Draining Chicago

Chapter 2 Photos

New Digs for the North Branch

DC-Photo 2.1
DC-Photo 2.1

June 29, 1922. The Lawrence Avenue Pumping Station was completed by the Chicago Department of Public Works in 1906 and turned over to the District in 1910 for operation and maintenance. Located on the north side of Lawrence Avenue immediately west of the present-day CTA Red Line, it pumped sewage and lake water west to the North Branch in the Lawrence Avenue Conduit. Today, the site is a municipal parking lot. (MWRD photo 9234)

DC-Photo 2.2
DC-Photo 2.2

Looking southwest along the North Branch toward Montrose Avenue prior to its relocation by the District, c.1900. The river channel turns to the east in the distance as it passes under the Montrose Avenue Bridge. Large flat forested floodplain areas paralleled the stream channel. Except for buildings facing Lawrence Avenue development north of Montrose Avenue had not yet occurred. (CPL photo RLVCC 1.1069)

DC-Photo 2.3
DC-Photo 2.3

April 8, 1903. This expansive north looking view of the North Branch near and beyond Lawrence Avenue illustrates the low stream banks and broad flat floodplain areas on each side of the natural river channel. Each end of the recently built bridge stops abruptly as the road approaches have not been built up with fill and graded. The bridge was not completed for traffic until late 1909. (MWRD photo 2315)

DC-Photo 2.4
DC-Photo 2.4

The first step in construction of the North Branch improvement was the removal of top soil, being performed here on May 21, 1904, with a motor driven grading machine, which scrapes off the top soil and loads it into a horse-drawn wagon. The wagon load was transported to a designated location for stockpiling top soil for later use or sale. Much of the top soil was given to local land owners as a condition of the sale of their land to the District. (MWRD photo 2753)

DC-Photo 2.5
DC-Photo 2.5

October 14, 1903. Belmont Ave. crossed the North Branch with a through truss center pier swing bridge. The channel improvement started just north here, which was also the upstream limit of channel maintenance by the Corps of Engineers. This was the last movable bridge on the North Branch and provided boat passage for a boatyard on the west bank north of the bridge. The trees behind the bridge are the site of the picnic grove in Riverview Amusement Park due to open in 1904. (MWRD photo 2483)

DC-Photo 2.6
DC-Photo 2.6

A west-bound horse drawn wagon is crossing the Irving Park Road Bridge, April 8, 1903. The masonry bridge abutments and the bowstring truss span crossing the channel will be replaced as part of the improvement of the North Branch. Sewer outfalls in or alongside the bridge abutments will also be rebuilt to accommodate the new wider channel. (MWRD photo 2321)

DC-Photo 2.7
DC-Photo 2.7

On May 21, 1906, a temporary Irving Park Road Bridge is in place over the new widened channel. The original masonry bridge abutments have been removed and replaced with timber pilings and the original bowstring truss span has been replaced with a Brown-type truss span on the timber abutments. The temporary truss span can be easily removed and replaced for passage of large floating equipment used for dredging the new channel. (MWRD photo 3409)

DC-Photo 2.8
DC-Photo 2.8

April 8, 1903. The east masonry abutment of the Montrose Avenue Bridge includes a large diameter sewer outfall underneath the bowstring truss span. Notice the large houses in the neighborhood south of Montrose and east of the channel. The North Branch is flowing toward this bridge from the northeast in the left foreground, but the new channel will be cut to the northwest and will flow toward the bridge from the right foreground. (MWRD photo 2317)

DC-Photo 2.9
DC-Photo 2.9

May 21, 1906. There are two crossings at Montrose Avenue viewed from a nearby rooftop looking east over the original bridge on the left. A temporary diversion plank roadway is in the center and right foreground, and the abutments for the temporary bridge are on the far right. The plank roadway has yet to be installed on the east side of the channel. The temporary crossing allows the original bridge to be taken out of service and replaced with a new larger bridge. (MWRD photo 3411)

