View from Van Buren Street Bridge; Louis Kurz for Jevne & Almini, 1866-67 (ichi-64270)
The Van Buren Street Bridge, built in 1867, was one of the several downtown bridges across the Chicago River—the exceptions being the Lake Street and Randolph Street bridges—that were destroyed by the fire. Here the viewpoint is from the bridge itself, which pivoted from a platform, visible in the foreground, that was sunk in the center of the South Branch of the river. In the distance to the north is the Madison Street Bridge. The banks of the river are lined with wholesale commodities yards.
The Van Buren Street Bridge after the Fire; G. N. Barnard for Lovejoy & Foster, Stereograph, 1871 (ichi-19792)
A solitary figure powerfully accentuates the absence of any other human presence. "It was impossible to make visits to the ruins on Monday, on account of the great heat and the still tumbling walls," wrote Elias Colbert and Everett Chamberlin in Chicago and the Great Conflagration, one of the several “instant histories” published in the weeks and months after the fire. "All travel between the east and west sides of the river was done through Twelfth Street, which thus became gorged with vehicles and pedestrians. All railroad trains on the south side stopped at Twenty-second Street, two miles south of their usual terminus. There was no gathering together of the people on this day, for there was nowhere to gather. Even the loafing power of the city was staggered for the time. There was no running of the street-railroad cars, or other of the signs of life which usually are visible, even on Sabbaths and holidays. In short, the day seemed a dies non--a day burnt out of the history of the city."
View North from the Van Buren Street Bridge; J. Sherwin Murphy, Photograph, 1954 (ichi-64363)
The viewpoint is virtually the same as in the Jevne & Almini lithograph. In the foreground is the bridge on which the CTA Blue Line currently crosses the river, and beyond is the Jackson Street Bridge.