Chicago Sewers Collection

The sewer systems and passageways that lie beneath our feet are critical to the health and well being of the city. Offering a rare look at the “underbelly” of Chicago, this collection of historical images features construction photographs of sewers and tunnels.

In 1855, Boston engineer Ellis S. Chesbrough was invited to Chicago to design the first comprehensive system of underground sewers in the United States. His work lifted the city to make room for the new sewers which became the most extensive in the world. In the more than 150 years since Chicago’s Department of Water Management continues to service and maintain this underground system.

Take a look at these wonders in images from the 1920s-1960s as you start above ground and work your way below the surface along Avenue J, California and Elston Avenues among others.

The Chicago Sewers Collection is housed in the Special Collections and Preservation Division at Harold Washington Library Center.

More CPL Resources

Chicago Sewers Collection Finding Aid
The complete list of photographs, glass plate slides and documents, rich with geographic and technical details.