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Laramie Viaduct

   
                  


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Bridge Documented: July 22nd, 2010
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Key Facts
Bridge Name Facility Carried / Feature Intersected Location Structure Type Construction Date and Builder/Engineer
X Laramie Viaduct
Laramie Avenue Over Railroad (CSX) Chicago: Cook County, Illinois Metal Stringer (Multi-Beam), Fixed 1939 By Builder/Contractor: Morris Handler Company
Technical Facts
Rehabilitation Date Main Span Length Structure Length Roadway Width Main Spans NBI Number
1975 55 Feet (16.8 Meters) 841 Feet (256.3 Meters) 44.3 Feet (13.5 Meters) 20 000016614127228

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

This Bridge No Longer Exists!

This historic bridge is slated for demolition as soon as Summer 2010!

Laramie ViaductThe Laramie Avenue Viaduct was noted as one of the oldest, largest, and most unaltered examples of a highway over railroad viaduct in Cook County. Chicago and the Cook County area is noted for its extremely large number of railroad over highway overpasses, many of them that are very wide, providing drivers with a tunnel-like experience. However, there appears to be a lesser number of bridges where the highway passes over the railroad. Further, many of the highway over railroad structures that remain are either relatively new or have been severely altered. In contrast, the Laramie Avenue Viaduct was constructed in 1939 and yet it retained its original railings and other architectural elements. With the total length of the bridge itself being 841 feet, and a very wide 44.3 foot roadway, this was a notably large structure.

The actual bridge was composed of 20 steel stringer spans. However leading up to those spans at each end was an earthen approach grade that was contained within concrete retaining walls that extended above the roadway to form railings. The retaining walls and railings were designed to match the bridge stylistically, however the width between railings was wider on this approach grade. At the point where the approach grade ended and the bridge began, large decorative concrete pillars on each side of the bridge were present. In true Chicago style, the southeast and northwest pillars contained large grandiose plaques filled with information about the bridge. Crossing the bridge, the bridge grade did not level off for very long in the center, so the experience was one of going up and then immediately descending again. The outermost stringers on the bridge were encased in a decorative concrete veneer that matches up with the railings to create a consistent appearance. The railings themselves were solid concrete with architectural detailing. The stringer spans of the bridge are supported by concrete column bents with caps that have a decorative curved design at the ends. The overall bridge's architectural design was somewhat reminiscent of Art Deco.

The bridge should be considered historically significant as an unaltered example of a large-scale project funded by Federal Depression-related relief funding programs. The plaques on the bridge list the Public Works Administration and President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Morris Handler Company was the contractor for the superstructure, Ready Coal and Construction Company was the contractor for the substructure, and Thomas McQueen Company was the contractor for the approaches. Robert R. Anderson Company did street work for the bridge, and Kil-Bar Electric Company installed the lighting.

Unfortunately, this bridge suffered from extreme deterioration of its concrete column bents. There was severe and widespread spalling present, and emergency shoring had been put in place. By 2010, the bridge had been closed to traffic for safety reasons with plans for demolition and replacement to occur that same year. It is most unfortunate that the bridge was allowed to deteriorate in this manner. The superstructure was actually in decent condition, but the substructure ended up essentially beyond repair. It appears that the deterioration on the bents may have been due to water and particularly winter deicing salts leaking through expansion joints and dripping onto the bents below. This theory was supported by the observation of holes in the deck around the expansion joints, suggesting water was pooling and draining improperly around the joints. Providing a more water-tight form of expansion joint along with appropriate drain pipes to direct water away from the bents, limiting salt application, and/or coating the bents with a protective sealant would have all been possible solutions that could have helped prevent this deterioration from occurring. Now instead, much larger quantities of tax dollars will be spent to replace this bridge, which will also result in the loss of an attractive and noteworthy historic bridge.

HistoricBridges.org does suggest that the earthen approach grade along with its railings and retaining wall, as well as the decorative concrete pillars at the abutments could be left in place, and the replacement bridge simply built to extend from the ends of these approaches. Obviously this is not an optimal preservation solution, but it would be a partial salvage and reuse of the historic structure and would retain a few of the key architectural elements from the structure.

Main Plaque

FEDERAL WORKS AGENCY
PUBLIC WORKS ADMINISTRATION

JOHN M. CARMODY
FEDERAL WORKS ADMINISTRATOR

FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

S. LARAMIE AVENUE
IMPROVEMENT
1939

BUILT BY THE
CITY OF CHICAGO

EDWARD J. KELLY, MAYOR

BOARD OF LOCAL IMPROVEMENTS

JAMES P. BOYLE, PRESIDENT

WILLIAM W. LINK, VICE PRESIDENT

MEMBERS

MARTIN J. MCNALLY

CHARLES H. WEBER
WILLIAM J. CONNORS

PAUL H. MUELLER, SEC.

