Sunday, September 23, 2018

September 23, 1929 -- Wabash Avenue Bridge Construction Begins

chicagobridges.com
September 23, 1929 –Construction of the Wabash Avenue bridge begins, an event that, it is hoped, will usher in “the beginning of a new era of prosperity and business activity in the community …” [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 23, 1929] Projected completion date for the new span is anticipated to be December 1, 1930 as the contractor in charge of the construction of the bridge’s sub-structure has been given 11 months to complete the work.  The bridge will connect the north end of Wabash Avenue at Wacker Drive with the south end of Cass Avenue on the north side of the river.  A viaduct will also be constructed across the tracks of the Chicago and North Western Railroad and Kinzie Street with a gradual grade bringing the road down to grade level at Illinois Street.  The $3,700,000 span will be a two-leaf, single deck bascule bridge, 232 feet long and 60 feet wide with sidewalks on each side of the bridge spanning 13 feet.  Completing the project entailed coming to terms with the C and NW concerning the placing of piers, columns and easements.  Before construction even begins, businessmen on Cass Street are planning improvements that they hope will bring shoppers, new businesses and residents to the area.


September 23, 1933 – Another mile of Lake Shore Drive is opened to traffic from Montrose to Foster Avenue.  The road will only be open during the day as streetlights still need to be installed.  This will be the first major thoroughfare to be opened as a result of $20,840,000 in gasoline and license taxes that the Illinois legislature had approved earlier.  It is expected that 35,000 cars a day will be using the new road each day although there are still obstacles to be overcome.  The junction with Sheridan Road at Foster Avenue will be a significant bottleneck.  George Barton, an engineer for the Chicago Motor Club, says, “Unless every assistance is given to traffic at Sheridan road and Foster avenue the utility of the new mile of outer drive is seriously curtailed.  This intersection will be the new bottleneck in the north side boulevard system, replacing the present bottlenecks at Montrose and Clarendon avenues and at Lawrence avenue and Sheridan road.”  The junction of Sheridan and Foster is shown above several years after the Lake Shore Drive extension is opened.


September 23, 1933 – Work begins on the final section of the Field building being erected between Clark and La Salle Streets on the east and west and Adams and Monroe Streets on the south and north.  Steel workers begin erecting the first beams for the tower, which it is estimated will contain 4,000 tons of steel.  Three of the four corner units of the Art Deco tower, designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, are complete with placement of steel for each section taking between 35 and 57 days.  

Saturday, September 22, 2018

September 22, 1974 -- Weese Wins Award for Lake Shore East

apartment finder.com
September 22, 1974 – The Chicago Tribune reports that Harry Weese and Associates has won the highest award of the Chicago Chapter of the American Institute of Architects for an apartment building at the southwest corner of South Lake Park Avenue at East Forty-Seventh Street.  A.I.A jurors call the design a “good design at the highest level within the narrow constraints of publicly financed housing.”  The 26-story tower, Lake Shore East, features 38 angled, vertical planes of glass and brick which “give the building’s shape and its interplay of elements many different appearances as they are viewed from various perspectives.”  [Chicago Tribune, September 22, 1974]


September 22, 1981 – Two firefighters die and six others are injured while fighting an extra-alarm fire in the Willoughby Tower office building at 8 South Michigan Avenue.  Fire Commissioner William Blair says, “There was no chance … there was no way out for them.”  The two firefighters, Joseph Hitz, a snorkel truck driver with Hook and Ladder 1 and Craig McShane, a rookie with Engine 42, fall to their deaths down an open elevator shaft from the twenty-fifth floor to the roof of an elevator stopped at the ninth floor.  The fire on the floor from which they fell started in materials a cleaning crew had left in the elevator, and as a result the car fell until its brakes activated and stopped it on the ninth floor.  Six firefighters exit an elevator on the twenty-fifth floor to find the hallway filled with smoke.  Breathing through air masks, they find an open office through which they are able to reach a fire escape at which point they discover that one of their number, Hitz, is missing.  McShane, the only firefighter who still has air in his self-contained breathing apparatus, crawls back to check, and he falls through the same open elevator shaft into which Hitz had fallen earlier.  Mayor Jane Byrne, standing at the scene as the search for the two men is being conducted, says, “I am deeply sorrowed by the loss of the lives of these two brave firemen …I have conferred with Commissioner Blair and directed him to immediately procure, by the end of the week at the latest, two-way hand radios for every Chicago firemen in hopes that this would prevent a recurrence of such tragic accidents.”  Hitz and McShane are the first Chicago firemen killed on duty since 1978 and the first multiple deaths of Chicago firefighters since 1973. The plaque, pictured above, memorializing the two firefighters, can be seen at the firehouse at 419 South Wells Street, about a mile away from the tragic fire of 1981.


