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.



  1. The Bridgehouse will be free on October 13-14 for Open House Chicago.
    If my dad was still around, he'd be amazed, as he was a bridgetender in the late 1930s & early 40s.

  2. This is one of my favorite spots in Chicago. Summer of '67 working in the mailroom for ABC on State, many deliveries I made passed this spot. WLS radio and ad agencies 360 N. Michigan, behind the cameraman in this shot. And to the Wrigley, Equitable and Tower(omitted the name for you Neil) as well. In those days the cement ships and newsprint deliveries would lead to a cascading bridge ballet. The Sun-Times building not so imposing as its' replacement but missed by those of us not taken in by the charlatan. Different beggars and buskers, smaller buildings but still a wonder for a 17 year old suburban kid. Put the Bridgehouse Museum on my list.

  3. Always enjoy these extempore excursions into the weird and wonderful, hidden in plain sight.


  4. Thanks for dropping by, Neil. Much appreciated! The bridgelift schedule can be found here

    However, lifts can be cancelled at the last minute. No boats, no bridgelift...

  5. Thanks for visiting Neil. Much appreciated! Bridgelift schedule can be found here:
    However, they can be cancelled at the last minute. No boats, no bridgelifts...


Comments are vetted and posted at the discretion of the proprietor.