By John Greenfield
[Originally published 4 5 07 in Time Out Chicago:
Q What’s up with the Western Avenue overpass at Belmont and Clybourn Avenues? There are a bunch of three-street intersections on the North Side, but this one has an overpass.
A The overpass was built in 1960, around the same time that similar structures were built at Archer/Ashland Avenues and Pershing/Western Avenues on the South Side to address growing traffic congestion, according to CDOT spokesman Brian Steele. At the time, the area’s main traffic generator was Riverview Park, a 74-acre theme park that opened in 1904, bordered by Western and Belmont Avenues, the Chicago River, and Lane Tech High School. Once billed as the World’s Largest Amusement Park, Riverview drew hundreds of thousands of visitors with attractions like the Bobs and Jetstream roller coasters, and a merry-go-round with hand-carved horses.
But by the late ’60s, operating expenses were rising and the owners decided to sell the valuable land to a developer. The park closed at the end of the 1967 season and was quickly demolished; DeVry Institute of Technology, the Belmont District Police Station and the Riverview Plaza shopping center now occupy the site. Because there’s no on-street parking on that stretch of Western, venues below the overpass like Underbar and the Viaduct Theater rely on the de facto parking spots between its massive concrete support pillars. Underbar mixologist Geoffrey Wilson reports that tipsy patrons have been known to have sex in their cars in the secluded space under the bridge, so in a way the overpass is still helping people take thrill rides.