This bridge was the first bascule bridge in Chicago whose trusses are configured such that the bridge is partly a pony truss and partly a deck truss. In this innovative design, Chicago engineers positioned the truss so that part of the truss was above the deck which the top chord could also act as a railing to separate vehicular and pedestrian traffic. This gives rise to the descriptive name "railing-height truss." This design also increased the clearance under the bridge since the trusses do not extend so far below the deck. Finally, it also made the bridge look thinner and more streamlined, which was a goal planners and architects had for Chicago bridges.
This bridge stands out among the bridges of Chicago as one of the most historically and technologically significant since it is the first example of a design that Chicago would use in construction on many bridges during a period of over 40 years. It also retains ornate sidewalk railings that greatly contribute to the visual beauty of the bridge.
The first bridge at this location documented in Annual Reports of the Department of Public Works was an 1849 wooden bridge. The next known bridge built at this location dated to 1856-1857 and was the first bridge in Chicago built entirely with city funds. It was also listed as an iron bridge, making it one of the first iron bridges in the city. It was 155 feet long and the contractor was listed as "Gaylord." In 1875, the bridge was rebuilt as a steam powered iron swing bridge by the American Bridge Company of Chicago. In 1891, this bridge was moved to Washington Street and the bridge was again rebuilt, this time of steel by Ritner and Conley. This bridge was a pin-connected through truss center pier swing bridge. This type of bridge was once common in Chicago and nearly all swing bridges were replaced by bascule bridges to provide an opening without the obstruction of a pier in the center of the bridge. The Madison Street swing bridge, like a number of swing bridges once located in Chicago included ornate portal bracing and portal cresting. Aside from these enhancements, the bridge would have been considered utilitarian in appearance at the time it was constructed.
Main PlaqueWM HALE THOMPSON
HUGH E. YOUNG ENGINEER OF BRIDGE DESIGN
CHICAGO PLAN COMMISSION
E. H. BENNETT CONSULTING ARCHITECT
CHICAGO CHAPTER OF AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF ARCHITECTS
CHICAGO ART COMMISSION
Rehabilitation PlaqueLYRIC OPERA BRIDGE
MADISON STREET BRIDGE RECONSTRUCTION
CITY OF CHICAGO
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
RICHARD M. DALEY
J. F. BOYLE, JR.
S. L. KADERBEK
Complete Bridge List
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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.
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.
Original / Full Size Photos
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Mobile Optimized Photos
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Raising Leaf, Elevation
Full Motion Video
|Taken June 2011. Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.|
Bridge Being Raised, Portal View
Full Motion Video
|Note: The downloadable high quality version of this video (available on the video page) is well worth the download since it offers excellent 1080 HD detail and is vastly more impressive than the compressed streaming video. Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.|
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