1 vote

Clarence Darrow Memorial Bridge


View from northwest

Photo taken by Roger Deschner in March 2018

License: Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike (CC BY-SA)


BH Photo #419199



Dilapidated, historic bridge is currently closed to all traffic due to deterioration, including some structural members with total section loss. It was closed to car traffic in 2009, and to pedestrians in 2014 barricaded with wrought iron fencing. Walkway underneath west end of bridge remains open. Planned replacement delayed by NRHP historic reviews.

The original bridge at this location was an arched deck truss, built in 1880 by famed architects Burnham & Root. (Photo of 1880 bridge at historicbridges.org link below.) That bridge was retained and incorporated into the World Columbian Exposition. Remains of its abutments still visible, underneath the current bridge, which was built in 1895 (builder unknown) as part of the project to convert the former fair site into Jackson Park. This 1895 bridge uses steel stringers, supporting a modified jack-arch deck that is smooth on its underside.

The bridge is named in honor of noted lawyer Clarence Darrow (1857-1938), who lived nearby, and whose ashes were scattered from the bridge into the lagoon when he died. Darrow's ghost is reputed to haunt the area around the bridge, especially when his passing is marked annually on March 13 at 10:00AM with a ceremonial wreath laying and seance at the bridge.


Steel stringer bridge over Jackson Park North Lagoon on Columbia Drive
Chicago, Cook County, Illinois
Intact but closed to all traffic
Future prospects
Scheduled for replacement, but that has become controversial.
Original bridge built 1880; this bridge built 1895; closed to vehicles 2009; closed to pedestrians 2014
- Burnham & Root
- Daniel H. Burnham
Steel stringer, supporting jack-arch deck
Span length: 56.0 ft.
Total length: 56.0 ft.
Deck width: 56.0 ft.
Listed as a contributing resource to the Jackson Park Historic Landscape District and Midway Plaisance
Also called
Columbia Drive Bridge
North Pond Bridge
Approximate latitude, longitude
+41.78842, -87.58281   (decimal degrees)
41°47'18" N, 87°34'58" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
16/451573/4626449 (zone/easting/northing)
Inventory number
BH 80703 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • December 28, 2020: Updated by Roger Deschner: Updated delayed rebuilding plans, and added photos
  • March 11, 2018: Added by Roger Deschner



Clarence Darrow Memorial Bridge
Posted December 28, 2020, by Roger Deschner (rogerdeschner [at] gmail [dot] com)

Bridge reconstruction, planned since 2017, is still on hold. Funding for a pedestrian-only replacement bridge has apparently already been secured by the city. Chicago Department of Transportation says, "The design process is taking longer than expected due to the historic nature of the bridge."

Notable historic parts that need to be preserved, are the original railings, the jack-arch design of the deck, and the limestone abutments. These abutments are historic in that they incorporate support for both this bridge, and a previous bridge at this location. They are in good enough condition to carry pedestrians and an occasional emergency vehicle. The deteriorated limestone wingwalls are not load-bearing, and could be repaired easily. The only part that has become compromised is the steel superstructure.

I can only speculate, that with the bitter controversy surrounding the proposed nearby Obama Center and massive expansion of the golf course, that now any change within historic Jackson Park is being scrutinized extremely carefully and publicly. That includes this NR-contributing bridge, which must now undergo full historic-site review at neighborhood council, city, state, and federal levels, along with the rest of Jackson Park. There may be further long delays. A strategy to repair rather then replace this bridge may become expedient, as the controversy involving the whole park continues.