ARTHUR ENGH
CHIEF ENGINEER

CONTRACTORS

READY COAL & CONSTR. CO.
SUBSTRUCTURE, STREET WORK
THOMAS MCQUEEN CO.
APPROACHES

MORRIS HANDLER CO.
SUPERSTRUCTURE

ROBERT R. ANDERSON CO.
STREET WORK
KIL-BAR ELECTRIC CO.
STREET LIGHTING

SEC. S. LARAMIE AVE. - 0808 - C. S.

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Chicago / Cook County Bridge News

October 2014 - A visit to Chicago revealed that the Van Buren Street Pedestrian Bridge was not demolished, but instead extensively rehabbed. The railings are new, but replicate the original design. The concrete encasement was removed and not replaced, and instead the exposed riveted steel beams have been painted. The riveted beams look quite nice, and given the condition of the bridge prior to the project this seems like a good outcome. In other news, the rehabilitation and repainting of the La Salle Street Bridge is ongoing, and the project to extend the Chicago Riverwalk under additional bridges on the Main Branch is continuing.

September 2014 - Chicago's dubious distinction of offering numerous boat tours that pass under the bridges but offer narration only of the buildings has ended with the start of a Wendella tour that focuses on bridges! Information is here.

July 29, 2013 - A project study has been initiated for the reconstruction of historic North Lake Shore Drive. This project puts a large number of historic bridges at risk for demolition and replacement. However, it could also be an opportunity to rehabilitate the bridges. Visit the project website.

May 15, 2013 - The Ashland Avenue Bridge over North Branch Chicago River has been recommended for Chicago Landmark designation by the Chicago Art Deco Society.

April 30, 2013 - Illinois Landmarks has included Chicago's Bascule Bridges as one of their Top 10 Most Endangered Historic Places. View The Official Page.

General Chicago / Cook County Bridge Resources

Chicago's Bridges - By Nathan Holth, author of HistoricBridges.org, this book provides a discussion of the history of Chicago's movable bridges, and includes a virtual tour discussing all movable bridges remaining in Chicago today. The book includes dozens of full color photos. Only $9.95 U.S! ($11.95 Canadian). Order Now Direct From The Publisher!

View Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) Overview of Chicago Bascule Bridges (HAER Data Pages, PDF)

Chicago Loop Bridges - Chicago Loop Bridges is another website on the Internet that is a great companion to the HistoricBridges.org coverage of the 18 movable bridges within the Chicago Loop. This website includes additional information such as connections to popular culture, overview discussions and essays about Chicago's movable bridges, additional videos, and current news and events relating to the bridges.

Additional Online Articles and Resources - This page is a large gathering of interesting articles and resources that HistoricBridges.org has uncovered during research, but which were not specific to a particular bridge listing.

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Photos and Videos: Laramie Viaduct

Available Photo Galleries and Videos

Click on a thumbnail or gallery name below to visit that particular photo gallery. If videos are available, click on a video name to view and/or download that particular video.

 
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A collection of overview photos that show the bridge as a whole and general areas of the bridge. For the best visual immersion and full detail, or for use as a desktop background, this gallery presents the photos for this bridge in the original digital camera resolution.
View Photo Gallery Structure Details
Original / Full Size Photos
A collection of detail photos that document the parts, construction, and condition of the bridge. For the best visual immersion and full detail, or for use as a desktop background, this gallery presents the photos for this bridge in the original digital camera resolution.
View Photo Gallery Structure Overview
Mobile Optimized Gallery
A collection of overview photos that show the bridge as a whole and general areas of the bridge. View the photos for this bridge in a reduced size which is useful for mobile/smartphone users, modem (dial-up) users, or those who do not wish to wait for the longer download times of the full-size photos. Alternatively, view this photo gallery using a popup slideshow viewer (great for mobile users) by clicking the link below.
Browse Gallery With Popup Viewer
View Photo Gallery Structure Details
Mobile Optimized Gallery
A collection of detail photos that document the parts, construction, and condition of the bridge. View the photos for this bridge in a reduced size which is useful for mobile/smartphone users, modem (dial-up) users, or those who do not wish to wait for the longer download times of the full-size photos. Alternatively, view this photo gallery using a popup slideshow viewer (great for mobile users) by clicking the link below.
Browse Gallery With Popup Viewer

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