Sunday, December 17, 2017

December 17, 1905-- Real Estate Is Booming

December 17, 1905 – Looking back over the preceding year, the Chicago Daily Tribune reports that in 1904 the city erected “the equivalent of over forty-seven solid miles of buildings, single frontage, costing approximately $62,000,000.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 17, 1905] Additionally, the real estate transactions for the year totaled approximately $140,000,000.  The construction of apartment houses was double that of 1904, and “despite all these new buildings, builders and agents having them in charge report that they are being filled as soon as completed.”  The southern portions of the city lead the building boom which, the article points out, “simply goes to show what must be accepted as a great sociological fact, that the foreign elements of Chicago’s population, which predominate in the northwest division of the city, are greater home builders and are more attached to the individual home than the more well to do native born element which predominates n the south division.”  Leading the city as far as factory and warehouse construction is the new Sears, Roebuck and Co. plant on Harvard Street on the city’s west side.  In the central business district there were 71 real estate transactions, 30 more than in 1904 and “there is no doubt that they have strengthened greatly, especially in the choicest section of the business district,” where Joseph Leiter refused a $60,000-a-year rental of a small lot at the southeast corner of State Street and Jackson Boulevard which “at the present time … is a trifle startling, to say the least.”  The above photo shows the Sears complex on the west side, designed by Nimmons and Fellows, and begun in 1905.

December 17, 1936 – The Chicago Park District announces a project that will hopefully streamline the traffic flowing through Lincoln Park while providing a new bathing beach and bathhouse for the area as well.  A $1,100,000 grant from the Works Progress Administration is still needed to get the plan going, but when fully funded the project will carry Lake Shore Drive past North Avenue for another half-mile while La Salle Street will be extended from its terminus at Stockton Drive to meet that new section of Lake Shore Drive.  Additionally, a breakwater will be built 1,500 feet from the shoreline at North Avenue, and sand will be used to fill the space between the new breakwater and the shore, creating a new beach.  It is hoped that the new plan will reduce the congestion that has plagued the two lanes of Stockton Drive as it winds through the park, carrying rush hour traffic from both LaSalle Street and Lake Shore Drive south of North Avenue.  The 1934 photo above shows Stockton Drive to the left, winding north past the statue of Abraham Lincoln that today stands below and south of the La Salle Street extension.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

December 16, 1941 -- Chicago Architects Step Up

Erenest A. Grunsfeld, Jr.,
the principal architect of the Adler Planetairum
December 16, 1941 – Just nine days after the Japanese attack on Pear Harbor, the Palmer House hosts a meeting of 550 architects at which 339 members of the American Institute of Architects agree to do full time work in support of the war effort with 241 members saying that they would be willing to go wherever they are assigned.  Ernest A. Grunsfeld, Jr., a member of the Institute’s executive committee, says, “The idea had its beginning at a meeting called to discuss air raid shelters.  We recalled that in the last war technical men rushed about in an effort to aid, and many ended by accepting any job to get in the swim rather than fitting in a position where they would do the most good.  So we set out to find what jobs the government needed done and what men were available to do them.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 17, 1941] Participants at the meeting also decide to open an office in the city to place architects where they can do the most good. 

December 16, 1942 – It is interesting to note how many things that we take for granted today begin as strange, curious, or contested, often taking years before they find acceptance.  One such item went to court on this date in 1942 as the City of Chicago, upon failing to get a permanent injunction against milk sold in paper cartons from Circuit Court Judge Benjamin P. Epstein, went immediately to the Illinois Supreme Court with its suit.  The case hinged on an interpretation of a 1935 city ordinance requiring that milk be sold in “standard” containers.  The United States Supreme Court had already sent the case back to Illinois, saying that it was a matter for the state courts to decide.  The case involved milk sold in single-serving containers, and in a 19-page opinion Judge Epstein ruled that the state legislature’s milk pasteurization law, passed on July 24, 1939, took precedence over the city’s law and permitted milk to be sold in the cartons.  “While the state legislature desired to preserve in the city the right to regulation,” Epstein wrote, “it did not intend to give to the city the right to prohibit that which the state permitted.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 11, 1942]  Interesting case . . . a mystery today why city officials would initiate a case, follow it through the local court, the Illinois Supreme Court, the U. S. Supreme Court, back to the local court and again to the state’s Supreme Court over a milk carton, all of this in the middle of wartime.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

December 15, 1895 -- Lake Park Progresses

December 15, 1895 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports on the progress being made in “transforming the present unsightly vacant space on the Lake-Front into a handsome park.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 14, 1895] At both ends of the proposed new park – at Randolph Street and at Park Row, about where today’s Roosevelt Road runs south of the park – the greatest work has been done.  About 700 feet of a new sea wall that will help to create a new harbor has been run south of Randolph Street.  The Illinois Central Railroad is creating the south end of the sea wall, using two pile-drivers.  On the west side of the tracks, 500 feet of foundation has been laid for a retaining wall with work halted during the winter season.  Railroad spurs have been laid at the south end of the park on which hundreds of loads of dirt have been dumped into the lake to create new land although this section of the new park “presents the appearance of the outskirts of a brick-yard.”  The top photo shows the lake park, today's Grant Park, in 1893 before work started on its improvement.  The photo below that one shows all of the land that has been added to the east of the Illinois Central tracks as part of the development of the new park.

December 15, 1940 – Newly elected Congressman Charles S. Dewey calls upon all Chicagoans to begin backing a plan to place an airport in the heart of the city, a project that would extend from the lake a mile west to the New York Central Railroad tracks and from Sixteenth Street north to the south end of Soldier Field.  Dewey’s plan would raise the airport above the Outer Drive and the Illinois Central tracks just to the west of that roadway.  The congressman lists four distinct advantages of his plan:  (1) the city could recoup the cost of construction through fees charged to the airlines; (2) the project would provide a huge market for unskilled labor; (3) the location of the new airport would be a huge improvement in air service to the city and a boon for all city businesses; and (4) at least a square mile of “blighted area” would be removed from the near south side.  Dewey says, “It is fantastic to put the main airport out at the edge of the city.  The cheapest land, actually, is that in the blighted areas near the center of Chicago.”  Meeting objections that an already noisy city will become even noisier with an airport in its center, Dewey says, “A city is practically built upon noise.  Listen to that street traffic noise 20 floors below my office.  Noise means activity.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 16, 1940]   Dewey served one term as a representative from the Ninth Congressional District of Illinois, was defeated in his bid for re-election in 1945 and went back to the banking business as a vice-president of Chase National Bank.