The Animal Bridge, Woodlawn, Chicago, Illinois

The Animal Bridge, Woodlawn, Chicago, Illinois

"Crime of the Century" and how Chicago's Famous "Animal Bridge" was linked to the Kidnapping/Murder

Originally built in 1904 the “Animal Bridge” in Chicago’s Jackson Park is definitely a one of a kind bridge.

Designed by architect Peter Weber the bridge is 117 feet long and according to Nathan Holth with Historic the bridge at this location was an exceedingly rare example of a concrete arch bridge which used a type of concrete reinforcing patented by Julius Kahn of the Trussed Concrete Steel Company of Detroit, Michigan. This may have been one of only a few bridges with this style of build.

The most interesting part of the bridge are the stone faces on the east and west walls. The faces include hippopotamus heads, rhinoceros heads, the front of an ancient sailing ship and what appears to be a Greek God.

The bridge was totally rebuilt and widened in 2003. The only portion that was salvaged were the stone heads which were once again incorporated into the new bridge.

When I first filmed this bridge in 2022 I had no idea about how it was linked to a very bizarre murder almost 100 years earlier. Here’s the story.

Back in 1924, two very privileged and extremely intelligent young men in Chicago, Nathan Leopold who lived on Greenwood Avenue and Richard Loeb who lived on Ellis Avenue who’s father was a former Sears Vice President, hatched a plan to commit the perfect murder.

Nineteen year old Leopold and 18 year old Loeb believed that because of their superior intellect they could not only commit the perfect murder but if caught, the laws of the common man would not apply to them.

After 7 months of planning, on May 21, 1924 Leopold and Loeb kidnapped and immediately murdered 14 year old Bobby Franks who was also an acquaintance and neighbor of Loeb’s. The Franks family lived at 5052 Ellis Avenue on Chicago’s southside. Franks was struck multiple times in the head with a chisel until he died. His body was then driven 25 miles to Hammond, Indiana where his clothes were removed and his face and genitals were disfigured with hydrochloric acid. The body of Bobby Franks was then shoved into a culvert along the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks near Wolf Lake.

Leopold called Bobby Franks mother identifying himself as George Johnson and telling her the boy had been kidnapped. She was informed that a ransom letter would be sent which she did receive the following day demanding $10,000.00 for the safe return of her son.

However, the “perfect murder” unraveled immediately when the body of Bobby Franks was found the next day in the culvert. Near the body the police found a pair of glasses which upon investigation had a very unique hinge that was purchased by only 3 different people in the Chicago area, with Leopold being one of the 3.

The two murderers quickly began destroying evidence including taking the typewriter that was used to write the ransom note and throwing it off of the Animal Bridge into the lagoon below.

In a nutshell, the two boys were brought in for questioning and confessed. The typewriter was retrieved under the “Animal Bridge” just 10 days after the murder on May 31st. The young men were arrested, stood trial and on September 10, 1924 both were sentenced to life in prison.

In 1936 Loeb was killed by another inmate while in prison. Leopold was released on parole in 1958 and then moved to Puerto Rico where he passed away in 1971.

GPS Location: 41º46’33.3″N 87º34’30.6″W