Saturday, August 18, 2018

August 18, 1935 -- Navy Pier Opera Series Begins


August 18, 1935 –A double bill of “Cavalleria Rusticana” and “Pagliacci” opens at 8:15 p.m. in the auditorium at Navy Pier.  This will start an eight-week series of opera at the pier with performances being offered at a cost of 50 cents and a dollar.  Part of the program is underwritten by the city council through an appropriation of $2,500.  Prior to the evening’s program an announcement is made that opera-goers will be admitted in their shirt sleeves and that patrons will “enjoy the advantages of the natural cooling system provided by Lake Michigan.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 18, 1935] The above photo shows the pier in 1936 in a view taken from Oak Street.

August 18, 1960 – James F. Tobin, president of Wieboldt Stores, Inc., announces that the firm will take over full control of Mandel’s stores at State and Madison Streets as well as in Lincoln Village Shopping Center at 4041 Milwaukee Avenue.  “Wieboldt’s will bring to State street the same high standard of merchandise and customer service policies which has spearheaded the Wieboldt progress and steady growth in the Chicagoland area for the past 77 years,” says Tobin. [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 19, 1960] Werner A. Wieboldt, the chairman of Wieboldt says, “I have great personal admiration for State street and for the many reputable merchants who have made it great.  We are dedicated to add to its strength of attraction and hope to make it an even greater retail center.”


August 18, 1969 – The Chicago Plan Commission approves a zoning ordinance for the 80-acre air rights site of the Illinois Central Railroad south of the river and east of Randolph Street.  Lewis Hill, the Commissioner of Development and Planning, says, “Successful planned development here will greatly affect the future of the whole central area and much of the city and metropolitan area.  It is in both the public and private interest that this development proceed beyond a mere meeting of minimal standards to the achievement of an environment of high quality.”  [Chicago Tribune, August 19, 1969]   Illinois Center today occupies the upper left section of the railroad yard below the river in the above photo. 

Friday, August 17, 2018

August 17, 1976 -- Conrad Hilton Sniper Wounds Two


August 17, 1976 –A sniper opens fire on a crowd in front of the Conrad Hilton Hotel, wounding two people.  Witnesses say that as many as five shots may have been fired from an elevated sidewalk across the street in Grant Park.  William Charnota, an elevator starter at the hotel at 720 South Michigan Avenue, is grazed in the back of the leg by a bullet, and a minister from San Diego, in town for the Convention of the International Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, is wounded in the hip.  The minister’s wife says, “I wasn’t too keen on coming here in the first place.  I’ve heard all about Chicago and unfortunately it all came true, too true for me.”  Charnota says, “Everybody was falling down, hitting the sidewalk.  When you see all that, you know it’s not just firecrackers. It was pretty crowded.  I guess he figured he had a good target.  It happened in seconds.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 18, 1976] Although a witness describes the assailant to police, darkness and confusion allow the gunman to escape.  In the above Chicago Tribune photo, police search the area in Grant Park across the street from the Conrad Hilton Hotel.



August 17, 1982 – Preliminary plans for transforming Goldblatt’s closed store on State Street into the Chicago Public Library are unveiled at the Library Board of Director’s meeting.  City architect Joseph Casserly declares that a plaza at the Jackson Street entrance to the building is part of “a design that will give a new, highly imaginative identity to the building.” [Chicago Tribune, August 18, 1982] The plan also has the city demolishing the Kee Department Store on the corner of Jackson Boulevard and State Street, thereby making a Jackson Boulevard entrance to the library feasible.  It is anticipated that the main library will begin moving its collection into the renovated department store sometime in January of 1984.  The top photo shows an artist's rendering of what the converted department store would look like once it became the new main library.  The photo below that shows how close the new library on State Street south of Van Buren is to the proposed Goldblatt's conversion.


