My grandfather was Philip G. Connell. He was a bridge builder, an engineer, a Scot and a proud Princeton man. He worked for and ultimately ran his family company, Fitzsimons & Connell, a Chicago based Dredge & Dock company that was among the major contractors that built the famous bridges over the Chicago River.
As kids, we frequently heard about our grandfather’s bridges. There was one story I particularly remember from the ‘50’s. While performing an excavation of the riverbank for one of the new bridges, the crew discovered a family of newly hatched Mallard ducks in the middle of the excavation site.
My grandfather, an avid sportsman and conservationist, ordered the entire job shut down for a few days until the ducklings were old enough to follow their mother to safer waters. The Chicago Tribune newspaper clippings and awards from various conservation groups were displayed around my grandparents’ house for many years thereafter.
I took the photographs in this gallery when my cousin John Connell and I returned to our grandfather’s hometown to see the bridges that we had both heard so much about as kids.
Note: if you are interested in learning more about these bridges, you may want to check out Chicago Loop Bridges.
Jim Phillips is a retired engineer who maintains this web site and he also leads group or individual walking tours along the River. On his tour he discusses the design evolution of mechanical bridges such as Trunnion, Bascule, Double Leaf and others.
There is also a good boat tour of the River sponsored by the Chicago Architecture Foundation that is very worthwhile.