Chicago’s Water Cribs: Those Strange Objects Out in the Distance

Besides Ladder #1 itself, one of the more iconic items out at the swim site is that peculiar structure that looms way out on the horizon. You see it showing up in many of the photos we take. In fact, you can see it on the banner at the top of the website.

That structure is the Harrison-Dever Intake Crib, and it’s actually composed of two interconnected buildings.

The older of these two structures is the Carter Harrison Crib which was built in 1900 and named after the Chicago mayor at the time.

The William E. Dever Crib, also named for a former Chicago mayor, was completed in 1935 to replace the Carter Harrison crib (however, an increased demand for water kept the Carter Harrison Crib fully operational until 1997).

These days, the Harrison-Dever Intake Crib provides water to the city of Chicago by pumping it through a 20 foot diameter tunnel that runs underneath the lake and connects the water crib complex to the James W. Jardine Water Purification Plant, located just north of Chicago’s Navy Pier.

A lot of Chicagoans still refer to the Harrison-Dever Intake Crib as the “Two-Mile Crib” for a couple of reasons. The more obvious one is that it is indeed located two miles off of the Chicago lake shore. However, the historical reason is that the Carter Harrison Crib replaced an even older structure called “Two-Mile Crib” which was originally constructed in 1865.


The Two-Mile Crib was connected to a tunnel built 60 feet below the lake surface, and this tunnel ran all the way back to the Chicago Avenue pumping station – which was part of the historical Water Tower complex still located today on north Michigan Avenue.

Pretty cool stuff, isn’t it?

6 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    July 8, 2012

    NO ONE LIVES AT THE CRIB, The crib tenders LEFT in 1999, the station is automated and if you enter the perimeter, SENSORS GO OFF AND THE POLICE WILL TICKET YOU AND IMPOUND YOUR BOAT. My neighbor was a crib tender and he was reassigned in 2000 to another section of the chicago water department. Believe me when I tell you. NO ONE LIVES THERE, the place is locked up TIGHT and their are many surveillance systems set in place, REMEMBER THIS IS POST 911 paranoid america. Don’t go to near the crib, the water sensors will go off and then THE POLICE, COAST GUARD AND MAYBE FBI will be talking to you. As well as impound your craft. The only time someone is physically at the Crib, is to do maintenance. This is the computer age people. If you want to see the view from the crib, check out the NOAA camera free on the web.

    • LakeSurfer
      July 26, 2013

      I also heard that there’s still keepers living at all the lighthouses around the country, too. I mean, someone’s gotta keep refilling all those kerosene lanterns, right?

  2. Andrew
    June 18, 2012

    Diver Dave,
    I am a tour guide in Chicago and saw your post above, stating that you live at the Crib. According to wikipedia, the last crib tenders left the crib in the 1990s. Can you fill me in on your role at the crib today? Are you there year-round? Do crib tenders still come out there?
    I’ve been interested in the cribs for years, so I look forward to hearing more about them.
    Andrew

    • Steve
      June 18, 2012

      Hi Andrew. FYI, Diver Dave has a very well-honed sense of humor.

  3. Mermaid Michele
    August 5, 2010

    Diver Dave:

    Do you still reside at the H-D Crib? I will wave as I sail past with 3rd Coast Cruising.
    Mermaid M

  4. diver dave
    April 29, 2009

    STEVE, I HAVE BEEN LIVING @ THE CRIB SINCE 1975 WHEN I MOVED TO CHICAGO. I WAS CHEAPER THEN LIVING ON LAKE SHORE DRIVE AND THE BEST PART IS I AM VERY NEAR THE WATER AT ALL TIMES. I AM SURE YOU NOTICED MY MAIL BOX @ LADDER 1. I SWIM THERE EACH DAY TO CHECK THE MAIL. SWIM OUT TO SEE ME WHEN YOUR UP FOR A 4 MILE SWIM BUT REMEMBER THE WAVES GET VERY BIG OUT HERE, YOU HAVE TO DODGE THE SPEED BOATS AND THERE ARE NO LIFE GUARDS ON DUTY TO SAVE YOU IN THE 50 FOOT DEEP WATERS.
    DIVER DAVE


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