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, with a 1940 construction date, is historically significant as an early highway over highway grade separation constructed as part of an early form of limited access highway. The bridge is also technologically significant as a historically intact example of a large rigid-frame bridge. The bridge features aesthetic treatment on the railings and abutments in the Art Deco style. It is within Lincoln Park boundaries, and as such as a bridge with distinct aesthetic qualities, is a contributing part of the park experience, and more specifically as a contributing structure to the Lincoln Park Historic District. Among the many overpass bridges on Lakeshore Drive within Lincoln Park, this bridge is one of the most impressive, unaltered, and significant examples. The bridge should be given a high preservation priority.
Information and Findings From Lincoln Park National Register Historic District Nomination
Discussion of Bridge
South of the Fullerton Pkwy. Bridge, and just south of the Passerelle is the La Salle Dr. Extension Bridge. This structure, which is one of the most visually interesting of all of Lincoln Park's Lake Shore Drive Art Deco style bridges was designed by E.V. Buchsbaum. A larger version of the Barry Ave. underpass, it is a reinforced concrete structure with a flattened arch opening flanked by stylized vertical abutment walls. These abutment walls have ziggurat projections. Extending above the abutments are vertical piers that have Art Deco lamp standards composed of geometrically configured bases capped with octagonal luminaires. The bridge's rail has a band of square openings along its upper portion. The La Salle Dr. bridge has recently been rehabilitated and the lanterns, which did not work for many years, are now illuminated at night.
Discussion of La Salle Drive Extension
The La Salle Dr. extension was constructed in 1940 as part of the work to convert Lake Shore Drive to a limited access highway. Bisecting what had been the south meadow or picnic ground which had been realized from the Benson plan [H2], the extension was made to link Lake Shore Dr. to La Salle Dr., Clark St., Dearborn Pkwy., and State St. It included two pedestrian underpasses  that provide access between the South Meadow and the Mall at the north of La Salle Dr. and the Lincoln Garden at the south of La Salle Dr.
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.
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.
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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