Hyde Park Herald: Hyde Park Stories: Darrow Bridge

“The Darrow Bridge, shuttered by the city since 2013, is historic. Beyond its association with Clarence Darrow, the attorney and radical activist, the bridge is also one of the very few surviving elements of Frederick Law Olmsted’s original design for the park and the 1893 World’s Fair.

“The bridge, which connects the eastern and western sides of the park just south of the Columbia Basin, sits on elegant stone abutments above a curved wingwall with decorative end posts. It’s the product of two giants in park design. As Tim Samuelson, Cultural Historian Emeritus for the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs, said in an email, ‘the dramatic curving swoop of the stone bridge embankment was a remarkable early effort in melding Daniel Burnham’s creative understated modernism with the Frederick Law Olmsted concepts of human discovery and wonder amidst a naturalistic environment.’

“When Burnham and the Olmsted firm redesigned the park, first for the World’s Columbian Exposition and then in restoring the park, the bridge remained a prominent feature. After the fair, the bridge deck was widened. Burnham and Root’s original ornamental iron railings were replaced by the simplified design used in other bridges during the fair. The relocated iron railings, which are still there, were a design created under the direction of Charles B. Atwood, Burnham’s chief of design for the Columbian Exposition.

“Atwood designed more than 60 buildings during the fair, including the much-admired Palace of Fine Arts, which was saved first as the Field Columbian Museum and then, remade in stone, as the Museum of Science and Industry. The bridge’s original 1880 curving stone embankment combined with the recycled World’s Fair railings still lifted the viewer up as Olmsted intended, but now framed this new vista to the north. As the May 23, 1895, Tribune noted, Olmsted was designing the lagoon south of the museum to be a formal frame for the museum, with the bridge standing exactly on the main axis of the museum, reflecting the symmetry of Atwood’s design.

“One of the bridge’s biggest fans was Clarence Darrow. In 1897, Darrow moved to 60th Street to stay with his brother-in-law after his divorce. In 1903, he moved with his second wife, Ruby Hammerstrom, to 1537 E. 60th Street. They lived on the top floor where he could see the bridge from his front bay window. Legend has it that he didn’t just go to the bridge to meditate, he also practiced his famous oratory on the fish in the lagoon.” (Morse, Hyde Park Herald, 3/6/23)

Read the full story at Hyde Park Herald

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