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Chicago Bridge Tender Houses-Architecture_2West Washington Street, Bridge Tender House

Chicago is a city mighty proud of its architecture. The number of architecture boat tours available attest to that, along with the zest of the tour guides. After all, Chicago was home to the World’s Columbia Exposition in 1893 (aka the Chicago World’s Fair), some of the early great skyscrapers and until last month, the tallest building in the United States.

We recently took one of those said boat tours but were struck by one of the architectural gems not mentioned by the tour guide–the Chicago River’s bridge tender houses. To us, the attention paid to such functional buildings are truly what sets Chicago apart and conveys the architectural fervor the city is so proud of.  Here’s an overview of some of these beautiful houses, which range from wooden clapboard to Beaux Arts.

Chicago Bridge Tender Houses-Architecture_7West Jackson Boulevard, Bridge Tender House

Chicago hired its first tenders in 1840s to keep a lookout on river traffic and keep the peace on the bridge itself from brawling visitors and suicide attempts. In the past, bridge tenders themselves actually lived in the tender houses. Opinion on the bridge tenders ranges wildly, from respect to contempt, especially with a history of patronage around the hiring of bridge tenders who were paid handsomely.

Chicago Bridge Tender Houses-Architecture_1West Lake Street, Bridge Tender House

There’s a museum in Michigan Avenue Bridge tender house, called the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum, which details the history of the river:

Chicago Bridge Tender Houses-Architecture_13Michigan Avenue Bridge Tender House

Chicago Bridge Tender Houses-Architecture_6West Adams Street, Bridge Tender House

Chicago Bridge Tender Houses-Architecture_4West Monroe Street, Bridge Tender House

Chicago Bridge Tender Houses-Architecture_3West Madison Street, Bridge Tender House

Chicago Bridge Tender Houses-Architecture_9North Orleans/North Franklin Street, Bridge Tender House

Chicago Bridge Tender Houses-Architecture_10North LaSalle Street, Bridge Tender House

Chicago Bridge Tender Houses-Architecture_11North LaSalle Street, Bridge Tender House

Chicago Bridge Tender Houses-Architecture_12North Wabash Avenue, Bridge Tender House

Chicago Bridge Tender Houses-ArchitectureW. Kinzie Street, Bridge Tender House

Chicago Bridge Tender Houses-Architecture_8
West Roosevelt Road, Bridge Tender House

Get in touch with the author @untappedmich

 

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