May 10, 2007
Hi ho, historians!!! Today’s “History in Action” (or HIA for those you in the know) may end up leading to a trip to the dentist, because it sure is sweet! Now you HIA readers living in the “Windy City” are probably quite familiar with the chocolate smell that the Blommer Chocolate Co. factory in the West Loop produces to the delight of many (there has been a legal battle, more on that here). What you may not realize is that Chicago’s love affair with sweets actually produced a chocolate bridge!!! That’s right–a bridge made of chocolate. Grab your history hats and let’s travel back to 1927.
From the Chicago Tribune dated June 15, 1927:
The scene on Deerborn street is one of hysteria as thousands gather for the ribbon cutting of a new bridge that will connect the near north side to downtown. Unlike the growing number bridges criss-crossing the Chicago River, this bridge is unique – it is constructed entirely out of chocolate. Who can Chicago thank for this strange addition to the cityscape? None other than Alphonse Gabriel Capone, better known as Al “Scarface” Capone, hero to many working class residents of Chicago. The bridge is fully funded by Capone, who has gone on record, stating he wanted to, “bestow a gift to the common man.” The bridge is completely functional and edible. Though the project has the approval of the Mayor’s office (though funded by Capone, it is still considered a municipal designate), several officials have condemned the project calling it wasteful, ridiculous, and potentially dangerous. The bridge’s architect, Woodrow Pierce, has defended the bridge against critics. When asked of the inherent problem a bridge that is being eaten presents, Pierce explained that, “gobs of chocolate will be added as chunks are taken out. Mr. Capone wants the best for this bridge as well as the city. That’s what he shall get.” Officially, all persons are limited to one bite so don’t expect to fill up anytime soon…
Though initially a successful attraction, the chocolate bridge fell victim to many unanticipated forces including sugar mavens and ants. It could barely support automobiles and trucks were banned. Ultimately the bridge’s Al Qaeda was mother nature – the bridge melted on June 28, just thirteen days after it was unveiled. The ensuing chocolate flood destroyed several businesses on East Wacker Drive in infamous chocolate flood of 1927.
At a length of 220 feet and a height of 67 feet, the bridge was believed to be the largest chocolate construct ever. That is of course until the unearthing of the Incan Cocoa Spire in Peru, but that’s a story for another day. :-p
The Chocolate Bridge
Practical? No. Tasty? Probably. History? Definitely!!!