This bridge is quite similar to the nearby La Salle Street Bridge. It is somewhat similar to Franklin Street. However, this bridge shares the common trait with La Salle in that the taller ends of the bridges feature more round-shaped ends than Franklin Street. The Grand Avenue Bridge is an example of a bridge from the older "second generation" of bascule bridges that utilizes this same general design, but has a more clunky appearance with less curving of the top chord. The Clark Street Bridge has lost its original ornate railings, unlike the aforementioned Franklin Street and La Salle Street bridges. Clark, Franklin and La Salle Street Bridges are perhaps the three most aesthetically pleasing examples of the pony truss bascule bridge in Chicago. The unusual, eye-catching shape that the trusses form is made truly beautiful with the graceful curve of the top chord, and the bridge tender houses for these bridges are among the more ornate and well-preserved examples in Chicago.
Chicago did a wonderful job replicating the original railings on the Michigan Avenue Bridge, and HistoricBridges.org suggests that the Clark Street Bridge's railings should be replicated in the same way (albeit using the different railing style that was outlined for Clark Street), since aside from the loss of these railings, the bridge has excellent historic integrity and this already beautiful bridge would once again be truly stunning with the ornate railings back in place.
The Clark Street Bridge was built in 1929. The contractors for the bridge are listed on the plaque, and include Fitzsimons and Connell Dredge and Dock Company (who constructed the substructure), Ketler-Elliot Company (who constructed the superstructure), Norwood-Noonan Company (who installed electrical equipment) and M. J. Boyle and Company (whose role is not mentioned on the plaque, nor in the 1930 Annual Report of the Public Works Department).
Another plaque near the bridge reads "Project Completed 1931," suggesting that some part of the bridge or something near the bridge did not get done in 1929 and took a couple more years to finish.
The first documented bridge at this location was built in 1840 and was a floating bridge. It was destroyed in an icy flood in 1849. Floods were not the only problem encountered at this time. The city had been having trouble with bridge tenders as well as the general regulation of bridges. In April 1847, the city passed an ordinance prohibiting teams from stopping on or within 40 feet of a bridge. To address complaints about slow and inconsiderate bridge tenders, in 1852, bridge tenders were put under $500 bonds "for the faithful performance of their duties." By ordinance in January 13, 1854 bridge tenders were actually elevated to the status of "special policemen" and their bonds were increased to $2000. Bridge tenders were required to operate bridges as efficiently as possible.
The 1840 bridge was rebuilt in 1857 by Chapin and Company. It was again listed as rebuilt in 1866, but this time was listed as a iron and wood combination bridge, with Thomas Mackin as the contractor. The bridge later burned in the 1871 fire. It was replaced in 1872 by a wood and iron bridge built by Fox and Howard. In 1889, this bridge was moved to Webster Avenue, allowing for yet another Clark Street Bridge to be built in that same year, this time a steel swing bridge by the Variety Iron Works (presumably the bridge company based in Cleveland).
Above: James Simpson was the Chair of the Chicago Plan Commission. Albert A. Sprague was the Vice-Chairman of the Chicago Plan Commission when construction of this bridge began, and became Commissioner of Public Works by the time this bridge was completed. Click on his photo to view an enlarged image that also includes a short biography.
Main PlaqueN. CLARK ST. BRIDGE
CITY OF CHICAGO
WM. HALE THOMPSON
RICHARD W. WOLFE
COMMISSIONER OF PUBLIC WORKS
CHICAGO PLAN COMMISSION
HUGH E. YOUNG, CHIEF ENGINEER
FITZSIMONS & CONNELL DREDGE & DOCK CO.
M. J. BOYLE & CO.
Bridge Completion PlaquePROJECT COMPLETED
ANTON J. CERMAK
ALBERT A. SPRAGUE
COMMISSIONER OF PUBLIC WORKS
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