Chicago’s most notable barge stories of 2014

SHARE Chicago’s most notable barge stories of 2014
SHARE Chicago’s most notable barge stories of 2014

What a year for barges in Chicago!

Chicago barges sank when they shouldn’t have, weren’t quite as flammable as we had hoped, and came off as a surprisingly fun place to hang out under the right conditions.

This list started off as a joke in our newsroom, but we realized that barges made headlines often enough in 2014 that we felt obligated to rank them.

Without further adieu…

5) The original barge

<em>A barge sank in the Chicago River under the LaSalle Street Bridge. | Jessica Koscielniak/Sun-Times</em>

A barge sank in the Chicago River under the LaSalle Street Bridge. | Jessica Koscielniak/Sun-Times

It seemed like such a novel story at the time, but barges sinking around Chicago came to be one of 2014′s most defining moments.

This particular construction barge began taking on water on the night of July 9, and by morning, it was submerged. It was the first, but by no means the last, barge to make headlines this year. For its role as a trendsetter in 2014, we award this barge fifth place on our list.

4) The party barge

Artist’s rendering of the party barge

Artist’s rendering of the party barge

This was a weird one. A Kickstarter project proposed building a 300-by-100 foot barge and dropping it in the middle of Lake Michigan as the city’s newest party spot. The original plan was to raise $30,000 to “demonstrate public support,” but the creators easily blew past that.

As the Internet got hyped about the idea, Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) cooled down and came out in opposition to the plan.

“The alderman questions the wisdom of offering boaters an ‘entertainment venue’ in Lake Michigan where they can consume alcoholic beverages in a party atmosphere while operating watercraft,” he said in a letter to his constituents.

The project is still moving forward, and recently made Chicago Streetwise’s startups to watch for in 2015 list.

For its role in making barges seem way more fun than they have any right to be, the party barge gets fourth place on our list.

3) The fire barges that weren’t

<em>“Technical difficulties” delayed the start of “The Great Chicago Fire Festival.” | Brian O’Mahoney/For Sun-Times Media</em>

“Technical difficulties” delayed the start of “The Great Chicago Fire Festival.” | Brian O’Mahoney/For Sun-Times Media

It was billed as a glorious homage to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Three Victorian mansions were built on barges and floated down the river. They were supposed to burst into flames in a dazzling display of . . . something. Things didn’t exactly go as planned when two of the three fires fizzled out.

“Over the weekend, we could have borrowed Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, as well as the lantern. That would have been helpful to us,” Rahm Emanuel quipped afterward.

The fire barges’ role in finding new levels of irony earns third place on this very important list.

2) The zombie barge

This Haunted House barge seemed like a good idea, until an unusually blustery Halloween meant the attraction had to be closed down. Conditions got worse and worse, waves started crashing down, and the barge started to take on water.

Zombie continued to surface on the lake for weeks after the barge sank. It obviously earns second place.

1) The iconic barge

<em>The submerged barge caused dozens of people to stop and gawk from nearby bridges. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times</em>

The submerged barge caused dozens of people to stop and gawk from nearby bridges. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Perhaps we are biased, but the barge that sank just outside the Sun-Times office earns the distinction of most notable Chicago barge story of 2014.

It was a decidedly slow day one October afternoon when we noticed something afoot in the Chicago River.

“All of a sudden there was a loud snap,” one witness said at the scene.

The barge started taking on water, and within a matter of a few minutes, most of it was submerged.

Though the barge became a beloved sight on the Chicago River, someone decided it probably shouldn’t be there. Chicagoans woke up Nov. 9 to find their beautiful barge missing.

Fortunately, the barge’s spirit lives on with the @ChiRiverBarge Twitter account.


Thank you for reading this very important list. If you disagree with our rankings, do let us know on Twitter.

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