Michigan Avenue Bridge celebrates 94 years

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Crowds celebrated Michigan Avenue bridge's 94th birthday Wednesday. (WLS)

It's not often we say happy birthday to a bridge.

But that's what happened Wednesday at Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive as Chicago's most famous bridge celebrated a birthday.

It's not as historic as the Brooklyn Bridge or as majestic as the Golden Gate, but it is our most famous span, the "DuSable" or Michigan Avenue Bridge. The bridge opened to traffic on this date in 1920.

People gathered in the McCormick Bridge House River Museum to sing congratulations to a bridge that opened 94 years ago. On that day, thousands gathered for a celebration that brought together the north and south sides of the river.

"[It's] significant because it was the linchpin of the 1909 plan of Chicago that was written by Daniel Burnham," said Jim Phillips, author of "Two Miles, 18 Bridges."

Before 1920 the north side of the river was very residential and the south side was the business district.

"Once the bridge came in, then you had all this commercial and real estate development," said Patrick McBriarty, author of "Chicago River Bridges." "The Wrigley Building and Tribune Tower came in the 20s after the bridge."

The bridge's giant gears still work like a Swiss watch, opening and closing the bridge for river traffic.

So why is the bridge's birthday being celebrated on its 94th, rather than 95th anniversary?

"Well next year on the birthday celebration, the bridge will not be lifting," said Ozana Balan King of the Chicago River Museum. "Today we had a scheduled bridge lift to coincide with the anniversary so we thought we'd have the party today."

So blow out the candles and make a wish the next time you're here.
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