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Chicago’s bascule bridges, Muddy Waters’ one-time South Side home make ‘endangered’ list

The bascule bridge 1129 W. DivisiAve. Chicago Ill. Tuesday April 30 2013. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

The bascule bridge at 1129 W. Division Ave. in Chicago, Ill., on Tuesday, April 30, 2013. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 2, 2013 6:24AM

They’re muscular and functional — not delicate or grand, like bridges spanning some European capitals’ rivers.

But Chicago’s bascule bridges are as iconic as the L tracks or the Chicago River itself.

Despite the $41 million Wells Street Bridge project now underway, many are in trouble.

The iconic moveable bridges have for the first time made Landmarks Illinois’ “Ten Most Endangered Historic Places” for 2013, along with the one-time home of legendary Chicago Blues musician Muddy Waters.

While many of the bridges are still in operation, others including the Art Deco-style North Ashland Bridge — are deteriorating due to a lack of funds to make repairs, according to Landmarks.

“The sites named to the list are all exceptionally important to not only local residents, but the local economy,” said Bonnie McDonald, president of Landmarks Illinois. “By calling attention to the potential for their reuse and revitalization, we are encouraging job creation and economic development across Illinois — something everyone can support.”

McDonald said her organization is pleased that the city’s Department of Transportation is preparing a bridge preservation plan. The hope is that parts of those bridges that need to be replaced could be salvaged — such as bridge houses.

Landmarks is also trying to draw attention to Muddy Waters’ one-time home at 4339 S. Lake Avenue, which has been vacant for a decade. McDonald said it is still owned by a Waters’ relative, and the hope is to raise enough money to renovate the house and preserve it as a museum. Waters lived in brick row house from the mid-1950s into the 1970s, McDonald said.

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