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Bridges of Chicago

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Submitted By alexx2316
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Do you ever pause your day, even for just a minute, to look around and realize the dramatic changes of what was, and what has become? Many people go about their time on this earth without grasping the concept of the great evolution that has taken place. From a time when the world was filled with only the greatest of forests and water as far as the eyes could see, to an era of transportation phenomenon, architectural growth and modernized living, it has become an understatement to solely say “things have changed.” Among all these extravagant developments comes the marvel of the bridge. It's safe to say that even centuries ago, the early humans must have created bridges from the simple material they found surrounding them in their all natural environment. Whether it was a 3 by 10 foot log they had so carefully placed across the water way, or piles of smaller wood, closely intertwined and lined by the strongest of branches, the primal people had found a way to gather and hunt across streams and rivers. As the years and population had increased, so had the development and appearance of the bridge. Because of great urbanization and city growth, there was a high demand for a solution to travel in a quicker and more efficient way. One of the cities that rapidly boomed was Chicago, now the third most populous city in the United States. This growth mostly had to do with the rail road and the Chicago River. Because Chicago was fortunate enough to have a natural waterway entwined in the city, it was essential to begin the building of bridges throughout. As architects and engineers from all over gathered to create bridges both beautiful and useful, the city of Chicago continued to grow. Although used by millions of people each year, most Chicago natives and tourist fail to see the true importance of the bridges in this beautiful city. Overlooked is the importance of the many architectural designs and bridge types located in this city, the changes that took place in transportation methods, and the dramatic toll it took on the evolution of neighborhoods and economy. These significant claims are what molded this city into what it has become today; nothing less then amazing. In order to better illustrate the true relevance these bridges had on Chicago, one must first familiarize themselves with the concept of bridge types and their system. All bridges require a very strong structure; one that can sustain all natural or man- made disasters. They have beams, arches, trusses, and suspensions, and before they are built, the creator must answer basic question: What is the purpose of the bridge? What are the proper materials needed? Is it affordable? What is the sustainability? After these questions are thought out and a solution is found, architects and engineers get together in order to begin their masterpiece. The three types of basic bridges are Beam, Arch, and Suspension. The main difference between these types are the difference in tension and compression. One of the first bridges, the primitive bridges, was used by early humans to hunt and gather their necessities for everyday living. Usually a tree trunk, or stone slabs put together, gave them the opportunity to cross streams and water ways, providing an easier way to travel. After the bridge types had developed more, and years had passed, we came across more modernized bridges like the Arch Bridge (with abutments at both ends shaped like an arch), Cable Stay Bridge (one or more columns, with cables supporting the bridge deck), Movable Bridge (moves to allow passage for boats or barges), Bascule/ Draw Bridge (moveable bridge containing counter weight that can life both sides of the bridge in an upward swing), Swing Bridge (similar to a movable bridge that can pivot horizontally), Vertical Lift Bridge (movable bridge whose span lifts vertically while still in parallel position to the deck), Tilt Bridge (moveable bridge that rotates on fixed endpoints), Transporter Bridge (movable bridge that carries a part of roadway across water), and a Submersible Bridge (movable bridge that submerges bridge deck below water). Each bridge is built in it's own unique way, and carefully chosen for it's specific environment. It all began at the Chicago Portage, the connection created between the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes. This 97 mile long Illinois and Michigan Canal was built in 1848. The creation of this was “[R]responsible for the location and rapid development of the metropolis of Chicago. This relationship was the connecting link by water and a short portage...” (Wm. E. Rose and Associates 1975). Because this was a key water route across the continent, Chicago was a city of major trade. As bridges began to be constructed, builders could see it was much more difficult then they initially thought. There were many trial and error attempts, like the first draw bridge built in 1834. It impeded navigation and had to be taken down by 1839. Another failure attempt was the Floating bridge that was built in 1840. By just 1849, it was swept away by a small spring flood. You can see that bridges had to evolve in order to be the stable structures they are today. The Kinzie Street Bridge, which was constructed in 1832 as the first bridge that was built on the Chicago River, also fell into this category. What began as just a wooden bridge for pedestrians became a Bascule Bridge. The Kedzie Ave. Railroad bridge was constructed in 1899 and is one of only three swing bridges on the Sanitary and Ship Canal. It's importance is crucial because it's an example of a first generation movable bridge. This bridge is designed to open and close to the boat and ferry traffic on the river by rotation around the middle of the pier. The Cherry Ave Bridge, built in 1901-1902, was a asymmetric bob-tail swing bridge. This was a key bridge because it carried the Chicago Terminal Railroad which was an important trading accessibility point. The Deering Bridge, another railroad bridge built in 1916, was drawn for three sets of tracks. This bascule bridge was an important factor in trading and the railroad system as well. Major advancement were made between the early 1900's and early 2000's. By 1999, the Damen Ave. Bridge was built. A tied-arch bridge whose parallel arches supported the road was one of the most recent bridges built in the Chicago land area. It's arches are large in diameter and have one inch hollow steel pipes. It is a gorgeous bridge that has also recently been repainted. Being able to identify these different types of bridges and being familiar with the timeline is a vital asset to understanding how far bridges have evolved from the beginning of days. Understanding that the environment and reasoning of construction is a critical part in seeing the necessity of these different types of Bridges. Truly, the growth and development of Chicago bridges, and their system, has evolved exponentially through recent decades and will only continue change as centuries go by. To furthermore grasp the concept of the bridges evolution in Chicago, you have to look at the great change that took place in transportation methods. One important construction was the Chicago River tunnels. The first tunnel on Washington Street built in 1869, another on LaSalle Street built in 1871 and later the Van Buren Street tunnel, built in 1891. These tunnels did not just play an important for pedestrian and private vehicles transporting, but also played as a “[V]aluable escape route during the fire of 1871, which quickly consumed the wooden bridges” (McClendon, 