Chicago’s Lake Street Bridge Celebrates Centennial

(Photo courtesy of Chicago Loop Bridges) 

Yesterday marked 100 years of service for Chicago’s Lake Street Bridge — the world’s first double-deck, double-leaf bascule bridge. Opened on November 6, 1916, the bridge spans the south branch of the Chicago River at West Lake Street and carries around 4,000 pedestrians, 14,500 cars and more than 500 trains every day. It is also raised about 40 times each year for seasonable sailboat runs.

The current bridge replaced a double-deck center pier swing bridge. In the late 1800s, swing bridges in Chicago had been identified as obstructions to navigation, and the U.S. War Department ordered them to be removed. (Replacing the swing bridges was a decades-long process. The last swing bridge in Chicago’s “Loop” central business district was removed at Clark St. in 1929.) Construction of the new bridge began in 1914. A panel of engineers recommended a vertical lift option for this crossing, but the City Council preferred a double-leaf bascule that was more consistent with the guidelines of the Chicago Plan Commission's architect, Edward Bennett. Click here for more about the history of the bridge.

Living to 100 is a notable achievement — and for structures, a testament to their strength and durability. Four Chicago Loop bridges (all of them steel) are celebrating their centennial this year. The four bridges that opened in 1916 are: the Jackson Boulevard Bridge (January 29); Chicago & North Western Railroad Bridge (July 30); Webster Street Bridge (August 3); and the Lake Street Bridge (November 6). To learn more about these centurions and all 18 of Chicago’s Loop bridges (which are all steel!), visit the Chicago Loop Bridges website at