W. Madison Street
Lyric Opera Bridge

Historical Summary

A summer afternoon on the South Branch of the Chicago River at Madison St

The West Madison Street crossing has been in use for more than 160 years. The first floating bridge was built in 1847. The swing bridge era began in 1856. In 1891, the existing bridge was moved to the Washington Street crossing and a new and improved swing bridge was constructed at Madison Street.

The current bridge was opened on November 29, 1922. This was the first bridge in the group to use rail-height trusses. The limestone faced bridge tender houses are located at the SE and SW corners of the bridge.

In 1985, conceptual artist Michele Fitzsimmons and photographer Diane Schmidt produced a book of photographs entitled “The Chicago Exhibition.” This project featured a number of Chicago landmarks as backdrop for a series of artistic nude poses. The West Madison Street Bridge was lucky enough to be included in two photographs of the collection (“Madison Street Bridge” and “Madison Street Bridge Rush Hour”).

In 1989, the manager of the Lyric Opera of Chicago asked Mayor Eugene Sawyer to re-name a bridge in honor of the Opera's thirty fifth season. The Mayor obliged and the “world's largest bridge party” was held January 26, 1989. The Madison Street Bridge was re-named the “Lyric Opera Bridge” in a short outdoor ceremony that saw 2200 silver balloons released into the night sky.