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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Chicago: 1900

Chicago: 1900

Chicago circa 1900. "12th Street Bascule Bridge." Dinosaurs of the Carboniferous Period. Detroit Publishing Company glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Those bridges

The two bridges shown prominently are long gone. They did provide access to Grand Central Station but were removed when the South Branch of the Chicago River was straightened in the 1920s. The railroad built a single leaf bascule bridge to replace the double bridge a few blocks to the south. That bridge is seen in the "today's view" and "I used to live there" photos. It is the one that is up.

Chicago Drainage Canal

At the time of this picture, Chicago had recently reversed the flow of the Chicago River. Previously, the river and all of Chicago's sewage flowed into Lake Michigan, which is also where Chicago got its drinking water. A drainage canal was dug (some claim that more material was moved in the excavation of this canal than during construction of the Panama Canal). The drainage canal, along with a system of locks, caused the Chicago River to flow downward through the Des Plaines and Illinois River systems to the Mississippi. It was an incredible achievement, but maybe not so good for the people and fisheries downstream.

Over the River

The bridges in this area were all taken down and rebuilt between 1919 and 1921 for the straightening of the river.

Hey...I used to live there

So, as far as Chicago's development goes, I would say that this is an area that remains quite similar today. Until a few months ago I lived nearby in East Pilsen and I loved taking pics in the area. Here is a night shot of these same bridges from last winter.

Roosevelt Rd. Bridge

This is the "modern" bridge as it appeared in April 2008, view looking north from the river (click to enlarge):

Dancing About Architecture

My wife and I took a two-hour river cruise sponsored by the Chicago Architecture Foundation a couple of weeks ago while visiting the Windy City. The tour was informative and relaxing and the expert commentary was provided by a docent from the CAF. We passed under several of these bascule bridges. We happened to be there during the Chicago Air Show, so we had the added fun of watching fighter jets and vintage aircraft screaming above the city. I highly reccommend the experience.

More on the CAF's tours and activities:

Goober Pea

Carboniferous Dinosaurs

Couldn't be a more appropriate caption. Not only do we have the steamboat and steam switcher locomotive, but a steam-powered dredge in the background. Impressive!

Bascule Bridges - Zug Island

Actually, one is at Fort Street and the other one is on Jefferson. I think there is one on Dix at the Ford-Rouge Plant, also. There might even be one on Zug Island.

Uh, Dave, Chicago is out of luck -- we're not giving them back!

Re: Today's view

12th Street is today's Roosevelt Road (named for Teddy). I'm not sure if either bridge in the Google view is what you see in background of the photo. The top (north) bridge is no longer in use - it served the old Grand Central Station (B&O and others) at Wells and Harrison until the late 60's/early 70's. Follow the old right-of-way going north and you can still see traces of the platforms. The south(bottom) bridge connects Union Station and the BNSF with the Illinois Central mainline.

Zug Island

Is one of those bridges on Zug Island?

Any kid growing up in Detroit was easily made to study harder by the threat of working on Zug Island. Cruising by it on the Bob-Lo boat was enough to scare a C-student into a B+ student by the end of the cruise.

Bascule Bridge

We have two of those bridges here in Detroit!

[Chicago wants them back right away. Or else. - Dave]

Steamer Weston: R.I.P. 1902

Port Huron Daily Times, September 6, 1902

The little passenger steamer I.M. WESTON which has been engaged in carrying excursionists down the Chicago Drainage Canal to Lockport for several years caught fire in the canal near Summit on Friday and burned to the water's edge. No one was lost.

The I.M. Weston was built in 1883 as a passenger steamer, she later saw use carrying fruit before reverting back to passenger trade. 95 tons gross; 57 tons net.

Bascule Bridges

More on the bascule ("seesaw") design here. These bridges used a system of counterweights to balance the span.

I.M. Weston

Despite being in a canal, there was no smooth sailing for this steamer. The permit for its travels between Chicago and Lockport was revoked for the drunken rowdiness of its passengers.

From Proceedings of the Chicago Sanitary District Board of Trustees. June 4, 1902


Under the head of new business Mr. Braden stated he had been informed that the steamer I.M. Weston plying between this city and Lockport is selling liquors and carrying boisterous crowds on its trips down the Drainage Channel and moved seconded by Mr Jones that the President of the Board be requested to revoke the permit granted said steamer until such time as the proprietors have given assurances that the boat will be properly conducted. The motion prevailed unanimously and it was so ordered.


Daily Excursions. Step right up, buy your ticket to see the effluence.

Now that's marketing!

Daily Excursions to the Drainage Canal! How could anyone resist that?

Drainage Canal

Somehow, a tour of a drainage canal sounds rather disturbing.

Today's view

It looks like this bridge is down, but the 2 in the background are still standing.

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