WIN: “Jet-Age” Chicago Skyway Canopy Restored

The Chicago Skyway Toll Bridge was built in 1958 to connect the Indiana Toll Road to the Dan Ryan Expressway. Its mid-century modern toll plaza canopy serves as an iconic gateway. The “jet-age” design was defined by a steel canopy, neon signage, and stainless steel toll booths. However, following decades of retrofits to accommodate a seemingly endless cycle of new and then obsolete technology, the structure’s original design was largely obscured.

The $7 million, privately financed restoration and modernization project removed the obsolete additions and restored the original toll plaza canopy design. The original neon letters that spell out “Chicago Skyway Toll Bridge” have been restored and upgraded. The canopy roof incorporates a photovoltaic panel array which can provide 100 percent of the energy required to run the toll plaza.

“It’s a great combination of preserving our past but ultra-modernizing the electronics. It was a real challenge to take that structure and put in the new technologies that we have,” said Kirk Dillard, chairman of the Skyway Concession Company to the Chicago Tribune. Mayor Richard M. Daley leased the Skyway in 2005 and it is now controlled by three Canadian pension funds and operated by the local Skyway Concession Company. (Kamin, Chicago Tribune, 10/26/18)

Preservation Chicago applauds the owners and project team for recognizing the inherent value of this stylized “jet-age” mid-century modern toll canopy. By combining the best of the past and the best current innovation, we are able to create wonderful built assets for the future. It is an excellent model and one that we encourage other decision-makers responsible for infrastructure to adopt.

Additional Reading
Column: Chicago Skyway canopies restored to original streamlined look, with modern updates, Blair Kamin, Chicago Tribune, 10/26/18

SOM restores iconic Chicago Skyway toll plaza to original midcentury glory; the newly completed project marries historical preservation with state-of-the-art technology, Jay Koziarz, Curbed Chicago, 11/2/18 Chicago Skyway Canopy Restoration


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