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Washington Boulevard Bridge

Washington Boulevard Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: August 12, 2006, 2010-2013

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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Washington Boulevard Over South Branch Chicago River
Chicago: Cook County, Illinois: United States
Structure Type
Metal Rivet-Connected Pratt Pony Truss, Movable: Double Leaf Bascule (Fixed Trunnion) and Approach Spans: Metal Stringer (Multi-Beam), Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1913 By Builder/Contractor: Strobel Steel Construction Company of Chicago, Illinois and Engineer/Design: City of Chicago

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
197 Feet (60 Meters)
Structure Length
304 Feet (93 Meters)
Roadway Width
36 Feet (10.97 Meters)
1 Main Span(s) and 3 Approach Span(s)
NBI Number

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
View Information About HSR Ratings

Bridge Documentation

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

View Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) Documentation For This Bridge

HAER Data Pages, PDF

View A Historical Article About This Bridge and Contractor Fitzsimons and Connell Dredge and Dock Company

View Details On A Failed Attempt To Appeal A Lawsuit Relating To This Bridge Design

This bridge celebrates its 100th Anniversary on May 26, 2013! Click Here To View A Commemoration Article By ChicagoLoopBridges.com! (Alternate PDF Format)

Washington Boulevard Bridge

Overview of Bridge

This bridge is an example of the oldest design of the trunnion bascule bridges that employ a pony truss design for the superstructure. As such, this bridge is similar to bridges like the Chicago Avenue Bridge. This bridge design was developed by the  Chicago Bureau of Engineering and represents the transition from the lighter-weight and less streamlined designs toward the smoother and more massive designs seen bridge bridges like on Clark Street. It also represents the abandonment of the earliest bascule bridge design which was a through truss. For this reason, this bridge design is known as the "second generation" Chicago bascule bridge design. The bridge tender buildings for this particular bridge are unique and interesting, but are modified from the original design. Based on original plans for this bridge, the bridge today is missing decorative finials that were mounted on top of the trusses at various panel points.

Washington Boulevard Bridge Machinery Room

The substructure of this bridge had to be carefully designed to straddle a subway tunnel that existed under the bridge when it was built. The substructure contractor for the bridge was the FitzSimons and Connell Dredge and Dock Company of Chicago and the superstructure contractor was the Strobel Steel Construction Company of Chicago.

The first bridge at this location was an 1875 iron swing bridge built by the American Bridge Company of Chicago and was 157 feet long and 31.5 feet wide. This bridge was replaced in 1891 when the former Madison Street Bridge was moved to this location. At this time, Washington Boulevard was called Washington Street.

Washington Boulevard Bridge Raised

100th Anniversary

This bridge was completed and opened on May 26, 1913. It celebrates its 100th Anniversary in 2013, a significant achievement that deserves to be recognized. Despite its age, the bridge remains in decent structural condition and is more than sufficient for the traffic it carries today. Click here to view a commemoration article by ChicagoLoopBridges.com. (Alternate PDF Format)

A Source of Conflict

This bridge is one of a number of bridges that the city of Chicago designed and built that resulted in a lawsuit by famous bridge engineer Joseph Strauss of the Strauss Bascule Bridge Company. The Washington Boulevard Bridge was specifically mentioned by Joseph Strauss in a presentation he gave where he discussed the similarities between his patent and the Chicago city design. The lawsuit centered around similarities in how the city supported its trunnions to the patented Strauss design. The diagram below, produced by Strauss, was intended to illustrate these similarities.

Washington Boulevard Bridge Diagram

Washington Boulevard Bridge


Historic Bridges of Chicago and Cook County

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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.


Photo Galleries and Videos: Washington Boulevard Bridge

View Photo Gallery
Bridge Photo-Documentation
Original / Full Size Photos
A collection of overview and detail photos. 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
Bridge Photo-Documentation
Mobile Optimized Photos
A collection of overview and detail photos. This gallery features data-friendly, fast-loading photos in a touch-friendly popup viewer. Alternatively, Browse Without Using Viewer
View Video
Raising The Bridge, Elevation
Full Motion Video
Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.
View Video
Lowering The Bridge, Portal View
Full Motion Video
Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.
View Video
Raising The Bridge, Elevation
Full Motion Video
Note: A considerable pause in the lift process occurs after the eastern leaf is raised slightly. 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.


Maps and Links: Washington Boulevard Bridge

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