August 17, 1950 – A homeless Navy veteran, James Wagster, 45, leaps into the Chicago River from the Lake Shore Drive Bridge, setting in motion a remarkable series of events that ultimately saves him from death.  Birdell Grant, 28, comes upon Wagster as he stands on the bridge, looking down at the water.  Grant, just released from the prison at Statesville and having been rejected for jobs at 25 places, asks Wagster for directions to an office where he can apply for work as a stevedore.  Wagster’s answer is a question . . . he asks Grant if he has a drink on him.  When Grant replies that he dioes not, Wagster announces that he is going to get one and jumps from the bridge.  Grant, who suffers from a bone ailment for which he has undergone five operations, runs down the bridge stairs to the water’s edge, removing his shirt and shoes on the way, and jumps in the water, suffering cramps just as he reaches Wagster.  Two passing motorists hear the commotion and they, too, jump in the water and swim 60 yards to the two men.  By that time the two bridge tenders, Jack Northrup and Leo Loughran, toss life preservers to the men and a Coast Guard boat arrives to help all four men ashore.  In his efforts Grant loses his last 15 cents;  one of the bridge tenders gives him money for his transportation back home.  Wearing only shorts and wrapped in a police blanket, Wagster, when asked in South State Street Court why he had jumped, tells the judge, “Judge, I must be crazy.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 17, 1950]

Thursday, August 16, 2018

August 16, 1965 -- United Air Lines Flight 389 Crashes Off Highland Park


August 16, 1965 –United Air Lines Flight 389, carrying 24 passengers and a crew of six, disappears from radar screens only five minutes from its scheduled arrival at O’Hare International Airport.  Boats searching the lake about seven miles off Highland Park are hampered by darkness, but twisted pieces of wreckage are reported.  The last communication with the flight occurs at 9:18 p.m. as the O’Hare control tower gives directions for approach to the airport, receiving a “Roger” from the pilot.  Search plans and helicopters drop flares in an attempt to illuminate the search area, and by 1:00 a.m. more than 20 vessels are there, many of them private boats from yacht clubs along the North Shore.  A temporary morgue is also set up in the gymnasium of Highland Park High School. The plane had only been in service for three months at the time of the crash.  Three months later another Boeing 727 crashes on approach to Cincinnati, killing 62 of the 66 passengers on board.  Three days after that United Airlines Flight 227, another 727, crashes on landing at Salt Lake City International Airport, killing 43 of 91 on board.  There is widespread concern that the Boeing 727, first flown in 1963, is an accident waiting to happen.  Extensive review, however, reveals that the airplane is airworthy and properly certified. Those reviews also reveal that pilots, accustomed to flying DC-6’s and other propeller planes, were having trouble adjusting to the rapid descent of the new plane.  The Federal Aviation Agency subsequently required airlines to make changes in training procedures to emphasize the importance of stabilized approaches. The above Chicago Tribune photo shows the crowd gathered on a Highland Park beach, awaiting word from the search area.



August 16, 1893 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that the Art Institute of Chicago and the Armour Institute have joined forces “for the purpose of establishing in Chicago a full and thorough course of study in architecture.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 16, 1893] W. M. R. French will direct the Art Institute coursework, and the Reverend F. W. Gunsaulus will handle the work for the Armour Institute.  The Art Institute library in 1893 had 1,300 books and 19,000 photographs with 200 books and 1,000 photographs relating directly to the subject of architecture.  The Armour Institute had 10,000 volumes in its library as well as physical and chemical laboratories and courses of study in electricity, mining, and mechanical engineering.  Director French says of the decision, “The Armour Institute, under the Presidency of the Rev. F. W. Gunsalulus, has laid out courses of technical study of the highest order. The departments of mechanical engineering, electricity, civil engineering, etc., are equal to those of the Institute of Technology of Boston, and the laboratories, shops, library, and appliances are in accord with the most approved and modern practice in technical schools.  There are already 500 applicants to enter the various departments upon the opening of the first school year, Sept. 14.”  William French is shown above at the easel. Reverend Gunsaulus is the man at the desk in the photo below that.


August 16, 1978 – In an editorial the Chicago Tribune states its opposition to a recommendation by the Chicago branch of the American Association of Architects that a way be found to preserve Chicago’s Loop elevated structure.  The paper asserts, “Anyone who finds a resemblance between Chicago’s elevated and San Francisco’s cable cars must have been standing at Lake and Wabash so long that the screeching has softened his brain.  No way can the “L” be considered charming, quaint, fun, or attractive to visitors . . . There is no good reason, either sensible or sentimental, to preserve the “L” one day longer than is economically unavoidable.  The noisy, dirty eyesore is of no architectural value and will interfere with the practical and esthetic pleasures and profitability of both the State Street mall and the North Loop renewal plan.”     

