Saturday, February 29, 2020

The History of Chicago's Michigan Avenue Bridge.

A boulevard to link Chicago's north and south sides was proposed as early as 1891. An early plan called for a tunnel to link Michigan Avenue south of the Chicago River with Pine Street north of the river. 

Pine Street (400 to 999N) was renamed to Lincoln Park Boulevard (600 to 999N) as far south as Ohio Street (600N) when the street connected with Lake Shore Drive in the early 1890s and then became part of Michigan Avenue in 1920 when the Michigan Avenue bridge was completed connecting Michigan Avenue (Michigan Boulevard before the Great Chicago Fire in 1871), south of the Chicago River.

In 1903 an editorial in the Chicago Tribune proposed a new bascule bridge across the Chicago River at Michigan Avenue. Other plans suggested that the bridge should be a replica of the Pont Alexandre III that spans the Seine River in Paris, France, or, rather than constructing an entirely new bridge, the existing Rush Street bridge should be double-decked.
The Pont Alexandre III Bridge, Paris, France.
Plans for the boulevard and the construction of a Michigan Avenue Bridge were further elaborated upon in Daniel Burnham's 1909 Plan of Chicago. In 1911 a plan was selected that included the widening of Michigan Avenue from Randolph Street to the river, replacing the Rush Street bridge with a new bridge at Michigan Avenue and the construction of a double-decked boulevard along Pine Street as far as Ohio Street. 

An ordinance to fund construction was passed in 1913 but was declared void by the Supreme Court of Illinois. A second ordinance was passed in 1914, but legal battles continued until the end of 1916. 
Looking south from the northside of the Chicago River at Michigan Avenue and the Rush Street bridge on the far right. June 1915
The final three lots of real estate necessary for the construction of the Michigan Avenue bridge were secured in 1917.
(1) The city paid $719,532 to the estate of W. F. McLaughlin for a piece of property on the east side of Michigan Avenue fronting the south side of the river. 
(2)
$62,500 went to John S. Miller for a triangular piece of land across Michigan Avenue from the McLaughlin property. 

(3)
$91,760 was paid to Levy Mayer for a small piece of property directly south of the McLaughlin building.
The three real estate lots on the south of the river purchased to build the new Michigan Avenue bridge.
With these three transactions ($13,127,710 today) the city was ready to build the bridge that would change the north side of the city forever. The Rush Street bridge, which was dismantled when the Michigan Avenue bridge was opened, is on the right.
Michigan Avenue Bridge Dedication on May 14, 1920.
Construction finally started on April 15, 1918, and the bridge was officially opened in a ceremony on May 14, 1920. 
The open Michigan Avenue Bridge raised to let ships pass. 1931
On March 28, 1921, the executive committee of the Chicago Plan Commission through its chairman, Charles H. Wacker, issued the following statement:
We are happy to announce to the men and women of Chicago that William Wrigley Jr., has contributed $50,000 towards a fund of $100,000 for a fitting treatment of the four Michigan Avenue bridge houses. This gift is especially generous because Mr. Wrigley, at the request of the Chicago Plan Commission, already has spent an extra $20,000 on the beautification of the entrance to his monumental building. Matching his public spirit, the Ferguson fund trustees have contributed the additional $50,000 for the bridge houses. The site of Fort Dearborn and the spot where stood the first house constructed in Chicago by Jean Baptiste Point du Sable are both represented as reliefs on the bridge houses.
Looking North at the Michigan Avenue Bridge. 1948
The bridge was officially renamed the "DuSable Bridge" in October 2010, to honor Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable (the "du" of Point du Sable is a misnomer. It is an American corruption of "de" as pronounced in French. "du Sable" first appears long after his death). Du Sable was the first black, non-native settler in Chicago.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

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