Sunday, February 19, 2017

Chicago's Bridge to Nowhere?

It was not a mistake made by highway builders, nor was it ever intended to be a bridge. This structure was actually built as a test track for experimental mobile radar units on Grand and Normandy Avenues in Chicago. Western Electric built it in 1943 to test and tweak their mobile radar equipment, which was new cutting-edge technology.
1960
The area around Grand Avenue and Fullerton is the highest point in Chicago which is located on a natural ridge. The location was few blocks away from where Thunder Mountain, Chicago’s only ski resort chose to build on it in 1967. The high elevation and 40 foot above ground track kept the equipment clear from ground echoes.

Mobile radar units would be driven up a wooden ramp to get onto the track. Airplanes from Glenview Naval Air Station would fly over the track allowing the radar units to collect data. Later, the Navy would evaluate the data and the equipment’s efficiency.

Radar was at the time a new technology that wound up being crucial to American success in World War II. The track was used throughout WWII and the Korean War being crucial to American's military success.
1975
After the wooden ramp was removed, the track sat unused for more than 40 years because it was too costly to demolish it. Finally, in the 1990s, it was razed to build a new strip mall.

By WTTW
Edited by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

10 comments:

  1. Sometimes, a "bridge to nowhere" is just that. Other times, the bridge leads to SOMEWHERE, yet for whatever reason, we neither see the source or destination at first glance. This is one such circumstance. Other times yet, the bridge did such a good job connecting its distant points that progress has passed it by, leaving the bridge as an "artifact" to confuse future generations.

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  2. Do you have a better ID of where this was - an intersection - and the direction we're looking in these two photographs?

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  3. Grand & Oak Park.
    Northeast.

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    Replies
    1. Google the area, it was in the south end of what is now the Menards parking lot.

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    2. I think the store is Home Depot rather than Menards.

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  4. It was on the north side of Grand Avenue about 2 blocks east of Oak Park Avenue.

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  5. We used to pass by on the way to / from my grandparents house. I remember seeing the radar units on top ... didn't know they were mobile units. I think Ridgeland Ave (Oak Park) was named for the natural ridge (Lake Chicago?) although in Chicago we knew it as Narragansett Ave and the great hill in Riss park

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  6. They also track the
    carrier landing in the lake for the navy

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  7. Edit: There is currently an Applebee's restaurant right where this was once stood. I grew up at Grand and Narragansett. My father served for 2 years in the Korean War and studied radio and TV technology. He told me year's ago there was a direct line to either the White House or the Pentagon from this radar station.

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