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

August 15, 1893 -- Grant Park Workers' Mass Meeting


August 15, 1893 –A mass-meeting of unemployed workers is held at 2:30 p.m. at the Columbus Statue in the Lake-Front Park, today’s Grant Park.  The gathering, organized by the Allied Woodworkers’ Trades Council, is made up of delegates of various trades, among them cabinet makers, piano varnishers and finishers, upholsterers, carvers, box makers, and sash, door and blind makers. The call to the meeting suggests it will deal with the questions: (1) Why are we idle and how can we be furnished employment; (2) Is it men or conditions we have to deal with; and (3) Shall we warn the unemployed of other cities, towns and States to stay away from Chicago or shall we let them come? [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 15, 1893] The Depression to which the workers are responding could possibly have been the worst in the country’s history. Even as the great World’s Columbian Exposition was drawing millions to Chicago, the nation’s gold reserves fell steeply, touching off a financial panic that closed four thousand banks by the end of the year.  Some fifty railroads failed in the crisis, a fact that hit Chicago, the railroad capital of the nation, particularly hard.  Unemployment climbed to 20 percent, and Chicago police were stationed at railroad stations to keep the unemployed from coming into the city. It would not be until 1897 that things would begin to improve. 


August 15, 1860 – The Chicago Press and Tribune provides its annual review of the city’s fire department, introducing its inventory with a homage to “the gallant wearers of red shirts and fire hats, that on the occasion of a jingling of wild bells in an alarm of fire, used to start up from all corners and nooks, and come dashing up areas and round corners …”  [Chicago Press and Tribune, August 14, 1860] The fire department took a leap forward in 1858 when it purchased the first steam-powered fire engine, dubbed the “Long John” after the nickname of the mayor, “Long John” Wentworth.  In the two years that followed, “… hand machines have been sold to other cities, costly hose carts have sought the rural districts to be the wonder of the smaller communities, the steam machines with a few hand engines and hose carts located in different remote sections of the city …” constitute the fire department, manned by paid professionals.  With just a few strokes of a bell, the paper reports, “… in less than two minutes steam engines with attendant hose carriages … all drawn by over thirty powerful horses are in the streets moving at a hard gallop toward the scene of conflagration.”  A partial inventory of the department includes: (1) The Long John, drawn by four horses and housed on LaSalle Street near Washington.  The engine has a force of eleven men, including an engineer, a fireman, two drivers, five pipemen, and an engine house watchman.  (2) The Enterprise, a Seneca Falls machine housed on State Street near Harrison, drawn by four horses with the same complement of personnel as the Long John.  (3) The Atlantic, a Seneca Falls machine housed on Michigan Avenue near the river with four horses and a force of eleven.  (4) The Island Queen, a third Seneca Falls machine, housed on West Lake Street with four horses and a crew of eleven.  (5) The U. P. Harris, a Philadelphia machine, housed on Jackson Street near Clinton on the west side with four horses and eleven crew members.  (6) The Little Giant, a moskeag machine, housed on Dearborn Street near Washington with two horses and eleven crew members.  The Long John, with forty pounds of steam pressure, could produce four streams of water through 100 feet of hose horizontally 150 feet; with sixty pounds of steam pressure two streams of water could be thrown 160 feet horizontally. The machine weighed five tons and cost about $5,000.  The Long John is shown in the above photo.


August 15, 1911 – As 50,000 watch the third day of the Aero meet being held in Grant Park, two accidents take the lives of aviators and silence the crowds.  Mike Badger of Pittsburgh, flying a Baldwin biplane, dies as he executes a low-level flyover of Grant Park, ending with a dramatic climb that tears his plane apart.  The plane falls 50 feet and the wealthy daredevil dies at St. Luke’s Hospital.  St. Croix Johnstone, flying a Moisant monoplane, dies as his plane falls into Lake Michigan a little after 6:00 p.m. about a mile off shore opposite Twelfth Street.  He is attempting to do a corkscrew maneuver when 800 feet above the lake the “spidery monoplane tipped a bit, shot downward with a sickening swoop, overturning just before it splashed In the water.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 16, 1911]   Before he goes up on that day, Badger holds a wide-ranging interview with a Tribune reporter, saying, “That’s the nuttiest idea people have about aviators.  They think they don’t mind death at all.  Why, I set just as much store by my life as you do.  I love life.  They think we go out of our way to invite death.  They say we don’t take ordinary precautions.  I don’t consider that I take one chance in 10,000 with my life . . . You must be sure of your machine.  I am sure of mine.  You must be sure of your good muscle and your clear brain.  I am sure of mine.”

