|State Street Swing Bridge, c.1889
The first swing bridge was built in Chicago in 1857, a vast improvement over earlier ferries or pontoon bridges. This swing bridge across State Street in 1889 shows the center pier on which the bridge pivoted, as well as the bridge tender's house atop the bridge itself. People, vehicles, and animals pushed onto the two parts of the bridge which were swung parallel to the river bank when a ship needed to pass. There were no barriers between the bridge and water, so there was a real danger that people or vehicles would tumble into the water. Policemen were stationed at either side of the bridge, to prevent people from jumping on and off the bridge as it was being moved, as well as to prevent people from being pushed into the water. Long lines of vehicles and people waited impatiently at busy times for bridges to realign parallel to the street.
The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago © 2005 Chicago Historical Society.
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