Sunday, February 28, 2016

Street and Pedestrian Tunnels under the Chicago River

Almost every picture of the Chicago River from the 1800s shows many masted ships on the river. So the swing bridges were open very often. This tied up street traffic enough that a couple of tunnels were built under the river. These tunnels allowed many people to escape the 1871 fire because the swing bridges were made of wood and quickly burned. (Chicagology)

Washington Street between Franklin and Clinton

Raymond Kunst posted
Raymond's comment:
The Washington Street Tunnel was the first traffic tunnel under the Chicago River. J.L. Lake was awarded the contract to construct the tunnel in July 1867 and its construction was completed January 1, 1869. This tunnel was 1605 feet long, from Franklin Street west to Clinton Street, and cost $517,000.
Originally built of masonry with one lane for pedestrians and 2 lanes for horse-drawn traffic, by 1884 it was leaking and had been closed. In 1888 the West Chicago Street Railroad leased the tunnel. If they repaired it and built a vehicle bridge they could use the tunnel exclusively for cable car service. Construction began in 1888 and the tunnel was reopened August 12, 1890
The reversing of the Chicago River in 1900 lowered the water level and exposed the roof of the tunnel in the riverbed. Several ships ran aground on it, damaging the roof. In 1904 the Federal government declared it a hazard to navigation, it was closed on August 19, 1906.
Washington Street Tunnel, East Entrance
Photographer: John Carbutt:
A comment notes that the buildings are wooden so the picture was taken before the 1871 fire. Scroll down in the "posted" link in the caption for some more pictures of the tunnel.

Glen Miller's comments for his posting of the above picture:
The Washington Street Tunnel beneath the Chicago River, opened 1 Jan 1869 and was the first in the U.S. built for vehicle traffic under a river. It was closed in 1906 after they reversed the Chicago River, it exposed the roof of the tunnel. After several ships ran aground, the Federal government declared it a hazard to navigation. It reopened for cable car service in 1913 after it was deepened and used till 1953.

Riley Franson posted
1951 Washington Street Bridge, looking east. You can see the east entrance to the tunnel in background.
[You can see a westbound streetcar heading into the tunnel.]
Chris La Course posted
Washington Street tunnel under the Chicago River, 1911.

LaSalle Street between Randolf and Hubbard (then Michigan) 

Please follow the "Chicagology" link in the caption.

Glen Miller posted
A 1908 color postcard shows the LaSalle Street tunnel after it was converted for electric street car use. The elevated train tracks that run along Lake Street are visible on the far left.
Richard Pitchford posted
LaSalle and Randolph, 1909, Chicago
The south end of the LaSalle Street tunnel at Randolph Street on March 25, 1939.

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