This bridge is commonly known as the Michigan Avenue Bridge, but officially renamed the DuSable Bridge in October 2010, to honor Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable. DuSable was the first non-native settler in Chicago.
Connecting the downtown Loop to the Magnificent Mile, this is essentially the "Main Street Bridge" of Chicago, since it carries a busy roadway including as many as 30,000 pedestrians daily, and has been decorated to give it the feel of a gateway bridge. It is the most well-known of the Chicago bascule bridges. The composition of the trusses are comparable to other bridges in the city, except that this bridge is one of the uncommon common double-deck bridges in the city. The decorations such as the bridge-tender towers on this bridge, and the plaques on the bridge also set this aside from other Chicago bridges. The city has furthered this bridge's unique appearance by flying various flags on the bridge as well.
Most recently, the city of Chicago demonstrated not only their commitment to maintain this landmark historic bridge, but to restore and increase the historic integrity and beauty of the bridge in a unique restoration project executed in 2009. This project actually removed the modern and relatively mundane pedestrian railings on the bridge and placed replicas of the original ornate railings that were present when the bridge was built and had been replaced some years ago. The project has dramatically increased the historic appearance and beauty of the bridge. The project is significant because often railings are ignored during bridge preservation projects. However, the truth is railings are often play a significant role in the aesthetic quality of a historic bridge. Chicago has recognized this and set an example of other owners of historic bridges to follow.
The southwest bridgetender house of this bridge contains the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum. With an entry fee of only four dollars, this small museum offers a history of the bridge and the Chicago River, but perhaps one of the most exciting parts of the museum is that they have opened up a viewing area to the public where you can view the motors, breaks, trunnion, and other mechanical parts of the movable bridge that are normally hidden and restricted from the view of the public. Some of the original electrical equipment that was saved from a previous renovation project is on display here as well.
From a distance this bridge looks square like the Wells Street Bridge, but if you walk on the lower sidewalk, you will note the bottom chord is arched a bit, and rises above the sidewalk at the middle of the span. Its truss design is more like Ohio Street.
The Michigan Avenue Bridge was constructed as two parallel bridges, and could actually be lifted independently of each other. If you are on the lower level or on the Chicago Riverwalk which runs under the bridge, you can see how there are two trusses at the center of the bridge, and can thus visualize how the bridge is really two bridges side by side.
An unusual random trivia for this bridge is that in the 1920s, the city installed rubber tile pavement as an experimental surface type.
Both the substructure and superstructure for this bridge was built by the Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company. This is somewhat unusual, since a lot of Chicago's bascule bridges had separate contractors for superstructure, substructure, and electrical work. Great Lakes Dredge and Dock was a frequent contractor for the substructures of bascule bridges in Chicago. This is an unusual case where the company also erected the superstructure. Formed in 1890 as Lydon and Drews Company, the company changed its name to Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company in 1905. A local advertisement from that period shows that by that time the company had acquired several other companies. The company survives today and does work around the world according to the company's website.
Information and Findings From Chicago Landmarks Designation
Address: Chicago River, between Michigan and Wabash
Raised and educated in Chicago, Daniel Hudson
Burnham (1846-1912) gained his early architectural experience with
William Le Baron Jenney, the so-called "father of the skyscraper." In
1873, Burnham formed a partnership with John Wellborn Root (1850-1891)
that produced such commissions as the Kent House, Masonic Temple
(demolished), Monadnock Building, Reliance, Rookery, St. Gabriel's
Church, and the Union Stock Yard Gate.
This Bridge Is A Designated Chicago Landmark
Above: The infamous Rush Street Bridge, the predecessor to the Michigan Avenue Bridge. Located a short distance west of Michigan Avenue, Rush Street and its bridge were an extremely busy bottleneck for Chicago. The extent of this bottleneck can be seen in two of the above photos, where what could only be described as a horse and buggy traffic jam is visible. Although the statements validity cannot be verified, one photo caption describes the bridge as "the most crowded vehicular bridge in the world." What was certainly true however, was the need for the Michigan Avenue Bridge.
Above: This photo shows an earlier Rush Street swing bridge that preceded the final Rush Street swing bridge. This earlier bridge, the first at this crossing noted in the Annual Reports of the Department of Public Works, was built in 1856, and was described as an "all iron bridge." As such, this bridge would have been among the earliest iron bridges built in the United States. The bridge was 211 feet in length. The hand-turned swing bridge was built by contractors Harper and Tweedale for $54, 000. An Annual Report of the Department of Public Works described the bridge as the "First iron bridge of the West." This was the first bridge to move beyond the simple wooden bridges built previously in Chicago. From this point forward, bridges tended to be built of either metal or a combination of metal and wood. However, for the next several decades, the bridges built, while an improvement over earlier bridges, still lacked a detailed structural and traffic analysis and tended to have a relatively limited service life. The 1856 Rush Street Bridge was rebuilt in 1864 by Fox and Howard, destroyed in the fire of 1871, and replaced in 1872 by another iron swing bridge, built by the Detroit Bridge Company. The bridge was 211 feet in length and 33 feet wide. This bridge was destroyed in a collision with the Schooner Granger on November 22, 1883. In 1884, a third iron swing bridge was built, this time by Rust and Coolidge, and the bridge was 240 feet long with a width of 59 feet.
Bridge Tender House Sculptures
Above: Scale models of the bridge tender houses were created during the design of this bridge. As is clear from the photos of two models created, the final design of the sculptures ended up being different than those seen on the models.
Below: In 1908, Albert Scherzer proposed the below "artistic" design for a Michigan Avenue Bridge. He got inspiration for the design from Pont Alexandre III in Paris, France, which had been completed in 1900.
Below: Joseph Strauss proposed the below extravagant design for a Michigan Avenue Bridge in 1913. The appearance of the bridge appears to be somewhat inspired by the Tower Bridge in London, England. The bridge was described in The American City as follows:
"The design illustrated herewith shows a form of movable bridge which has been proposed by the Strauss Bascule Bridge Company for the span to be built across the Chicago River at Michigan Avenue, Chicago, connecting the North and South Side Boulevards. It is of the vertical lift form, having neither cables nor chains, the counterbalancing being effected through levers which form a part of the suspension trusses from which the span and the load it carries are hung."
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.
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.
This bridge is tagged with the following special condition(s): Double-Deck and Unorganized Photos
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