Friday, December 13, 2019

Chicago's Lincoln Park High Bridge called "Suicide Bridge" History.

In 1894, an iron high bridge – 75 feet above the water – was erected as a sight-seeing bridge over the lagoon that runs along Lake Shore Drive.
On a clear day, you could see the Union Stockyards and Jackson Park from the bridge.
It attracted plenty of weirdos – one elderly woman was known to go there daily to get as drunk as humanly possible. Another man would often go to whistle at the moon in a strange, eerie tone that scared the heck out of the cops. But it became most famous as a place to commit suicide. By 1900, kids around Chicago were superstitious about it, telling friends to “stay away from suicide bridge.”
In 1898, police officers who patrolled Lincoln Park at night had plenty of stories about running into ghosts while making their rounds. However, it doesn’t seem to have occurred to them to blame the fact that the park had been a cemetery in recent memory (and still had plenty of bodies buried below the ground). In fact, it was generally agreed that the ghosts were the unfortunate who had ended their life at Suicide Bridge.
No one knows how many people ended their lives with a leap from the bridge before it was closed, but it was probably between 50 and 100 (the number who came intending to jump but didn’t (or survived) was estimated as being in the hundreds). It was so popular a destination for suicide that even people NOT seeking to die by drowning came to the bridge – one man hanged himself from the edge, another went there to shoot himself, and many people killed themselves by taking poison on the bridge.
So renowned was the bridge that it was even named 'suicide bridge' on postcards.
In 1916, amateur movie-makers shot a chase scene on the bridge. The characters were to fall from the bridge, but a stunt man they hired refused to jump, saying the water below was too shallow. The amateur actors decided to do it themselves, and both survived.
High Bridge looking South towards Downtown Chicago.
Newspapers came up with wild headlines about it, including:
  • Policeman Spoils a Suicide: Interferes When Fascinated Crowd in Lincoln Park is Waiting for Man to Kill Self.
  • Doom High Suicide Bridge: Lincoln Park Commissioners to Spoil Convenience for Those Contemplating Self-Destruction (note: this was in 1909, and nothing appears to have come of it. When it was closed a decade later, it was due to poor condition).
  • Jumps from Bridge To Lagoon: Says he Tried Suicide for Fun.
The Park District became greatly concerned and talked about fencing the bridge over or tearing it down. It survived until November 1, 1919, when the old iron bridge removal was started by the American House Wrecking Company. The reason the bridge was removed wasn't to avoid citizen suicides but because of the bridge's poor condition. By then, the bridge became so rusty that anyone going across it risked their lives.

The Lagoon was much larger, as you can see in the pictures above. Its natural shoreline was a water inlet from Lake Michigan. Lincoln Park and the Lagoon were redesigned as a part of the 1935 WPA[1] project, which was completed in 1941.
Today's Lincoln Park Lagoon's Pedestrian Bridge.
Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

[1] The Works Progress Administration (WPA), renamed in 1939 as the Work Projects Administration, was an American New Deal agency employing millions of job-seekers (mostly unskilled men) to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads.


  1. Kind of a shame - I'll bet it was quite striking in its' day.

  2. The photos make the bridge appear to be huge. As well as the width of the Lagoon at that point. Yet the Suicide Bridge also appears to have been where the current bridge is, and the current bridge doesn't look as imposing, nor does the width of The Lagoon. Could the Lagoon have been larger back then? Seems as if it must have been.

  3. Sad that it became a place of sadness and death. Looks much prettier today.

  4. Thanks Neil, interesting piece of Chicago history.

  5. This 1899 map of Lincoln Park shows the bridge further east of the pond, over a long lagoon.


The Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal™ is RATED PG-13. Please comment accordingly. Advertisements, spammers and scammers will be removed.