Jackson Boulevard Bridge marks 100th birthday

Jackson Boulevard Bridge, Chicago

The Jackson Boulevard Bridge in Chicago, which carried Route 66 until the 1950s, marks the 100th anniversary of its opening today.

The North Loop News dug up history on the draw bridge over the Chicago River, which still is used today.

— The bridge replaced a swing bridge built in 1888. A photo of it may be seen here.

— It’s the sole surviving bridge built by the Sanitary District of Chicago. Chicago’s Department of Public Works also joined in the building effort.

— The dedication lacked the usual pomp. The Chicago Daily Tribune reported the next day: “An automobile loaded with Sanitary District trustees and engineers shot across the new Jackson Boulevard Bridge a few minutes after two o’clock yesterday afternoon, and thereby the new structure was formally dedicated.”

— In its first full year, the Jackson Boulevard Bridge was raised about 3,000 times. Today the bridge is raised about 40 times per year — mostly for sailboats.

— Strauss Bascule Bridge Co., led by Joseph Strauss, was the consulting engineering firm for the bridge. Strauss is better known as chief engineer on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Franciso. Apparently Strauss’ company designed their bridges to last.

— The bridge had a lot more aesthetics compared to predecessors. It was designed so the mechanical parts couldn’t be easily seen, and bridge houses for the operators were much nicer and more ornate.

— The newspaper said pedestrians now often outnumber vehicles in daily crossings.

— According to the HistoricBridges.org site, the bridge was rehabbed in 1993. It became a part of Route 66 in 1933. Strangely, it appears it is not on the National Register of Historic Places, although it’s more than eligible.

(Image of the Jackson Boulevard Bridge in Chicago by Wally Gobetz via Flickr)

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