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

August 14, 1936 -- Benjamin Marshall Home Sold to Nathan Goldblatt


August 14, 1936 –Nathan Goldblatt signs a contract for the purchase of the residence built by Benjamin Marshall in Wilmette on Sheridan Road opposite the Baha’i Temple. It is reported that Marshall, the architect who designed the Drake Hotel, the South Shore Country Club and the Blackstone Theater and a host of other impressive buildings, had reportedly spent over a million dollars on the home and its furnishings.  The Spanish-influenced home commanded a view of Lake Michigan … the Sheridan Shores Yacht Club used the home’s basement as its clubhouse. Marshall’s work studio had a space for 45 draftsmen.  The home had a 50-foot-high, 75-by-100-foot tropical garden with palm and banana trees. The home’s swimming pool was lined with turquoise tiles from Algiers. Goldblatt reportedly paid $60,000 for the home but did not stay there long, and in 1950 Wilmette had the home razed.  Only the wrought-iron gates remain on the property, which is today owned by the Baha’i Temple.



August 14, 1960 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that a building at 739 North State Street has been raised, and the rubble is made up of the remains of the flower shop that Dion O’Banion ran, a place “where murders, boot-legging, and hi-jackings were planned amidst flowering plants and the scent of roses.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 14, 1960] Ironically, at the time “the same building that once served as the headquarters of a bloody band of killers during the guzzling decade of the twentieth century” was most recently used as a meeting place for the Young People’s club of Holy Name Cathedral.  In April of 2017 it was disclosed that JDL Development had agreed to pay $110 million to the Archdiocese of Chicago for the 90,000 square-foot property three blocks west of North Michigan Avenue.  On January 18, 2018 the Chicago Plan Commission approved a project to build two towers on the site, the taller of which will be the eighth Chicago "supernal" building at 1,011 feet. The killing of Dion O’Banion in the shop in 1924 touched off a gang war that lasted for five years, pitting the north side gang of O’Banion against Al Capone’s gang from the south side.  The photos above show the flower shop and the same area as it appears today.


August 14, 1933 – Joseph Hastings, a Chicago policeman married for only four months, is shot to death during a gun battle with two thieves who rob a city office on Navy Pier.  He is the eleventh policeman to die in the line of duty during 1933.  The money that is stolen was intended for men on emergency relief who were employed by the city to do work at the pier.  Thomas B. Rawls, an official of the West Englewood Currency exchange, used it to cash checks from the workers at a fee of 15 cents a check.  It is unclear why a representative of a private enterprise is cashing checks in an office of the city street department.  Hastings, hearing a shot fired, runs into a second floor office at the west end of the pier. One of the dozen clerks in the office, Charles Eddy, outlines the ensuing events, “Hastings came in the door with his revolver drawn . . . The man at the side wall opened fire.  The policeman fell to the floor and fired two shots in return.  The robbers ran to the door.  Hastings got up, and one of the robbers turned and shot him as he rose.  The robber then grabbed Hastings’ gun and ran out. . .” [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 13, 1933]  Morris Cohen a barber, is captured 30 minutes later at 1331 North Clark Street.  His two companions remain on the lam.  The above photo depicts Navy Pier as it appeared in 1933.

Monday, August 13, 2018

August 13, 1969 -- Illinois Center Development Begins with Development Announcement


August 13, 1969 –The chairman of Illinois Central Industries, Inc., William B. Johnson, announces the formation of Illinois Center Plaza Venture, the corporation that will develop the 83-acre site east of Michigan Avenue, between Randolph Street and the Chicago River.  Jupiter Corporation, Metropolitan, Inc., and the Illinois Central Corporation will be equal partners in the plan, which will see the new company purchasing the property from the Illinois Central Railroad for a base price of $83,625,000 with an escalation rider over a 15-year development period.  The site on which the proposed Standard Oil building will be constructed as well as the site of the 111 East Wacker Drive building, which is under construction, along with two adjacent sites, are excluded from the sale. The Prudential building and the Outer Drive East apartments were constructed on air rights in which the Illinois Central did not share in the profits of the buildings.