1973). Unfortunately, this was only for about 10 years, until the cable car companies took over the tunnels due to cables no being able to cross drawbridges. The River Tunnels closed in 1906 in result to the reversal of the Chicago River which left the tunnels exposed. Jumping to the late 1800's, a new and improved transportation method came into place, the “L” of Chicago. The reason this elevated railroad system was built goes back to the expanding of Chicago. Because horse-drawn carriages, and later on auto mobiles, were not affordable and also not too convenient, the people tried to copy the New York City “L” in Chicago. The organization, “Chicago L” describes it as “Always existing to serve the people, the “L” has been expanded and reduced, changed and reformed according to the intra-city migration habits of the people of the Chicago metro area.” Another reason the “L” was built was to relieve the city of it's great congestion problem. As population increased, so did the time people spent trying to reach their destination. Because people had to travel greater distances, due to the modernization and boom of economic change in the city, it was essential to create a transportation method that could transport you a greater distance in minimal time. The first line, South Side, was created in 1892. It was just a small steam locomotive, only able to carry around 25-30 people, that started at Congress and ended at 39th Street. Although later, during the world fair in 1893, it expanded all the way to 63rd street. The 2nd line was the Lake Street, which was an Elevated Railroad built in 1893, and extended to Austin. The 3rd line, Metropolitan in 1985, and 4th line, Northwestern in 1900, where also built for transportation. One of the most interesting of inventions was the Union Loop “L.” Many people, even today, still call the downtown center of Chicago “The Loop.” It is almost a landmark name in its own way, and has stuck around for over 100 years. This route provided a better method of transportation through the business district. Although there were concerns about the noise and safety of the location, the people of Chicago found this “L” to be very helpful throughout their day. Over the years, the “L” has expanded and extended many of it's main lines. It was a revolutionary method of transportation that linked the city to the suburbs. This was a very important reason why the suburbs and surrounding areas flourished into what they are today. Not only did the bridges of Chicago completely change the way of transporting over waterways, but the tunnels and “L” lines shaped this city and helped it grow when it was quickly expanding. In spite of the amazing benefits Chicago reaps from the bridges and transportation construction, there are two sides to every coin. One less appreciated change that took a toll in result of these modern marvels was the hindering of cultural communities. When the bridges were being built, it caused a great separation between communities. When the people from Europe and Asia first migrated to the United States, it was clear their lives would be different but one thing America stood by was their open arms for new culture and diversity. To this day, America is still the most diverse country in the world, filled with people from all backgrounds. Chicago is also a very diverse city in particular. It has all types of cultural neighborhoods, everything from Mexican, Ukrainian and Chinese, to Polish, Greek, Italian and more. Chicago's main beauty is the different types of culture that lays within the city. Although there are still these small communities that carry on their passion for culture, times have greatly changed over the years. When the people first migrated to Chicago, each neighborhood was overflowing with their countries food, shopping, decoration, and language. These communities caused an economic increase as well. Many natives and tourists would visit these neighborhoods in hopes to get away from their everyday life and open their minds to something new. This was a great way for people to truly grasp the many different cultures of the world. The average person can not fly half way around the world to China, but they could easily take a walk to Chicago's very own China Town and have some authentic Chinese food. Similar to this example are the many stories of what each community had to offer. Not only was this a big eye opener for the visitor, but it also was a warm place for the immigrants. Leaving their cities and traveling the world to a new area must have been nothing less then difficult, but in these communities, many felt it was a home away from home. Because of the many bridges and transportation methods that were constructed, there was an unfortunate hindering of these neighborhoods. The communities grew smaller and their economy declined because of the new routes that were created. In result to these new paths, people would rarely walk or take a buggy when traveling, causing the neighborhoods to have less visitors and a rapid decline in their economy. Once this was initiated, it only decreased more and more, completely wiping out some of the cultural communities all together. This sad but true result of Chicago bridges and transportation development is one that people should take in consideration. A reminder that even when technology grows and modernization of cities boom, it is important to stay true to our roots and the beautiful journey that brought each individual to this great city. Consequently, there has been a great evolution that has taken place in the city of Chicago. What started with just a couple settlers, has now changed into one of the most populated cities in America. The culture and history it holds is just another argument for why Chicago is one of the greatest cities in the world. From an area that started off with just acres of green land and blue water ways, to the modernized beautiful city it has become, countless changes have occurred. Hopefully, no longer over looked will be the great impact bridges had on this city: the start of a new way of life. Creating a way for expansion, an economic boom, and transportation methods were just the beginning of the results this marvel had to offer. A change in day to day life, the transportation to school, jobs and countless destinations changed to a more quick and efficient way. The bridges created a way for companies for grow larger, successful trade to take place and vehicles to travel in a easier way. This construction also led to the new routes of the “L” line which is now one of the cities greatest accomplishments. Providing the link between the suburbs and the city, helping to create and flourish both in different ways as a result. The changes that the construction of Chicago Bridges has brought has been nothing less then a realization of how much things in this world have changed and evolved over time. The moments we fill our days with, whether it's rushing from point A to point B for school, stressing ourselves over the little details, or even the hours we spend on homework, shouldn't ever cloud our appreciation for the hard work people have put into molding this city into what it is today. We must acknowledge the masterpieces of architects, as they had a vision for unique bridges according to location, understand the changes that have taken place in the carefully thought out transportation system, and truly grasp the concept of cultural communities and development. In doing so, and opening our eyes to the core of what is surrounding us today, we grow to appreciate and better understand our past, which will ultimately effect the way we see and dream of what we can do to make a positive change in the future.

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