Michigan Avenue Bridge

Michigan Avenue Bridge

Michigan Avenue Bridge would have never existed if not for one man. Daniel Hudson Burnham, architect and urban designer. He had a vision for Chicago as a “Paris on the Prairie”.

Daniel Burnham together with Edward H. Bennett created the 1909 Plan of Chicago. It became a guide for city planners as they expanded parks, built bridges and planned new streets.

Because of Daniel Burnham’s vision Michigan Avenue became the Magnificent Mile as we know it today. But back then there was nothing magnificent about the dusty tree-lined residential street north of the Chicago River. It was even Michigan Avenue, it was called Pine Street.

Back in the days the main streets in Chicago were State Street and Rush Street. The biggest and the busiest bridge was Rush Street Bridge. There is no rush of traffic on Rush Street now, it’s more like an alley. And it used to be a wide six-lane street. Rush Street Bridge? It vanished without a trace.

If you look at old maps of Chicago you understand why Rush Street and the bridge were in such high demand. They literally connected the east with the west.

Illinois Central railroad had a depot along Michigan Avenue south of Chicago River (where the Grant Park is now located). The railroad connected Chicago to the eastern states.

Galena and Chicago Union railroad had a depot along what is now Kinzie Street north of Chicago River. This railroad connected Chicago to the frontiers of the American West.

Passengers, cargo, cattle, all of them had to cross Rush Street Bridge to change trains at the different railroad depots. It was a key transfer point between the eastern and western railroads.

By 1920 automobiles replaced trains as the main mode of transportation and importance of Rush Street faded away. Famous Chicago skyline of the buildings has started to develop along Michigan Avenue south of Chicago River. It seemed logical to continue it north. The only missing part was a bridge.

That’s where the Burnham Plan came in. It outlined widening of Michigan Avenue from Randolph Street to the river, replacing the Rush Street bridge with the Michigan Avenue Bridge and extending Michigan Avenue along Pine Street as far as Ohio Street.

A hundred years later we can see and enjoy it all coming together.