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Cortland Street Bridge


View Of Eastern Bridge Portal, Looking West

Photo taken by Historic American Engineering Record

View photos at Library of Congress

BH Photo #118220


Street View 


Designated a landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Cortland Street Bridge is a double-leaf bascule span that became in the early twentieth century the standard for movable bridges designed by the city engineer of Chicago. The Cortland Street bridge was the first of this type and featured electric motors that drove pinion gears which engaged a rack attached to the end of each truss. Counterweights on the shore sides of the bridge counterbalanced the roadway and superstructure that spanned the river and thus little power was required to raise or lower the bridge. When raised, each leaf assumed a nearly vertical position providing a wide clearance for vessels plying the river. City engineers designed the machinery so that the bridge could open within one minute during calm weather and under three minutes during windy conditions.

From a report prepared for the American Historic Engineering Record, 1987. HAER photos by Jet Lowe.


Double-leaf bascule bridge over North Branch Chicago River on W. Cortland Street in Chicago
Chicago, Cook County, Illinois
Open to traffic
Built 1901-02
- American Bridge Co. of New York (Lassig Plant of Chicago)
- Fitzsimons & Connell Co. of Chicago, Illinois
- John Ericson
- Chicago Surface Lines (CSL)
- Chicago Transit Authority (CTA)
- Streetcar
Bascule Pratt through truss
Length of largest span: 127.9 ft.
Total length: 216.8 ft.
Deck width: 36.0 ft.
Vertical clearance above deck: 16.1 ft.
Eligible for the National Register of Historic Places
Approximate latitude, longitude
+41.91694, -87.66361   (decimal degrees)
41°55'01" N, 87°39'49" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
16/444969/4640767 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Chicago Loop
Average daily traffic (as of 2014)
Inventory numbers
IL 016-6011 (Illinois bridge number)
BH 15116 (Bridgehunter.com ID)
Inspection report (as of December 2015)
Overall condition: Poor
Superstructure condition rating: Poor (4 out of 9)
Substructure condition rating: Fair (5 out of 9)
Deck condition rating: Good (7 out of 9)
Sufficiency rating: 36.8 (out of 100)
View more at BridgeReports.com

Update Log 

  • June 4, 2016: New Street View added by Douglas Butler
  • November 30, 2015: New Street View added by Douglas Butler
  • November 26, 2015: New photos from Royce and Bobette Haley
  • November 25, 2015: New photos from Royce and Bobette Haley
  • May 26, 2015: Updated by Luke: Added categories "Chicago Surface Lines", "streetcar", "Railroad", "Rail-and-road"
  • March 30, 2015: New photos from Steve Conro
  • January 3, 2014: New photo from Douglas Butler
  • October 8, 2013: New Street View added by J.P.
  • May 17, 2010: Updated by J.R. Manning: Added description from HAER Report
  • July 25, 2008: New photos from James Baughn

Related Bridges 


  • HAER IL-138 - Chicago River Bascule Bridge, West Cortland Street, Spanning North Branch of Chicago River at West Cortland Street, Chicago, Cook County, IL
  • James Baughn - webmaster [at] bridgehunter [dot] com
  • J.R. Manning - thekitchenguy [at] sbcglobal [dot] net
  • Historicbridges.org - by Nathan Holth
  • Historicbridges.org - by Nathan Holth
  • Historicbridges.org - by Nathan Holth
  • Douglas Butler
  • J.P. - wildcatjon2000 [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Steve Conro - sconro [at] yahoo [dot] com
  • Royce and Bobette Haley - roycehaley111 [at] yahoo [dot] com