The current Michigan Avenue Bridge over the Chicago River was completed in 1920. There are four impressive bridge tender houses. Only the N.W. and the S.E. house bridge controls. The remaining two are ornamental.
In 1928, bas relief sculptures depicting various scenes from Chicago history were added to each house . The northern sculptures were commissioned by William Wrigley,Jr. The sculptor was James Fraser.
The theme of the northwest sculpture was Pioneers. It depicts two of Chicago earliest settlers. These were John Baptiste Pointe DuSable and John Kinzie. Unfortunately, the plaque beneath the sculpture is worned and unreadable. It read “The Pioneers– John Kinzie, fur trader, settled near this spot in the early years of the nineteenth century. One of a band of courageous pioneers–who with their lives at stake–struggled through the wilderness, breaking soil for the seeds of a future civilization.”
The theme of the north east tower is Discoverers. It commemorates four European explorers Louis Joliet and Father Jacque Marquette, Rene Robert Cavelier, Sieur Dr LaSalle and Henri Dr Tonti
The sculptures on the southern bridge houses were commissioned by the B.F. Ferguson Monument Fund. The sculptor was Henry Hering.
The theme of the S.W tower is defense. This depicts the Fort Dearborn Massacre of 1812. Over 50 people were killed by the Potawatomi Indians who were allied with British during the War of 1812.
The theme of the S.E. Tower is Regeneration. This commemorates the great Chicago Fire of 1871 and the rising of the city from the ashes.