September 22, 1935 – In the six hours that the Chicago Tribune opens the doors of the new home of its radio station, 4,368 people tour the facilities.  Over 500 visitors fill out forms for a chance to gain admission to the auditorium when performances begin.  The paper describes the new digs in this way, “The lighting effects, the sharp slant of the auditorium for purposes of better vision, the richly covered, deep cushioned seats and the sound proofed walls attracted appreciative comments.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 23, 1935]  The building just to the north of Tribune Tower is laid out or “squared off” with Polaris, the north star, as a sighting point, an innovative approach that allows a variance of about an eighth-inch along the building’s frontage on Michigan Avenue.  On October 5 the auditorium opens with two orchestras entertaining all of the workers who had labored on the building, along with their families.  Colonel Robert R. McCormick, editor and publisher of the paper, tells them, “This victory of peace has a sadness for me, for it means I must part from the men I have watched at this building for the last year and a half . . . You have piled stone on stone, color on color, and joined wire to wire.  You have built here, forever, something that your children will thank you for.  You leave me with emotion.  God bless you and be with you always.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 2, 1935]

Friday, September 21, 2018

September 21, 1891 -- Fort Sheridan Pegged as Plum Assignment

fortwiki.com
September 21, 1891 –The Chicago Daily Tribunereports that because of the attractiveness of its quarters and because of the easy access it will have to the much- heralded World’s Columbian Exposition, due to open in 1893, there has been “much wire-pulling among officers and men of influence to secure the detail” at Fort Sheridan, under construction on the North Shore.  As the spring of 1892 comes to an end it is anticipated that close to 1,000 soldiers will be stationed at the new garrison, including eight companies of the Sixth Cavalry, currently stationed in Nebraska, eight companies of the One-Hundredth Infantry, already at the fort, Light Battery E, an artillery unit, just ordered to the base, and, at the end of the spring, four troops of cavalry.  Over a million dollars has already been expended on the construction at Fort Sheridan with at least another $200,000 worth of construction still to be completed. The base will be the most expensive military garrison in the country, and, when it is completed, it will also be the largest.


September 21, 1906 – The laying of the cornerstone for the new Cook County building is highlighted by the presence of United States Vice-President Charles W. Fairbanks who arrives to preside at the ceremony.  A long and circuitous parade begins at 2:00 p.m. at the Auditorium Annex where Fairbanks is staying and moves north to Clark, where the principal speakers ascend the dais.  Mayor Edward F. Dunne, Governor Charles S. Deneen, and Vice-President Fairbanks deliver the addresses at the Clark Street ceremony.  In the cornerstone rest volumes of Cook County history, the proceedings of the Cook County board for the year, the membership rolls of the principal clubs of the city, various artifacts supplied by the Chicago Historical Society, and copies of the day’s newspapers.  In the evening a banquet is held at the Auditorium Annex for 500 people.  Pictured above, the county’s half of the building on Clark Street, designed by Holabird and Roche, will be completed by 1908.  The city’s half on LaSalle Street will follow two years later.  


