October 31, 1982 –The Columbus Drive bridge over the Chicago River is opened to traffic. The first car to cross is driven by the widow of Chicago police officer William P. Fahey, for whom the bridge is named. He was killed in the line of duty on February 10 as he attempted to make a traffic stop at Eighty-First and Morgan Streets. According to the chicagoloopbridges web site, the William P. Fahey bridge is unique in two respects. It is the first of the trunnion bascule bridges in the Loop to use box girders to span the river instead of trusses, and it is also the first to have its trunnions set back far enough from the river so that pedestrians can walk under it at the level of the river. The bridge has a clear span of 180 feet and cost $33 million to construct. Although it was a controversial plan when proposed – many thought that it would flood the north side of the river with traffic that streets were ill-equipped to handle – no one can argue with its importance today while surveying what Streeterville looked like in the 1980’s and what it looks like today.
October 31, 1902 – Harlow N. Higinbotham, the president of the board of trustees of the Field Columbian museum, holds forth about the museum’s future, saying, “All that stands in the way of a magnificent $10,000,000 building for the Field museum is a site downtown just across the Illinois Central tracks at Congress street, and that site the city of Chicago ought to provide. The people of Chicago should have easy access to the museum. At present persons visiting the city who have only limited time at their disposal cannot visit it.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, November 1, 1902] Higinbotham’s comments come as he hosts 30 of the “highest authorities in the world on American anthropology … men from Germany, England, Sweden, Holland, France, Mexico and the South American countries.” The scientists tour the home of the Field Columbian Exposition in Jackson Park, the building that served as the Palace of Fine Arts during the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, a museum that “even in its present quarters … the visitors thought … compared favorably with the museums of Europe and with those in the eastern states.” The visitors spend the morning at the museum, take lunch at the Del Prado, then go for a drive through the parks and boulevards of the south side before spending the evening as guests of University of Chicago President William Rainey Harper at his residence. The above photo shows the Field Columbian Museum, the former Palace of Fine Arts at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition -- and today's Museum of Science and Industry -- as it appeared at the time of Higinbotham's plea.
October 31, 1935 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that the eight bridges between Michigan Avenue and Franklin Street have opened more times in a nine-month period than they have opened in most twelve-month years. According to Harbormaster William J. Lynch in the first nine months of 1935 the bridges opened 9,320 times between January 1 and September 30 with the average time a bridge stood open a bit less than four minutes. It is hard to imagine a situation today in which traffic in the center of the city is completely stopped over two dozen times a day as bridges are raised and lowered. According to Lynch these eight bridges blocked traffic a total of 546 hours – more than 68 eight-hour days – in the first nine months of the year. If one looks at all sixteen bridges that cross the river on the north and west side of the Loop, the number of openings came to 15,088 with motorists and pedestrians spending a total of 866 hours waiting for the bridges to do their work. At the south end of the North Branch of the river the little Kinzie Street bridge was opened 2,424 times in the first nine months of the year. Alderman William A. Rowan, the chairman of the council committee on harbors, wharves and bridges, reacts to the figures, saying, “The question involved is the convenience of millions of individuals as opposed to the convenience of a relatively few owners of vessels.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 31, 1935] He estimated that over 70 per cent of the openings of the eight bridges on the main stem of the river occurred to accommodate noncommercial vessels. The above photo shows the main stem of the river in 1930, looking west from State Street, with the four-year-old Wacker Drive on its south side.