1920: Chicago Gets a New Bridge

May 14, 1920

The Michigan Avenue Bridge, which spans the main stem of the Chicago River in downtown Chicago, was officially opened. This structure is widely believed to have been the first double-deck bridge built with roadway on both levels – the upper level for automobiles, the lower level for heavy commercial vehicles. In addition, the bridge was part of an ambitious plan to connect Chicago’s south side and north side parks with a grand boulevard. 

The dedication ceremony on that sunny Friday afternoon began at four o’clock, with Chicago Mayor William Hale “Big Bill” Thompson cutting the ribbon to open the bridge’s upper level. (Workers were still laboring away even during that time on the still-uncompleted lower level.) The flamboyant Thompson then doffed his cowboy hat, fireworks were shot up into the sky, airplanes dropped confetti and promotional literature on the crowds in attendance, boats there in the river sounded their whistles, and a band played The Star-Spangled Banner. There were also about 10,000 decorated automobiles that paraded across that now-open level. 

Construction on the Michigan Avenue Bridge had started in 1918. Its designer was Edward H. Bennett, who sought to come up with something that rivaled the Seine River bridges in Paris, France, in majesty and aesthetic appeal.

That Chicago-based bridge has become one of the city’s architectural landmarks. It is also a leading example of Chicago’s fixed-trunnion bridges (a type of moveable bridge that rotates around a large axle in order to be raised). The bridge has also proven to be beneficial to Chicago’s central business district and its downtown tourism economy. While still popularly called the Michigan Avenue Bridge, it was officially renamed the DuSable Bridge in 2010 in honor of Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, Chicago’s first permanent resident.

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on the Michigan Avenue Bridge (now formally known as the DuSable Bridge), please check out DuSable Bridge – Wikipedia

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