Looking at this bridge's trusses you might not guess that this is one of Chicago's newer bridges, with a 1963 construction date. Having a truss construction, complete with rivets and built-up beams with lattice and v-lacing, it certainly does not look like a 1960s bridge. V-lacing was not commonly used by this time, and rivets were beginning to fall to bolts in bridge construction as well. The single bridgetender building, which is much more simple in appearance than the ornate towers for many of the older Chicago bridges, is the only obvious hint that this bridge is newer, aside from the bridge plaque listing the construction date.
The reality is that Chicago's unique railing height truss design which raised a deck truss up above the deck slightly like a pony truss worked so well and was also seen as an aesthetically pleasing design that the city used it for a period of over 40 years of bridge building. Indeed, this 1963 bridge's trusses are very similar to the bridges of this style built in the 1920s. Compare this bridge to the nearby Wabash Avenue Bridge, constructed three decades earlier, in 1930. The unique truss design that Chicago developed is called the railing height truss because the trusses rise above the deck just high enough to also function as railings.
Today, there are a number of bridges in Chicago that display the railing height truss design, and they are all attractive structures, however the older examples display more ornate bridge tender houses. There are three railing height trusses, including the Dearborn Street Bridge, that are located one right after another on this section of the river. Of those three, this is the newest.
Reportedly, the prolific American Bridge Company of New York, New York was involved with this bridge. If so, they likely fabricated the steel trusses. The Annual Report of Public Works listed the low bidders for the actual on-site construction. States Improvement Company won the bid for the substructure with a bid of $1,162,050. Overland Construction Company had a low bid of $2,685,134 for the superstructure. The electrical contract was awarded to the Garden City Engineering Company on a bid of $630,992. The total cost was $6,800,000.
The bridge opened to traffic on October 27, 1963. According to the Annual Report of the Department of Public Works for 1963, this bridge, which won an award from the American Institute of Steel Construction for its beauty, was designed to have a clean, modern look. Some of the aesthetic considerations mentioned included the all-welded steel covers at the end of the bridge, intended to have a sculpture-like look. Also, the sidewalk cantilevers were hidden by way of fascia covers.
The first movable bridge in Chicago was built at this location in 1834. Ironically, this bridge had leaves that opened like a bascule bridge, although it would be decades later before Chicago again returned to a bascule style of bridge for its movable bridge needs. According to the Annual Report of the Department of Public Works, the double leaves of this first bridge were raised by iron chains passed over towers on landward ends. Timber for the bridge was cut from around nearby Michigan Avenue. Despite the bascule-like design, this bridge was so small it was a severe obstruction to boats and was hit often. The bridge was about 300 feet long with a 60 foot span for boats. Trying to rid the city of this obstruction, local citizens were still unable to get the bridge tore down through official means. They decided to take the matter into their own hands and formed a ax-wielding mob that proceeded to literally chop the bridge down, bringing an end to Chicago's first movable bridge. A bridge did not exist at this location again until 1888 when the old Wells Street Bridge (an iron swing bridge dating to 1872 and built by Fox and Howard) was moved to this location here at Dearborn Street. This relocation took place so that a double-deck swing bridge at Wells Street could be built. The relocated bridge served at Dearborn Street until 1907 when a Scherzer Rolling Lift bascule bridge was built.
Above: The previous bridge at this location was a Scherzer Rolling Lift bascule bridge built by the Scherzer Rolling Lift Bridge Company. George W. Jackson Inc., a prominent Chicago contractor, was a contractor for the bridge.
Above: Frank Montgomery and Company was a company run by Frank M. Montgomery, who was an engineer and contractor who worked under Scherzer Rolling Lift Bridge Company to builder Scherzer bridges in the Chicago area, including the previous Dearborn Street Bridge at this location.
Main PlaqueN. DEARBORN STREET BRIDGE
FOURTH AT THIS SITE
CITY OF CHICAGO
RICHARD J. DALEY
GEORGE L. DEMENT
Commissioner of Public Works
DICK VAN GORP
STEPHEN J. MICHUDA
Chief Bridge Engineer
Engineer of Bridge Constr.
First Movable Bridge PlaqueCHICAGO'S FIRST MOVABLE BRIDGE WAS CONSTRUCTED AT
THIS SITE IN 1834. THE TIMBER SPAN PROVIDED ONLY A
60 FOOT OPENING FOR THE PASSAGE OF VESSELS. SO
DANGEROUS TO SHIPS WAS THIS NARROW DRAW, THAT THE
BRIDGE WAS ORDERED REMOVED BY THE COUNCIL IN 1839.
THE PRESENT BRIDGE IS THE FOURTH AT THIS SITE.
AISC PlaqueMOST BEAUTIFUL STEEL BRIDGE
AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF STEEL CONSTRUCTION
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