Jan 12, 2014

Raising Chicago

Chicago was built on a swamp adjacent to Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. Poor drainage caused flooding and typhoid fever and dysentery were major problems. Streets often became impassable.

In 1856, engineer Ellis Chesbrough wrote an ambitious plan to correct the problem. A new sewerage system was proposed and much of the entire city had to be lifted so that the system would drain by gravity. The plan was adopted by the City. Part of the plan was to raise the elevation of most of the buildings and streets to provide sufficient fall to drain. The illustration above shows the raising of one major building.

Raising a block of buildings on Lake Street

Contractors lifted half a city block on Lake Street, between Clark Street and LaSalle Street.  Businesses continued to operate and people came continued to use the buildings went, shopped and worked in them. In five days the entire assembly was elevated 4 feet 8 inches clear in the air by a team consisting of six hundred men using six thousand jackscrews, ready for new foundation walls to be built underneath. The spectacle drew crowds of thousands, who were on the final day permitted to walk at the old ground level, among the jacks.

 Chicago's buildings were jacked up 4 to 14 feet.  New foundations were built beneath them.  New storm sewers were placed on top of the streets and the streets were filled up to the level of the front doors of the raised buildings.

Many smaller structures were simply moved a new location. "Never a day passed," noted a visitor at the time, "that I did not meet one or more houses shifting their quarters. One day I met nine."

The raising of Chicago showed the energy can can do spirit of the rapidly growing city.  "Nothing," noted an early historian, "better illustrates the energy and determination with which the makers of Chicago set about a task when once they had made up their minds, than the speed and thoroughness with which they solved the problem of the city's drainage and sewage."

  1. Raising of Chicago - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    1. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raising_of_Chicago

      In January 1858, the first masonry building in Chicago to be thus raised—a four ...Street—was lifted on two hundred jackscrews to its new grade, which was 6  ...

    Street GradesRaising - Encyclopedia of Chicago

    1. www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/1202.html

      In the late 1850s, the streets on most of the South Side and parts of the North and West Sides were raised by an average of between four and five feet, though in ...

    Ask Geoffrey: 10/29 | Chicago Tonight | WTTW

    1. chicagotonight.wttw.com/2012/.../ask-geoffrey-102...

      Oct 29, 2012
      Ask Geoffrey: 10/29. Chicago Tonight | October 29, 2012 12:05 pm ... Encyclopedia of Chicago article on Street GradesRaising· Gaper's Block article on City  ...

    Raising the Chicago streets out of the mud - chicagotribune.com

    1. www.chicagotribune.com › News › Politics

      The task of raising the Briggs House, a hotel at Randolph and Wells Streets, ... The city tried grading its streets so that water ran into the Chicago River, and  ...

    Raising Chicago : chicagology

    1. chicagology.com/raising/

      The entire front of first-class buildings on the north side of Lake Street between La Salle and Clark streets is now rising to grade at the rate of about twelve inches  ...

    Chicago: its history and its builders ... - Page 7 - Google Books Result

    1. books.google.com/books?id=ghcVAAAAYAAJ
      Raising the grade of the streets was one of the remarkable features of the city's growth,... The Chicago Tribune of April 9th, 1857, took up the subject vigorously.

    City Streets: How Chicago Raised Itself Out of the Mud and ...

    1. gapersblock.com/.../city_streets_how_chicago_raised_itself_out_of_the_...

      May 5, 2005 - In 1855 and 1856, the city passed a series of ordinances ordering thegrade level of the streets to be raised between four and 14 feet.

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