August 13, 2009 – Bank of America initiates a suit against Shelbourne Development Group Inc., the developer that began construction of the 150-floor Chicago Spire, construction that was subsequently halted after foundation work was completed.  Bank of America claims that the developer has defaulted on its loan.  The bank says that it is filing a suit in United States District Court in Chicago, seeking $4.9 million in principal and interest from Shelbourne and its chairman, Garrett Kelleher. The complaint alleges that the firm has failed to obtain an “irrevocable construction loan commitment” from a lender, leading the Bank of America to declare a default. [Chicago Tribune, August 14,2009] The photo above shows the remains of the project as they look today.


August 13, 1928 – Construction begins on the Merchandise Mart on the site of the old Chicago and North Western station on the north bank of the Chicago River between Wells Street and Orleans.  A force of 5,700 workers will speed the construction, using cement brought from Wisconsin by boat, and by May 1,1930 the first 200 tenants will begin moving into the 4,000,000 square foot building.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

August 12, 1900 -- Boulevard System Is Complete


August 12, 1900 –A few carriages are seen making the entire circuit of Chicago’s boulevard system after the bridge on Diversey Boulevard is completed and the boulevard project is finished.  There are only two breaks in the 30-mile “ring of parks” that runs around the city on three sides – one between Humboldt Boulevard and Humboldt Park and the other south of Douglas Park leading to the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.  The latter is particularly notable … “a drive of more than a mile over rough cedar pavements, car tracks, through unpaved streets filled with mudholes and through a big ditch near the drainage channel would almost dispel the favorable impressions gained.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 13, 1900]Lake Shore Drive in Lincoln Park is the least impressive part of the completed system, a route on which “A carriage lurches along through holes that are half a foot deep, wheelmen dodge in and out to avoid them.  Water from sprinkling collects in the holes and splashes carriages and riders.”  There are only ten railroad crossings in the entire 30-mile system.  Although there are rough patches along the way, the Tribuneconcludes, “A trip over the system now that it is made possible serves to show most of all at what a comparatively slight expenditure the whole thing might be put in shape … When it is finished Chicago will have the longest boulevard drive in the world.”


August 12, 1999 – A power failure leaves the city’s Greek Town neighborhood and 30 square blocks of the Loop from the center of downtown southward in the dark, sends workers tumbling from high rise office buildings and busses packed with people trying to get home moving slowly through intersections where the traffic lights are not working.  Mayor Richard M. Daley says, “I firmly believe this company better get down to ground zero.  Someone should tell [utility executives] about that infrastructure.  Infrastructure is the key.  They’ve neglected it for too long and it’s come home to roost.”  [CNN.com, August 13, 1999] The Board of Trade stops trading because of the service disruption.  Banks in the heart of the city lose power, and the downtown police headquarters operates on emergency generators.  Weather is not involved in the blackout.  Three of four transformers at a downtown substation go offline.  One had been undergoing repairs in the preceding week, and another two shut down while, at the same time, two high voltage cables also fail.  This problem comes less than two weeks after a power failure on July 30 that left 100,000 people in the city without power on the hottest day of the year as temperatures climbed to 104 degrees.  Commonwealth Edison spokesman Keith Bromery engages in an epic feat of understatement when he says, “Basically, we know that we have a reliability problem.” [Los Angeles Times, August 26, 1999] The substation at 868 South Jefferson, shown above, is the area in the south Loop at which three out of four transformers failed.


August 12, 1952 – Ground is broken for the 35-million dollar Prudential building on Randolph Street, east of Michigan Avenue.  Mayor Martin Kennelly and Valentine Howell, the executive vice-president of the Prudential Insurance Company of America scoop up the first shovels of earth for one of the 260 caissons that will support the 41-story building as Holman D. Pettibone, president of the Chicago Title and Trust Company, officiates at the ceremonies.  For an in-depth look at the origins of the Prudential building and what it take to get the thing built, you can turn to this blog entry from 2012.  The above photo shows the area east of Michigan Avenue before Prudential was begun.  It would stand just about where the Pabst Blue Ribbon sign is located.