Raising and lowering Chicago’s bridges

For many of us, Chicago’s bridges are just an everyday part of life, rarely considered outside those unfortunate and annoying moments when we find ourselves waiting for a bridge to lift to let boats pass. It becomes so easy to forget how impressive these bridges are, not only as amazing pieces of complex engineering, but also as a defining part of what makes Chicago unique. Chicago is reputed to have more movable bridges than any other city in the world, with the most iconic being the so-called “Chicago-style” bascule bridges, which use counterweights to lift the two leaves of the bridge into the air at an angle.

In 1993, Andrew Jones recorded footage of bridge operator Garabed Damarjian and his co-worker Ed Buckner as they went about their jobs, which included lifting two bascule bridges at Lake Shore Drive and Dearborn Street. Although some of that footage was used in a short segment for the television show Chicago Slices, the raw tapes provide additional insight into how the bridges operate and who operates them. They were recently discovered and restored thanks to funding from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, and people like you.

So take a moment to appreciate Chicago’s mechanical marvels by checking out the new edit below.

Watch the full visit to Chicago’s bridge system at Media Burn: part 1, part 2.

Continue your tour with Studs Terkel: “This is a Chicago bridge, a bridge of working people…”



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