Michigan Avenue Bridge (1929)

The Plan of Chicago called for the widening of Michigan Avenue and the creation of a lower tier roadway designated for commercial traffic. This photograph was taken on Michigan Avenue, just north of the double-decker bridge that opened to the public on May 14, 1920. Comparison between Jules Guerin's rendering of the proposed boulevard from just 11 years previously (<internal link>) reveals how rapidly the automobile was transforming urban space. Burnham and Bennett expected the upper deck of the boulevard to be shared by pedestrians and lighter traffic. Instead, as built the upper deck roadway was designed to segregate foot from wheeled traffic. Automobiles dominate the street while pedestrians are forced to stroll along the sidewalks. Several technological advancements are evident in the photograph, among them regularly interspersed electric light-posts. The double-decked Michigan Avenue Bridge, built as planned, had the capability to carry seven times the volume of the city’s single-tiered crossings, such as those found at the Rush Street Bridge. Development exploded in the area north of the Chicago River following the opening of the bridge, as the district now had a direct north-south connection to the Loop. This northern stretch of the avenue, dubbed “The Magnificent Mile” in the 1940s, attracted upscale retail stores and prestigious businesses.



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“Michigan Avenue, 1929,” from Chicago Daily News. Chicago History Museum, DN-0089215