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Spanning The Century: Four Chicago Bridges Are Turning 100 This Year

CHICAGO — Living to 100 is quite a feat, even if we're talking about a bridge.

Four of Chicago's bridges have turned or will turn 100 this year, bringing the total of city bridges to survive that long to 23, according to multiple sources, including the Chicago History Museum, Chicago Architecture and the book, "Chicago River Bridges."

The four bridges that opened in 1916 are: The Jackson Boulevard Bridge (Jan. 29); Chicago & North Western Railroad Bridge (July 30); Webster Street Bridge (Aug. 3); and Lake Street Bridge (Nov. 6).

"It's pretty impressive that these marvels of engineering are still working given they've been in continuous operation," said John Russick, the Chicago History Museum's Vice President for Interpretation and Education. "And they're well built, well maintained, and they really speak to the character of the city."

Three of Chicago's bridges debuted in the 1800s. The city's oldest bridges all opened in 1899 and include: the Chicago, Milwaukee, & St. Paul Z-6 Bridge (just south of Cortland Street); the Chicago, Madison, & Northern Railroad Bridge (Around the 3500 block of South Kedzie); and the Illinois Northern Railroad Bridge (Around the 3500 block of South Central Park).

Of the 300-plus bridges in Chicago, 61 are drawbridges across either the Chicago River or Calumet River, according to Patrick McBriarty, the author of "Chicago River Bridges." More than half of those will be at least 100 years old by the end of this year. Only Amsterdam (62) has more drawbridges than Chicago, McBriarty said.

Justin Breen talks about Chicago's great old bridges.

Russick said the bridges, even the city's oldest ones, are "essential to ongoing daily life in Chicago."

"They are important and they still do what we need them to do for the city to thrive," Russick said.

Check out photos below of some of the city's oldest bridges, courtesy of Chicago History Museum:

Kinzie Street Bridge rotated across Chicago River, Chicago, Illinois, November 13, 1899.

View of Jackson Boulevard Bridge looking south down the Chicago River in Chicago, Illinois, 1916.
View of the Lake Street bridge, over the South Branch of the Chicago River; Chicago, Illinois; circa March 6, 1916.View of the Kinzie Street Bridge, a bascule bridge over the Chicago River at West Kinzie Street used for foot and wagon traffic. This bridge connected the Near North Side, Near West Side and West Town community areas of Chicago, Illinois.View of a streetcar crossing the Lake Street swing bridge over the Chicago River, Chicago, Illinois; 1909.

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