September 21, 1941 – A near tragedy is averted as the Midnight Special on its way out of Chicago and bound for St. Louis is halted just in time to avoid falling into the Chicago River when the railroad bridge at Twenty-First Street is opened to permit a lake freighter to pass.  The engineer brings the train to a halt with “its small front wheels and first large drive wheels already over the water and beyond the rail ends.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 22, 1941]  No one is hurt in the mishap, the passenger cars are pulled back to Union Station, and the passengers continue the trip after the fouled tracks are cleared.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

September 20, 2004 -- Spertus Institutes's New Home Unveiled

innovation glass.com
September 20, 2004 –Chicago architects Ron Krueck and Mark Sexton and the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies unveil a plan for the Institute’s new home on Michigan Avenue.  The plan will be the first test of whether a contemporary building will meet the design guidelines of the Michigan Avenue Historic District. Frist reactions are favorable. Jim Peters, the Director of Planning for the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois, says, “It adheres to many of the more key design guidelines for the district, including height, proportions and mild projections.” [Chicago Tribune, September 19, 2004]The proposed building, projected to cost $49 million, will contain a 400-seat lecture hall, a library, museum, and public facilities and will stand on what had previously been a vacant lot in the 600 block of South Michigan Avenue, just north of the Spertus Institute’s current home at 618 South Michigan Avenue.  Early in 2018 the Spertus Institute’s new building was named as one of Illinois’ 200 Great Places by the Illinois Council of the American Institute of Architects.  The structure’s window wall is built from 726 individual pieces of glass in 556 different shapes.  The multi-faceted planes of the window wall bring light into the building, an important factor on a couple of levels.  According to the Spertus website, “This emphasis on light echoes the Spertus logo, a flame accompanied by the biblical phrase “yehi” or, Hebrew for ‘let there be light,’ symbolizing both physical light and the light of learning.” [https://www.spertus.edu/610at10]


September 20, 1992 – Big commotion on Wacker Drive east of Michigan Avenue when the Michigan Avenue bridge turns into a slingshot, shooting a 70-foot crane into the gap between the span and Wacker Drive. The crane’s boom falls across Wacker Drive with the iron ball and hook at the top of the crane bouncing off Wacker Drive and through the rear window of Jesus Lopez’s Ford Escort.  Says Lopez, “I guess I was just lucky. I’m glad I wasn’t sitting in the back seat.” [Chicago Tribune, September 21, 1992] Jeff Boyle, the city’s Commissioner of Transportation, says, “The southeast leaf of the Michigan Avenue bridge was the last of four leafs under construction. The bridge, which is out of balance during construction, started to rise and went up into a straight vertical position.  What stopped the bridge from going any further or falling back down was the crane that got wedged in there.” Diana Morales, a police officer directing traffic at the time of the accident had just stopped a CTA bus in an effort to divert it to the Wabash Avenue bridge just to the west. “I was behind the bus directing traffic and trying to get the bus out of the way, but [the driver] said he couldn’t move so I told him to just stay there.  [The Northwest leaf] was coming down and the Southeast side started coming up really fast and I just ran the other way.”  Six passengers on the bus are injured as flying debris come through the open windows.  The accident closes down the bridge indefinitely and ultimately leads to an acknowledgement on the part of the city that none of its inspectors had the experience or training to determine the proper balancing of weight on a bridge that is under construction.


September 20, 1915 – Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis orders the steamer Eastland sold with bids to be opened and the sale to take place on December 20, 1915 in the United States marshal’s office in the Federal Building.  The order is issued in order to cover the costs of the Great Lakes Towing Company, the firm that raised the hulk from the river bottom after the ship capsized on July 24 with a loss of life approaching one thousand souls.  According to Jay R. Bonansinga’s The Sinking of the Titanic:  America’s Forgotten Tragedy, “. . . only two bidders showed up at the macabre auction held on a cold December morning." One of them was an attorney from Boston, who represented an East Coast steamship company.  The other was Captain Edward A. Evers of the Illinois Naval Reserve.  Evers won the auction with a bid of 46,000 dollars, taking possession of the hulk on December 28.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

September 19, 2006 -- Wallenda Crosses River on Bicycle

AP / Charles Rex Arbogast
September 19, 2006 –Mario Wallenda, a 65-year-old paralyzed high wire artist, crosses the Chicago River 100 feet in the air near the Merchandise Mart.  “I’m doing this because I need the money, and I’m tired of sitting around the house. I tried lapidary, woodcarving, even needlepoint,” Wallenda says. [Chicago Tribune, September 20, 2006]The performer was paralyzed in 1962 when a seven-person high-wire pyramid collapsed, and two Wallenda family members were killed.  Wallenda is paid between $50,000 and $100,000 for the stunt, according to the event sponsor, WLUP-FM.  At 9:09 a.m. a crane drops Wallenda and his specially-designed electric bicycle above the river.  Two minutes later he is on the other side of the river.  He pauses for a few moments, and by 9:14 he re-crosses the river where the crane waits to lift him back to ground level.  “Things are tough,” Wallenda says. “I have enough money to live comfortably for the rest of my life, as long as I don’t live past next week.”



