The Tunnel under the Lake: The Engineering Marvel That Saved Chicago
Northwestern University Press, May 15, 2017 - History - 184 pages
The Tunnel under the Lake recounts the gripping story of how the young city of Chicago, under the leadership of an audacious engineer named Ellis Chesbrough, constructed a two-mile tunnel below Lake Michigan in search of clean water.
Despite Chicago's location beside the world’s largest source of fresh water, its low elevation at the end of Lake Michigan provided no natural method of carrying away waste. As a result, within a few years of its founding, Chicago began to choke on its own sewage collecting near the shore. The befouled environment, giving rise to outbreaks of sickness and cholera, became so acute that even the ravages and costs of the U.S. Civil War did not distract city leaders from taking action.
Chesbrough's solution was an unprecedented tunnel five feet in diameter lined with brick and dug sixty feet beneath Lake Michigan. Construction began from the shore as well as the tunnel’s terminus in the lake. With workers laboring in shifts and with clay carted away by donkeys, the lake and shore teams met under the lake three years later, just inches out of alignment. When it opened in March 1867, observers, city planners, and grateful citizens hailed the tunnel as the "wonder of America and of the world."
Benjamin Sells narrates in vivid detail the exceptional skill and imagination it took to save this storied city from itself. A wealth of fascinating appendixes round out Sells’s account, which will delight those interested in Chicago history, water resources, and the history of technology and engineering.
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Aldermen April Board of Public Board of Sewerage Board of Water bolts bottom Bramhall brick building Chicago History Museum Chicago Hydraulic Company Chicago lake tunnel Chicago River Chicago Tribune chief engineer cholera City of Chicago city’s Civil Engineers clay Comiskey Common Council completed construction contractors cost Cregier crib’s cylinders Dull & Gowen Eighth Annual Report Ellis Chesbrough Ending March 31st excavation Fiscal Year Ending History of Chicago Ibid Illinois and Michigan Illinois River inlet pipe iron J. M. Wing Jameson and Morse Jervis John John Comiskey John Ericson Lake Michigan lake shaft land shaft masonry Michigan Canal miles million gallons miners Municipal Fiscal November o’clock outer placed proposed pure water Railroad reservoirs River Chicago sewage sewerage Sewerage Commissioners shore Source Stephen Barrett System of Chicago Thames tunnel timbers Tunnels and Water Two-Mile Crib Water Commissioners Water System water tower waterworks William Wing & Company