DC-Photo 2.10
DC-Photo 2.10

Looking north from the Belmont Avenue Bridge over the North Branch, April 7, 1905. The initial cut made by a dipper dredge appears to the right; the original channel is on the left next to the boatyard dock wall. The spoil between the two channels will be removed later when the final dredging is completed. The large building and smokestack in the background is believed to be an early electrical generating station. (MWRD photo 3079)

DC-Photo 2.11
DC-Photo 2.11

April 7, 1905. A dipper dredge is at work south of Roscoe Street widening the initial cut to allow the passage of scows and tow boats. The Belmont Avenue Bridge is in the left background; the housing in the right background is a development called Electric Park. (MWRD photo 3080)

DC-Photo 2.12
DC-Photo 2.12

A hydraulic dredge is working north of Addison Avenue, May 21, 1906. The cutter head is raised just above the water level indicating that the dredge is adjusting its position in the channel before lowering the cutter head and continuing to excavate. The cutter head arm rotates on a vertical axis allowing the cutter head to sweep from side-to-side when excavating. The spoil slurry is discharged through the pipe behind the dredge leading to a disposal area on the west side of the channel. (MWRD ph

DC-Photo 2.13
DC-Photo 2.13

This area east of the North Branch will receive hydraulic dredge spoil by sluicing sometime after April 17, 1907, when this photo was taken. Ground vegetation is still evident and laborers at right are placing fill to build a containment berm for the sluiced sediment and water. Standing water in the spring on this floodplain area is common due to North Branch overflow and/or snowmelt. (MWRD photo 3676)

DC-Photo 2.14
DC-Photo 2.14

Looking southwest from a point south of Wilson Ave. along Campbell Ave., an area already subdivided with dedicated streets and alleys, June 27, 1907. The containment berm on the left envelopes the site of what will be Waters Elementary School in four years. Some of the trees in view may still standing on the south end of the school campus. The author attended this school in the late 1940s and remembers the custodial staff complaining of seepage in the lower level boiler room. (MWRD photo 3741)

DC-Photo 2.15
DC-Photo 2.15

Looking southwest from the corner of Leland and Maplewood aves., June 26, 1907. The containment berm is to the left and ends at a concrete wall. The wall is part of the structure where the descending elevated railroad approaches grade. The tracks are seen sloping downward from left to right and are supported on timber pile bents above the sediment. After the sediments consolidate and dry out, crushed rock fill will be placed to support the tracks of the present CTA Brown Line. (MWRD photo 3744)

DC-Photo 2.16
DC-Photo 2.16

Looking northwest from the corner of Leland and Maplewood avenues, June 26, 1907. The containment berm is seen to the right. Buildings along Lawrence Avenue are in the background. To the right of center is a sign next to the berm. It reads “WARNING This dam is for temporary use during filing progress by hydraulic dredge. Persons interrupting this dam will be prosecuted according to law. SANITARY DISTRICT OF CHICAGO.” (MWRD photo 3745)

DC-Photo 2.17
DC-Photo 2.17

The end of the pipeline discharging the dredged spoil slurry into the disposal area is on the right in this June 26, 1907, view of the disposal area looking east south of Lawrence Avenue. In the foreground is the containment berm to restrict the spread of sediment. The clay will settle and the water is returned to the new channel. (MWRD photo 3748)

DC-Photo 2.18
DC-Photo 2.18

The outfall of the Lawrence Avenue Conduit on the east bank is discharging sewage diluted with lake water on July 12, 1909, from the Lawrence Avenue Pumping Station two miles to the east. This view from the west bank shows part of the unfinished Lawrence Avenue Bridge and the west end of the Lawrence Avenue trolley line. Sewage no longer discharged to the lake along the shoreline from the Chicago River north to Calvary Cemetery. (MWRD photo 4111)

DC-Photo 2.19
DC-Photo 2.19

Looking south from the east bank at approximately Leland Avenue on January 15, 1907, bridge construction is in progress for the crossing of the Northwestern Elevated railroad, later called the Chicago Transit Authority Ravenswood Line and presently the Brown Line. The dipper dredge is excavating near timber pilings opposite the abutment on the west bank. (MWRD photo 3575)

