• Tunnel Specifications
  • Contractor's Plea & Citizens' Petition
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City officials published this 6-page document for potential bidders on the tunnel project.
The final page states: No proposal will be accepted from parties who do not give satisfactory evidence
to the Board of Public Works that they are competent, reliable and responsible.

Documents courtesy of the Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD) at Northeastern Illinois University.
Documents on this page ourtesy of the Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD) at Northeastern Illinois University.
More than a year into the project, and in the midst of the Civil War, Dull & McGowan stated that their initial bid could no longer cover their construction costs and appealed to city officials for more funds.

To the Common Council of the City of Chicago -

The undersigned resident tax payers of said City, respectfully remonstrate against any increase of price or extra allowance, on the part of the city to the Contractors for Excavating and building the Lake Tunnel, Believing That in view of the prospect of the Speedy Ending to the War, and consequent fall in prices. - it would be better for the city to take charge of said works - until it could be let out at a public letting open to free Competitions in case the present Contractors refuse to go on with the work.

Chicago March 27, 1865
Excerpt from document on behalf of Dull & McGowan that argues in relation to higher construction costs since the initial bid for constructing the tunnel:

January 1866

To the Board of Public Works of the City of Chicago

Respectrully represent your Petitioners that in the fall of 1863 they Contracted to build the Lake Tunnel for the sum of Three Hundred and fifteen thousand one hundred and thirty five Dollars and at the prices then ruling could without difficulty have finished said public improvement at that sum.

That subsequently through the financial changes incident to the struggles for National Existence in which the Country was, until recently engaged, the prices of labor and material rose to such a degree that your Petitioners found it impossible to finish the work at any such amount as that, for which the contract was made.

That although the price of Gold has faltered, yet labor and material still maintain the high price, to which they attained, neither the last Year, and so far from decreasing, have up to this time, continued to increase

Your Petitioners further show that their operating now somewhat retarded is the Commencement of the work by certain changes, made in the original plans, it did in fact contribute to subject your Petitioners to the high prices for a longer period, than otherwise would have been the case.


Chicago Daily Tribune
, February 3, 1866



Chicago Daily Tribune, June 13, 1863 - excerpt

Chicago Daily Tribune, June 17, 1863 - excerpt

New York Times, via the Chicago Journal
July 3, 1863


Chicago Daily Tribune, November 20, 1863

On the same day that the Tribune announced the contact signing, a letter to their editors protested the need for such a tunnel.

November 20, 1863:

Chicago Daily Tribune, December 4, 1863


February 9, 1864

  March 12, 1864

March 17, 1864
April 9, 1864

April 20, 1864
April 12, 1864

April 29, 1864

  June 2, 1864

June 11, 1864

December 2, 1864


Throughout the year, the Chicago Daily Tribune continued updating the progress of the tunnel digging and the preparation to launch the crib.

January 31, 1866
  May 26, 1866
August 13, 1866

October 8, 1866
  November 25, 1866

November 28, 1866

November 29, 1866

            As the time approaches for opening the great bore, the Board of Public Works, the contractors, the newspaper reporters, the Aldermen of the city and others, including every one who is supposed to be in a any way possible, able to gain or command the entrée to the great hole in the ground which is all the talk in and out of Chicago, are whelmed with requests to be allowed to go down. At least five hundred applications have been received by the Board of Public Works, from so many parties, anxious to see what is to be seen in that dark hole where the gurgling rush of many waters will soon be the only motion possible. It would seem as if the whole city was anxious to crowd down that narrow tube and walk in a stooping posture along two miles of brick work. It may be some condolence to the disappointed ones to know that they will lose nothing. There is nothing to see there but a face of brick work, which, uninviting and monotonous as it is, can scarcely be discovered in the dim light which it obtains from flickering lamps, their only value being to make the darkness visible.
            It is not probable that at the grand opening, any one will be permitted to descend the shaft except those officially connected with the tunnel at its commencement or completion. These will number nearly one hundred, forming a party so large that it will be scarcely manageable. The time for the big event is not yet fixed.


December 7, 1866

February 21, 1867
            The poor mule who has done such long and faithful service in the Lake Tunnel, was taken out yesterday, there being no further work for him to do in those sub-lacustrine regions. The rails have all been taken up, and th next thing in order is the cleaning of the great bore, and then the testing, to see if it will bear the enormous pressure. Of this there is no doubt. The bricks are bedded in teh solid clay, which for the purposes of resistance to pressure is as good as rock.
            "Slowly moves the hours" towards the final consummation. Yet a little while, and then a little while longer, and after that a few days more, and we shall have pure water.

March 8, 1867
The Great Bore Filled at Last.
            After numerous delays, and disappointments, and promises, which were “spoken to the ear and broken to the hope,” the great tunnel under the Lake is at last filled with water. It was intended, about a week ago, that the water should be let in for the purpose of proving it, but, in consequence of some disarrangement of the gratings it was found impossible to work them, and it was delayed – those having the matter in charge getting out of the difficulty by stating that the Tribune was not authorized to announce that the water would be put in on the day in question.
            Yesterday it was again intended to fill the tunnel, and a party started out on the tug G.B. McClellan, from the foot of State street, for the purpose of going out to the crib and lifting up the flood gates. They proceeded a distance of some three hundred yards beyond the lighthouse, when they found that the ice was packed to thickly that it was impossible to get to the crib. The project was again abandoned. Last night, however, a party of four workmen were let down into the tunnel through the shore shaft. They walked out the dreary distance of two miles, and came up through the crib shaft. They then raised up the floodgates and let in the water, thus shutting themselves out effectually from the world of Chicagodom, until they shall be rescued by a tug which it is intended to take out there today.
            It may be as well to state, for the information of those whom the above paragraph might lead to infer that they would have the pleasure of drinking pure lake water for breakfast this morning, that the attachment has not yet been perfected, in other words, it is only the tunnel that is filled, and not the conduits which connect the shore shaft with the big pump. About a week will yet elapse before that happens. We understand it however to be the well-defined intention of the present Board of Public Works to serve lake water to the citizens of Chicago before their term of office has expired, on the first of April, as they are exceedingly unwilling to let their successors have the credit of being the gentlemen under whose auspices the first draught of tunnel water shall be supplied to the people of Chicago.

March 9, 1867
            As announced in our issue of yesterday the water was let into the lake tunnel about seven o’clock on the night preceding. It was intended that a party should go out on a tug to the crib during the day, but the ice was found to be too thick to allow of their making the journey and they came back.
            In the evening Captain Berg was sent out with a party of four men and a stock of provisions through the tunnel to the crib. They let the water in to a depth of three feet and two inches, leaving two feet between the surface of the water and the top of the tunnel at the crib end. It was intended to fill it, but it was found that the preconcerted signals did not work, and so the tunnel was left a little more than half filled.
            When the tug went out to the crib yesterday morning the water was let in to the full depth, with a slight head in the shafts. It will remain so for twenty-four hours, and will then be pumped out, after which the tunnel will be thoroughly examined throughout its entire length to see if it shall have given way in any part. If found perfect, the citizens of Chicago will be supplied with tunnel water very shortly thereafter. The water went through the tunnel at the rate of two and a half feet per second.

On March 25, 1867 Chicago had a grand parade that culminated in laying the cornerstone on the new Water Tower. See more here.