Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Straightening of the Chicago River Completed -- November 27, 1929

River Straightening in Progress, 1929 (Google Image)
Big doings in the city on this date back in 1929 as “water gushed through a cut made by a steam shovel in the thin earth barrier which separated the two dredge sections of the new channel between Polk and Eighteenth streets.  Steam whistles roared and a small group of city officials and city planners watched as the major operation on the river became virtually complete.”  [Chicago Tribune, November 28, 1929]

The “major operation” that had been completed was the straightening of well over a mile of river, accompanied by the large-scale movement of railroad right-of-way.  And the amazing thing about the whole project was that it required just over a year to pull off.  For an in-depth look at what was involved, check out the description of this massive project here.

On September 21, 1928 a crowd of 200 spectators watched as “a parade of steamers, and a half dozen dredges, scows and tugs with flags flying and whistles shrieking” [Chicago Tribune, September 21, 1928] got the project off to a roaring start as the mayor and other dignitaries officiated.

On December 15 of 1929 the first vessel, the freighter McFarland, steamed through the unkinked section of river.

For me, this is just one more example of the larger-than-life projects that shaped this great city during the 1920’s.  You can bet with some assurance that such a project would require more than 14 months to complete today.

In a 14-month project the south branch of the river was changed forever (Chicago Daily News Archives)

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