September 19, 1927:  Wreckers begin tearing down a four-story building at Randolph and LaSalle Streets as bands play and city chieftains make speeches, and the long-awaited widening of LaSalle Street from Washington Boulevard to Ohio Street begins.  The project, which has its beginnings in the Chicago Plan of 1909, is expected to cost $7,455,000, an expenditure that will provide another through street to the near north side and relieve congestion on Michigan Avenue. The president of the Board of Local Improvement, Michael J. Flaherty, wields a pickax and chips away briefly at an old building south of the river on LaSalle even as one tenant, the Hub Raincoat Company, refuses to vacate the structure, saying that the firm has a right to remain until September 23.  The $3,500,000 bridge across the river at LaSalle Street is projected to be completed sometime in late 1928.  The widening of LaSalle Street had the city acquiring 20 feet from each property facing the street, which resulted in the complete loss of many buildings and significant alterations to buildings such as the Reid-Murdoch building on the north side of the river, which lost one whole tier on its west side to make way for the expanded roadway.  A picture of the building before and after the truncation can be seen above.


September 19, 1911 – A wild night on the river as a newly-hired wheelman on the Manistee locks himself in the pilot house and “with whistles tooting and engine bell chiming . . . steamed his Dreadnought up and down the river, charging every craft in sight.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 20, 1911]  The seaman, Martin Daley, is hired that day and almost immediately “took on a cargo of rum.”  He locks himself in the pilot house, signals the engine room for “full speed ahead,” and gets someone to cast off from the wharf at Michigan Avenue.  He brings the Manistee so close to the Rush Street Bridge that “most of the fresh coat of paint on her side adhered to the bridge.”  Steaming back toward the lake, Daley then “directed his energies toward running down smaller craft – launches, ‘party boats,’ and dingies [sic]”  as members of the crew break the windows of the pilot house in order to stop the rampage.  Finally, a Chicago policeman manages to clamber aboard at the life saving station at the river’s mouth and arrests the drunken sailor.  Daley tells the officer that he is going back to the Atlantic Ocean “because they can’t take a joke on the lakes.”  The above photo, taken in 1905, looks east from the Rush Street Bridge to just about the location where the Manistee was berthed.  The Kirk Soap Works stands where 401 North Michigan and the new Apple Store, currently under construction, can be found today.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

September 18, 1934 -- Steinmetz High School Opens


September 18, 1934 –Mayor Edward Kelly is on hand to dedicate the $2,500,000 Steinmetz High School.  In his address he calls upon the state legislature to find a way to increase funding for the school system in the upcoming year.  “The need of more school revenue has been repeatedly demonstrated,” he says.  “At present real estate carries too much of the load, and it is impossible to suppose that additional burdens can be placed on such property. The schools need added revenues and the legislature should provide a plan to secure them.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 19, 1934]Thousands of parents watch 2,800 Steinmetz students pass a reviewing stand to enter the building as the school opens.  The new school is one of five new schools commissioned by the Board of Education that will open in 1934.  Lane Technical High School opens on this day as well.  An addition to Senn High School will open in the next week, and two other schools, Wells and Phillips will be completed by December 15. The school is named for German-American mathematician and electrical engineer Charles Proteus Steinmetz.

September 18, 1924 – The president of the Illinois Society of Architects, Charles E. Fox, proposes in the monthly bulletin of the society “a half-mile long, permanent stone bridge, 160 feet high, over the mouth of the Chicago river”.  [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 19, 1924] The massive bridge would take the place of a lift bridge or tunnel, plans that are under consideration as ways to connect Grant Park and the south side of the city with the north side of the river and Lake Shore Drive.  Says Fox, “It’s a reasonably safe bet that if the proposed tunnel is ever constructed, it’ll stand for a generation or two as a monument to bad judgment and then’ll be filled up … The war department already has shown its hand by refusing to have a lift bridge east of Michigan avenue … On the north a design of approach could be incorporated into the architectural treatment of the Municipal pier.  The bridge itself would be the monumental hub of the city.  A view from the crown of the arch would give to the passing stranger, as well as to the citizen of Chicago a magnificent birdseye view of Grant park and the lake shore both north and south.”  Imagine today what a difference it would make to have a massive stone bridge straight out of New York City plunked down at the entrance to the river … things would look a lot different. 


