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Sheel Shots: Happy 85th Anniversary, Adams St. Bridge!
Posted by Tasha Weiss on August 24, 2012 at 5:00 PM.


Opened on August 26, 1927, Chicago’s Adams St. Bridge carries thousands of pedestrians and vehicles daily over the Chicago River. This historic deck truss bridge is also raised about 40 times annually to accommodate the spring and fall migrations of sail boats to and from Lake Michigan. Photo: Courtesy of


This Sunday marks 85 years of service for Chicago’s Adams St. Bridge. Opened on August 26, 1927, the dedication of the new fixed trunnion bascule bridge was cause for celebration. The bridge had been under construction since 1923 and replaced the last of a series of swing bridges used at this location since about 1869.


“Nearly 1,000 boats and cars joined in a parade from Grant Park preceding the ceremony and a crowd of 5,000 watched the ribbon-clipping and cheered the speeches of Mayor Thompson, Commissioner of Public Works Wolfe and Deputy Commissioner Edward F. Moore.” This was the description printed in the August 27, 1927 edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune.


After the dedication of the bridge, the city’s famous Buckingham Fountain was dedicated in a ceremony that evening.


The Adams Sadmp1-12.jpgt. Bridge was one of 12 downtown bridges built between 1913 and 1930. For bridge design, this era was significantly influenced by the 1909 Plan of Chicago, which included Beaux Arts architecture and the placement of all bridge support below the deck, giving unobstructed views of the city from the bridge. The bridge at Adams St. and its neighbor at Jackson Blvd. are the only two single deck bridges that represented the plan’s “ideal” downtown river bridge.


The key players in the design and construction of the Adams St. Bridge were Donald N. Becker, the design engineer, and Edward H. Bennett, the consulting architect. The Fitzsimmons & Connell Dredge & Dock Co. were responsible for the substructure, and Strobel Steel Construction Co. erected the superstructure.


adams_bridge_steelshot_500.jpgDue to commercial traffic on the river at the time, the bridge was raised approximately 1,500 times in its first year of service. During the mid to late 20th century, the nature of the Chicago River traffic transitioned from heavier commercial traffic to recreational traffic. Today, the bridge’s 40 or so annual bridge lifts accommodate the spring and fall migrations of sail boats to and from Lake Michigan. In total, the bridge has been raised approximately 34,000 times in its 85 years of service.


The Adams St. Bridge eventually became part of Route 66, the storied highway that began at the city’s Michigan Ave./Jackson Blvd. intersection in 1926. When Jackson Blvd. became an eastbound only street in 1955, Adams St. became the westbound section from Michigan Ave. to Ogden Ave. through the Chicago Loop.


The proximity of the bridge to Chicago’s bustling Union Station makes it a busy route for approximately 33,000 pedestrians making the daily trek to and from commuter trains and work. An estimated 9,300 vehicles also cross this bridge daily.


For more information about the Adams St. Bridge, contact Jim Phillips (who provided this commentary) at 312.540.0696 or visit his website. There you’ll find additional photos and videos about the bridge, as well as engineering drawings. At the website’s left-hand column you’ll also find multi-media pages for other Chicago Loop bridges.

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