lot more narrow. The photo above shows this former bridge as a pony truss with an arched bottom chord, which accounts for the slots in the abutments. The photo was taken as part of the 1893 Worlds Columbian Exposition. Regarding the National Bridge Inventory, an 1895 construction date was given for the current bridge in the National Bridge Inventory. The www.hydepark.org website tells a slightly different and more detailed story. It reports that the bridge's abutments date to a bridge that was built in 1884, which is presumably the pony truss bridge. The railings on the current bridge are reported to be from the 1893 Worlds Columbian Exposition. The website finally states that the deck dates to even later. However, the exact date in which the superstructure was replaced is not mentioned. It may be that it was replaced in 1895, which would explain the National Bridge Inventory date, and if this is the case, than the railings would have been salvaged and reused on this new substructure. It would be at this time that the abutments were widened when the current girder bridge was installed, while retaining the original narrower abutments, thus retaining the tell-tale slots that formerly held the bottom chord of the pony truss. If the girder bridge truly was built in 1895, it would be an extremely early surviving example of this technology on an Illinois highway and thus technologically significant. At the Worlds Columbian Exposition, there were several deck truss bridges on the grounds for the exposition and these bridges. The Worlds Columbian Exposition photos of the deck truss bridges also reveal the railing design used on the bridges, and it is clear that the design of these railings are the same as those on the bridge today, seeming to prove that the existing railings do date to the Columbia Exposition. That being the case, great care should be taken to preserve the existing railings on the bridge since they are a remnant of this important event in Chicago history. Below is a photo of one of the deck trusses at the Worlds Columbian Exposition.

Jackson Park Bridge


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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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Maps and Links: Clarence Darrow Memorial Bridge

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