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Torrence Avenue Calumet River Bridge

Henry Ford II Memorial Bridge

Torrence Avenue Calumet River Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: August 11, 2006, September 7, 2011, and June 5, 2013

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Torrence Avenue Over Calumet River
Location
Chicago: Cook County, Illinois: United States
Structure Type
Metal 16 Panel Rivet-Connected Pennsylvania Through Truss, Movable: Vertical Lift (Tower Drive) and Approach Spans: Metal Girder, Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1938 By Builder/Contractor: Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company of Chicago, Illinois and Engineer/Design: City of Chicago

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
276 Feet (84.12 Meters)
Structure Length
497 Feet (151.49 Meters)
Roadway Width
44 Feet (13.41 Meters)
Spans
1 Main Span(s) and 5 Approach Span(s)
NBI Number
16605026646

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Bridge Documentation

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

About This Bridge

This bridge is a highly significant bridge because it was designed by the City of Chicago yet is not a bascule bridge. Upon identifying the bascule bridge as the best solution for Chicago's movable bridge needs at the turn of the 20th Century, the city nearly exclusively built bascule bridges from that day forward. This bridge is one of only a couple known examples where they used another movable bridge type. The reason for choosing a vertical lift at this location was the skewed nature of the crossing. Because of the way they operate, a skewed bascule bridge would be someone difficult to design, and/or could be designed without a skew but would be very long and thus more costly. In contrast, vertical lift bridges are relatively simple to design as a skewed bridge.

Bantam Bearings Torrington Bearings Advertisement

This bridge sits directly next to an abandoned railroad lift bridge.

The highway truss bridge features lattice on its built-up beams, a typical functional feature of the period, but which also adds to the beauty of the bridge today. The railroad bridge next to it on the other hand lacks lattice and v-lacing on its built-up beams, testimony to the bridge's newer design. The two bridges create an interesting contrast.

The bridge substructure was built by Makie-Thompson-Tamme Inc. The superstructure was constructed by the Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company. Electrical Equipment was installed by the Central States Electric Construction Company.

Torrence Avenue Bridge Tender House

The advertisements shown on this page feature the Torrence Avenue Bridge. Bantam Bearings, which became Torrington Bearings, was advertising the use of their bearings in the Torrence Avenue Bridge in 1941 and 1942. In the photo they use, the previous railroad bridge, a Strauss heel-trunnion bascule bridge, is visible. This bridge is also visible in the historical photo below. Additionally, a railroad swing bridge is visible in the distance in the below photo.

2011-2013 Comprehensive Bridge Rehabilitation Project

In September 2011, the Chicago Department of Transportation began construction for a comprehensive rehabilitation of this bridge. The official project website is located here. Another bonus of this project is that the contract includes preservation for the adjacent historic railroad bridge. Although abandoned, the railroad bridge is significant as a designated Chicago Landmark. Some of the highlights of the project's scope of work include the following:

Torrence Avenue Bridge

As of December 2012, the project was still ongoing. The bridge has been repainted, and as might be expected, the white paint has been replaced by the maroon paint that the city uses on nearly all of its bridges. The railroad bridge has actually played a major role in the rehabilitation of the highway bridge. The deck of the railroad bridge was converted to allow construction traffic to use the bridge. Also, walkways were added allowing workers to access the highway bridge from the railroad bridge. Concrete barriers were piled up on the highway bridge counterweights to keep the bridge weight in balance during construction. A visit to the bridge in June 2013 found the bridge open to traffic with rehabilitation mostly complete. Some minor items appeared to remain incomplete, such as the painting of some new truss members.

Engineering firms involved with the rehabilitation include Collins Engineers Inc., STV Inc., Enspect Inc., Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc. Contractors involved with the rehabilitation include F.H.Paschen, S.N Nielsen, Metropolitan Steel Inc., Divane Bros. Electric Co., and Walbridge

Temporary Torrence Avenue Bridge During ConstructionTemporary Torrence Avenue Bridge During Construction

Above: A temporary multi-span structure that included a fixed pony truss span and what appears to be a bobtail pony truss swing bridge was put in place for traffic to use while the vertical lift bridge was constructed.

The previous and first documented bridge at this location was built in 1905 by Jackson and Corbett and was a hand-operated wooden bridge. It was a pontoon type bridge.

Main Plaque

TORRENCE AVE. BRIDGE
FEDERAL EMERGENCY ADMINISTRATION
OF PUBLIC WORKS
PROJECT NO 9625X

CITY OF CHICAGO
1936

EDWARD J. KELLY
MAYOR

OSCAR E. HEWITT
COMMISSIONER OF PUBLIC WORKS

JOHN P. WILSON
DEPUTY COMMISSIONER OF PUBLIC WORKS

LORAN D. GAYTON
ACTING CITY ENGINEER

THOMAS G. PIHLFELDT
ENGINEER OF BRIDGES

CLARENCE S. ROWE
ENG. OF BRIDGE CONSTRUCTION
DONALD N. BECKER
ENGINEER OF BRIDGE DESIGN

CARL O. JOHNSON
RESIDENT ENGINEER

A. A. SPRAGUE

MICHAEL ZIMMER
CHAIRMAN

JOHN WENTWORTH
VICE-CHAIRMEN
HUGH E. YOUNG CHIEF ENGINEER

CONTRACTORS

MACKIE - THOMPSON - TAMM - INC.

GREAT LAKES DREDGE & DOCK CO.

CENTRAL STATES ELECT'L CONST. CO.

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Historic Bridges of Chicago and Cook County

Flag of Chicago Seal of Cook County

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.

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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Photo Galleries and Videos: Torrence Avenue Calumet River Bridge

 
View Photo Gallery
Pre-2013 Bridge Photo-Documentation
Original / Full Size Photos
A collection of overview and detail photos taken before and during the bridge's rehabilitation in 2012. This gallery offers photos in the highest available resolution and file size in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer
View Photo Gallery
Pre-2013 Bridge Photo-Documentation
Mobile Optimized Photos
A collection of overview and detail photos taken before and during the bridge's rehabilitation in 2012. This gallery features data-friendly, fast-loading photos in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer
View Photo Gallery
2013 Bridge Photo-Documentation
Original / Full Size Photos
A collection of overview and detail photos taken when the bridge's rehabilitation was nearly complete. Includes photos of the main bridge plaque. This gallery offers photos in the highest available resolution and file size in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer
View Photo Gallery
2013 Bridge Photo-Documentation
Mobile Optimized Photos
A collection of overview and detail photos taken when the bridge's rehabilitation was nearly complete. Includes photos of the main bridge plaque. This gallery features data-friendly, fast-loading photos in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer
View Video
Bridge Being Lowered
Full Motion Video
Note: Bridge was only raised partially because this provided enough clearance for the barge. Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.
View Video
Passing Under Bridge
Full Motion Video
Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.

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