Tuesday, September 19, 2017

September 19, 1927 -- LaSalle Street Widening Begins




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.

Monday, September 18, 2017

September 18, 1924 -- Bridge Proposal for Lake Shore Drive



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 the lift bridge or the 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 life stock 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.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

September 17, 1954 -- Sinclair Oil Officially Opens on Wacker



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.