September 18, 1925 – Alonzo C. Mather pays $500,000 or $7,692 a square foot for 65 feet of frontage on Wacker Drive, adding this property, owned by the Chicago Title & Trust Company, to Michigan Avenue property he already owns east of the Wacker Drive lot.  Born in Fairfield, New York in 1848, Mather came to Chicago in 1875, where he started a wholesale business.  At some point he found a way to wealth – by developing a new kind of railroad stock car that reduced the loss of livestock while in transit through the provision of feed and water.  The Herbert Hugh Riddle design for Mather Tower at 75 East Wacker Drive provided the headquarters for the Mather Stock Car Company when it opened in 1929.  The existing piece of property that Mather owned on Michigan Avenue was meant for another similar tower that would be connected its partner on Wacker Drive by a ground floor arcade.  The economic catastrophe of the Great Depression ended the plan for the second tower.

Monday, September 17, 2018

September 17, 1922 -- Madison Street Bridge Lowered for First Time


September 17, 1922 –The new $1,600,000 Madison Street bridge is lowered into position for the first time at 2:00 p.m., leaving the Clark Street bridge as the only center-pier bridge left in the central area of the city.  It will be three weeks before pedestrians will be allowed across the new bridge, and it will be at least six weeks before traffic crosses the new span.  The bridge’s sidewalks will be 13.5 feet, eight feet wider than the sidewalks on the old center pier bridge that is being replaced.  Work on the new bridge began on December 1, 1919, but there is a long delay in the fabrication of the steel for the span.  It isn’t until late September of 1921 before work resumes.  In March of 1922 the bridge’s bond issue expires, and work was once again is ordered to a halt.  In June Chicago voters approve a new bond issues, and work resumes on August 1.  According to historicbridges.org“This bridge stands out among the bridges of Chicago as one of the most historically and technologically significant since it is the first example of a design that Chicago would use in construction on many bridges during a period of over 40 years.  It also retains ornate sidewalk railings that greatly contribute to the visual beauty of the bridge.” The above photo shows the bridge under construction in 1922.  In the right foreground is the swing bridge which it will replace.



September 17, 1954 – The first new office building to be constructed in the Loop since 1933, the ten-story Sinclair Oil Corporation’s office building on the northeast corner of Wacker Drive and Randolph Street, is officially opened as more than 200 business leaders and officials from the state and city attend the ceremonies.  The new building contains 225,000 square feet of office space and 14,000 square feet of basement parking space.  The structure will consolidate various divisions of the corporation that were previously scattered in four separate locations.  The building is gone today, replaced by the Goettsch Partners tower, finished in 2010, at 155 North Wacker Drive.  The Sinclair building is outlined in the older photograph.  The award-winning Goettsch replacement is shown to the left.


September 17, 1969 – The City Council, by a vote of 30 to 6, approves two ordinances that clear the way for the office and residential development that Chicago now calls Illinois Center.  One ordinance establishes guidelines for the development of the area, and the other codifies the relationship between the city, the owner of the property, Illinois Central Industries, and three developers.  The plan calls for buildings of up to 90 stories with 45,000 workers, 17,500 apartments with 35,000 residents.   In an editorial the Chicago Tribune writes glowingly about the project, asserting, “Chicagoans must feel some exhilaration to see, at long last, this strategic area built on in a manner suitable to its location in the center of the city.  And Chicagoans should take an eager, continuing, and responsible interest as Illinois Center plaza gradually develops . . . A brilliantly successful development here will be a civic asset the importance of which it would be almost impossible to exaggerate.” [Chicago Tribune, September 19, 1969]  The photo at the left shows the approximate area where the Hyatt Regency Hotel stands today.