Sunday, October 7, 2018
A little buddy for our friendly, many-friended river
Given the number of times I've been to The Art Institute, or the Museum of Contemporary Art, or the Field Museum, or the Chicago History Museum, or even such obscure institutions as the International Museum of Surgical Science, or National Mexican Museum of Art in Pilsen, it surprises and saddens me to consider the museums in Chicago that I still haven't gotten to, like the DuSable Museum.
I crossed one long-missed museum off my list last week in completely serendipitous fashion. I was strolling along the busy River Walk, on my way to an appointment on the Gold Coast, thinking, "For all the things Rahm Emanuel didn't do, he certainly did do this," when I bumped into the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum, a little facility tucked into the southwestern pylon of the Michigan Avenue Bridge, steps down from Wacker Drive.
I had a little time. I had a little money—the six dollars it takes to get in.
As longtime readers of this blog know, I'm a fan of bridges—my very first post on EGD was an ode to the bascule drawbridge—and I was happy to quickly explore this tiny, five floor museum. I only had about 20 minutes, but I still learned far more than I have spending hours in larger museum. My favorite bit of information was that the energetic advocacy group, The Friends of the Chicago River, was named after the headline of a 1979 article in Chicago magazine headlined, "Our Friendless River," an inspiration to every writer or editor who ever puzzled over making a headline both sing and fit. Sometimes these things resonate...
It was also interesting to learn that our famously polluted Chicago River is no longer poisoned by industrial waste so much as by run-off—weed poison and spilled oil and such washing from our yards and streets and into the river, particularly during storms. A reminder that what you toss in the gutter ends up in our river.
The views from the big round windows were a novel perspective on Michigan Avenue, though they could use a cleaning.
The bridgehouse museum (I'll be damned if I'll utter the colonel's hated name more than I have to, just because Trib money is somewhere behind this) isn't big on artifacts—a few bulky switches, gauges and levers from days gone past. The highlight is the actual mechanism of the working bridge, which you can see go through its paces whenever the bridge rises or falls, a treat I plan to enjoy as soon as I am able. The small museum is big on historical and environmental information, and warrants a revisit to study its riches at leisure.