Saturday, November 02, 2013

SATURDAY - Madison Street Bridge, Chicago

I recently found some neat vintage photos from Chicago with the date "9-13-51" helpfully written on them. They show one of the famous bridges that cross the Chicago River, in this case the Madison Street Bridge (renamed the "Lyric Opera Bridge" in honor of the massive opera building that flanks it on the eastern shore). Here is a nice contemporary photo, found on This bridge was opened in November of 1922, and like all of the bridges along the Chicago River, it is moveable to allow the passage of large boats (or even sail boats).

Here is the first vintage picture; I am pretty sure that this was taken as the photographer stood facing toward the west - then he turned left to look south toward the open Monroe Street Bridge (which has just allowed a barge to pass through).

As always, I like to try to use Google Maps' "street view" to try to replicate the vintage perspective as closely as possible. But holy moly, there is not a single recognizable landmark anymore. Just glass box after glass box!

The photographer followed the barge's progress as it headed north toward the now-opened Washington  Street Bridge. Back in those days Chicago had a lot more red brick and a lot less glass. Note the building on the left that says "Butler Brothers" (built in 1918) on top....

.... The building is still there today, with an added clock, and now called the "River Center" building. It has been transformed into swanky residential lofts and a multi-tenant office building. I'm glad it somehow survived all these years!


Nanook said...


What a swell set of images. The Madison Street Bridge reminds me of several double-leaf bascule bridges which cross the Ship Canal here in Seattle, all built around the same time.

It can sometimes be a pain if one of the bridges happens to be opening when approaching it in a vehicle. On the other hand, it's kinda fun to be forced to stop the hustle and bustle of driving and enjoy the simplicity of its action as it allows boats to pass beneath its deck trusses.

Thanks, Major.

K. Martinez said...

I love vintage Chicago. There's a lot of awesome architecture in that city.

Melissa said...

Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I just got some even better vintage Chicago images, so stay tuned for those! I love those moving bridges, there's something so cool about them. Plus they make for a cool getaway in movies!

K. Martinez, yep, it is a great town.

Melissa, I think your poem is about Oxnard, California, but nice try. :-)

Chiana_Chat said...

The Florshelm building in the top pic still looks "modern."

Joe S. said...

These are some really neat Chicago photos. The top photo is interesting. Towards the left, you can see the old Chicago post office which is constructed over the south leads to Union Station. Then, you see the old Union Union station passenger concourse which was demolished in the late 60s/early 70s. Just to the west of that, is the Union Station building which still exists. On the far right of the photo, you can see the North end of the Union station leads which are now completely covered by buildings. It also appears both the Adams and Monroe bridges still have the hoops for holding the trolley wire for streetcars.

In the second photo, there are also no buildings over the tracks and you can see some Milwaukee Road passenger cars sitting there.