DC-Photo 2.20
DC-Photo 2.20

June 8, 1917. A Ravenswood Manor neighbor has driven up to inspect the repaired barricade on Sunnyside Avenue where a taxi cab crashed through the barricade and into the channel. Across the North Branch in the Ravenswood Gardens neighborhood, houses along Virginia Avenue back up to the channel. Both neighborhoods developed rapidly prior to World War I. The Wilson Avenue Bridge is visible behind the street light. (MWRD photo 5975)

DC-Photo 2.21
DC-Photo 2.21

Looking north from the Belmont Avenue Bridge on May 27, 1920. The North Branch is busy with the Riverview Amusement Park on the right bank and the Grebe Boat Yard on the left bank. The Commonwealth Edison Northwest Electrical Generating Station with six smokestacks is in the background. Coal was initially brought to the station by rail, but with the opening of the Illinois Waterway in 1933, coal was delivered by barges coming up the North Branch. (MWRD photo 7541)

DC-Photo 2.22
DC-Photo 2.22

February 26, 1925. Across the channel north of Lawrence Avenue is the site of the soon to be constructed North Branch Pumping Station. Lawrence Hall School for Boys, built a dozen years earlier, stands east of the site facing Francisco Avenue. (MWRD photo 11561)

DC-Photo 2.23
DC-Photo 2.23

March 29, 1928. The contractor building the North Branch Pumping Station was allowed to deposit spoil from the excavation of the foundation on District land across the channel and north of Lawrence Avenue. The filled in floodplain, presently Ronan Park, is leased to and managed by the Chicago Park District. (MWRD photo 13843)

DC-Photo 2.24
DC-Photo 2.24

The depth of the Lawrence Avenue Conduit required a deep foundation for pumps at the North Branch Pumping Station. Four pairs of suction bells for the large stormwater pumps are shown to the right being cast into the concrete foundation, June 19, 1928. To the left are suction bells for the smaller dry weather sewage pumps. The influent sewer screen chamber is at the far south end of the structure. (MWRD photo 14065)

DC-Photo 2.25
DC-Photo 2.25

October 26, 1928. Viewed from above in Lawrence Hall across the street, the pumping station substructure is nearly complete. The screen chamber is at left; five holes in the channel wall are for the stormwater pump discharge pipes; and a derrick has been set up to begin erection of the structural steel superstructure. (MWRD photo 14429)

DC-Photo 2.26
DC-Photo 2.26

Unexpectedly, rock was encountered when tunneling under the channel for the three-barrel inverted siphon connection to the North Side Intercepting Sewer northwest of the pumping station. The laborers are taking a break while excavating through the rock, October 26, 1929. (MWRD photo 15956)

DC-Photo 2.27
DC-Photo 2.27

March 29, 1930. Nearing completion of pump installation, four of the five wet weather pumps and two of the three dry weather pumps and their electrical motors have been installed. The design of the station included flexibility through multiple connections and gate chambers. In addition to pumping from the Lawrence Avenue Conduit, the station can also pump from the intercepting sewer west of the channel, thus expanding the area the station can relieve of excess stormwater. (MWRD photo 16237)

DC-Photo 2.28
DC-Photo 2.28

February 25, 1930. Four months before placing the pumping station in service most of the structure of the pumping station is complete. Yet to be completed is the masonry work on the south end covering the screen chamber, landscaping, and various controls and instrumentation of the electrical and mechanical equipment. (MWRD photo 16137)

DC-Photo 2.29
DC-Photo 2.29

April 15, 2012. After 82 years of service, the North Branch Pumping Station is as good as new, a tribute to careful maintenance, service to the public, and protection of public health and welfare. Artful use of color lends an air of liveliness and brightens the outlook of employees and visiting public. (Photo courtesy of Lindsay Olson)

DC-Photo 2.30
DC-Photo 2.30

From the Montrose Avenue Bridge, April 26, 2015. The new east wall and embankment of the North Branch channel stretches one-quarter mile to Berteau Avenue, replacing what was an eroded and dangerously steep earthen slope. After more than 100 years of continuous operation, the North Branch, like the other District canals, are good for another century of service. (Photo by the author)