The Kinzie Bridge

My blog’s header image is the Kinzie Bridge in Chicago when the rail line was still in use.

According to Chicago Loop Bridges (,

The Kinzie Street crossing has had a long and storied history. From being the first bridge over the Chicago River (1832) to last movable bridge staffed by a full-time bridge operator on the Chicago River (1999).

Source: Chicago Loop Bridges website

Because the bridge was so low, the bridge (staffed 24/7) was raised to allow boats and barges to pass through. I remember riding in the passenger seat of our family car through the Loop when I was a child and waiting for the bridge to rise and lower to allow the passage of these boats.

All this changed, though, when a significant flood in 1992 spilled under the bridge into hidden freight tunnels:

On April 13, 1992 a section of the abandoned freight tunnel under the Kinzie St. bridge failed. Water was noticed pouring in the subbasement at the Merchandise Mart around 6 AM. Within an hour waters had reached City Hall and Marshall Field’s (now Macy’s). By 10 AM Commonwealth Edison began shutting power off around the Loop and evacuations began.

The tunnels were finally sealed and dewatered by the Army Corps of Engineers and returned to city control on May 22, 1992.

The bridge had to be rebuilt, and engineers raised it by five feet so that it wouldn’t need to be raised and lowered and wouldn’t need round-the-clock staffing. This didn’t end its history—or the interesting tales about it. The Chicago Loop Bridges website tells a funny story about the Dave Matthews Band tour bus passing over the bridge and dumping its sewage as tourists on the famed architectural boat tour passed under the bridge.

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