Tuesday, June 13, 2017

June 13, 1922 -- Weissmuller Sets Two World Records


June 13, 1922 – Representing the Illinois Athletic Club, John Weismuller smashes four world’s swimming records at Kahului on the island of Maui.  Weismuller took 14 seconds off the previous record in the 400-yard freestyle, finishing in 4:40.4.  In the 400-meter freestyle he breaks the old world’s record by six seconds.  He also sets a new record in the 500-yard freestyle and the 500-meter freestyle events.  In addition to the records Weismuller also takes gold in the 100- and 50-yard freestyle races. The champion’s family came to the United States from Germany when he was just seven-months-old, eventually settling in Chicago where his father, Peter, worked as a brewer.  When the young man contracted polio as a teenager, a doctor suggested he take up swimming to combat the ravages of the disease.  He dropped out of Lane Technical High School, working as a lifeguard on Chicago beaches, eventually ending up as an elevator operator at the Illinois Athletic Club.  It was there that he was given a chance to show his skill.  A little over two years after his success in the Hawaiian Islands, Weismuller will compete in the 1924 Olympic games in Paris, taking four gold medals.  Four years later in the Amsterdam Olympic games he will won another two gold medals.  In the early 1930’s he will ink a seven-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, beginning a career that is notable for the six Tarzan movies in which he starred.



June 13, 1967 – Efforts to correct the sinking north wall of the Monadnock building are finished.  After a real estate investment group headed by Carroll H. Sudler, purchased the building for more than two million dollars, it was discovered that the 1891 structure is sinking.  For the preceding two months, according to the Chicago Tribune, 31 pipes, each of them 14 inches in diameter, have been sunk under four supporting piers of the north wall and then filled with concrete.  On this date the work is completed.  The Monadnock is safe, but Jackson Boulevard on which the narrow north face of the Monadnock sits, is a mess, “slumping badly in sections,” according to the Tribune as a result of excavation work for the new Federal building that is being constructed directly across the street from the Monadnock.

Monday, May 22, 2017

May 22, 1956 -- Chicago River Gondolas


May 22, 1956 – Mayor Richard J. Daley says it might be a fine idea to have gondolas, “operated by experts from Venice,” [Chicago Daily Tribune May 23, 1956] on the Chicago River.  He added further that it would be great to see boys and girls fishing from the river banks.  Behind the message lies a motive – the mayor adds that for such pastimes to occur the federal government would need to permit an increased diversion of Lake Michigan water into the river, something that cities and states on the Great Lakes have fought for over four decades.


May 22, 1934 – Disaster occurs at the Oakley building, 143 West Austin Avenue, when a 40,000 gallon water tank on the top of the building falls through the roof and smashes through the core of the building to the first floor. Five workers inside the building are killed and another half-dozen seriously injured. One of the injured, Clyde Otto, who was hurt in the stampede for the fire escapes describes the event: “The walls began to shake all of a sudden and we heard a series of crashes – I guess it was the tank hitting the various floors. The girls began to scream and every one rushed for the fire escape.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 2, 1934] The last inspector to examine the tank was Daniel Hartford, who had approved it in January. Appearing before an inquest on June 1 he was asked how much he knew about the work he was doing. Hartford answered, “I didn’t know anything about it . . . I’m just the same as you or anybody else who might inspect it.” A few days later the city’s building commissioner says that of the 3,000 water tanks on city roofs the building department only has records for two-thirds of them. At least a thousand such tanks were built before 1919 when the state required that blueprints of the tanks be filed with the building department.


Sunday, May 21, 2017

May 21, 1919 -- Jewish Protest against Treatment in Europe



May 21, 1919 – Jewish workers throughout the city, some 25,000 people in all, “in response to the notice carried throughout the Jewish resident and factory districts by word and handbill” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 21, 1919] gather at Twelfth and Robey Streets to form a column of marchers that will demonstrate against the treatment of Jews in Europe.  A speaker at the event, Clarence Darrow, says, “There should be more freedom over the world for the Jews.  The question of persecution of the Jews is an old one … We are forming a number of new nations; it should be written into their constitutions that they will enforce equal rights for all people.”  The protests focus especially on Poland, a country that the United States sees as a counterbalance to the influence of Russia in the period after World War I. In June of 1919 President Theodore Roosevelt will send a delegation to Poland headed by Henry Morgenthau, Sr. to investigate the reports of atrocities.  The report of the delegation comes in October of 1919 and provides details of eight major incidents in 1918 and 1919 in which violence occurs against Polish Jews.


May 21, 1973 -- The Chicago Tribune prints a report on the full plan to revitalize the central area of the city, a plan for which the Chicago Central Area Committee paid Skidmore, Owings and Merrill nearly $400,000 to draft. Today it is interesting to note what parts of the plan “made it” and what recommendations did not. The stakes were high. As the Tribune observes, “If it bombs, downtown Chicago may bomb, too.” The report puts into words what “white leaders don’t know how to talk about . . . without sounding like bigots.” Whites running from the city to the suburbs, which are becoming increasingly independent of the city. A “growing schizophrenia [skyscrapers and stores bustling by day, with little action at night] . . . changing the Loop. Blacks “still crowded into housing projects like Cabrini-Green” and the potential of a “tipping point where whites start staying away” from the city.
The 1973 SOM plan suggests "gradual modification." for projects such as Cabrini Green.

The above photo shows Cabrini Green as it sprawled across the northwest side of the city. 

Here are some of the recommendations that we can look on 43 years later and admire the prescience of the planners of the early 1970’s:

  Meigs Airport will be scrapped and Northerly Island, on which it stands converted to park, beach and picnic use.

  Navy Pier will be transformed into a lively recreational facility with restaurants, an auditorium, and exhibits.

  No further private construction will be permitted east of Lake Shore Drive. 

  A miniature supercity for 120,000 would be concentrated on 650 acres of largely unused railroad land, south of the Loop.

  Means would be found to encourage major development of the Chicago Dock and Canal Trust property along the north side of the river between St. Clair Street and the lakefront.

  Rehabilitation and stabilization – not clearance, or relocation – are stressed for the Pilsen and East Humboldt Park neighborhoods.

And here are a few that didn’t get done:

  A giant sports arena will be built south of the Loop within easy distance of the lakefront if not actually on it.

  Lake Shore Drive, where it runs along Grant Park, will be narrowed and left turns would be prohibited, forcing motorists heading for the central business district to park in new public lots on the Loop’s fringes and ride on a new subway or another form of public transportation.

  The Loop elevated will be torn down and replaced with a subway.   Once free of the elevated’s shadow, the east side of Wabash Avenue will be converted to a pedestrian-oriented shopping street.

  A personalized, automated rapid transit system might connect the “super blocks” of the South Loop to the center of the city over Illinois Central Gulf Railroad air rights.  A passenger would enter a small car, push a button on a map showing his destination, and zip away automatically.

And . . . a few that sort of got done:

  Traffic on State Street will be narrowed to four lanes for buses and taxis only. Autos will be banned.   Widened sidewalks with tees and shrubs will form pleasant promenades.  (This one happened in an experiment that didn’t work and was reversed.)

  Gradual modification of Cabrini Green is proposed.  (It got modified down to bare ground.)