Friday, March 23, 2018

March 23, 1921 -- Michigan Avenue Bridge to Be Beautified

"Regeneration" by Henry Hering
March 23, 1921 – Two gifts of $50,000 are unveiled, one from William Wrigley, Jr. and the other from the trustees of the Ferguson Fund, with the money underwriting a plan “to make the new Michigan avenue bridge with its approaches one of the show places of the world and a link between the Chicago of today and the village of the historic past.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 24, 1921] Charles H. Wacker, Chairman of the Chicago Plan Commission, says, “Not only for the direct result, but also for its influence toward the finest and better city of the future, do we value these public spirited benefactions.  They cannot fail to point the way to others who will be called upon to aid in embellishing the improved South Water street.  Decorative features and sculpture must be provided to make the Chicago river attractive like European water courses, and an object of beauty instead of ugliness.” The plan is to create bridgehouses on each corner of the bridge that will tell the story of the history that has taken place in the location where the new bridge crosses the river.  The bridgehouse at the northeast corner stands approximately at the spot where the first non-native American settler, Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable, built his home.  At the southwest corner stood the site of Fort Dearborn.  The sculptures that grace the bridgehouses today are a direct result of the gifts of 1921.  Wrigley’s contribution made possible the work on the north side of the bridge. The Discoverers by James Earle Fraser shows four early discoverers who explored the area in the seventeenth century. The Pioneers depicts early settler John Kinzie leading a group through the wilderness.  The sculptures on the southern bridgehouses were commissioned by the B. F. Ferguson Monument Fund and are the work of Henry Hering.  Defense depicts Ensign  George Ronan in a scene from the 1812 Battle of Fort Dearborn, and Regeneration depicts workers rebuilding Chicago after the Great Chicago Fire  of 1871. As a kick sometime when you are passing by the Regeneration sculpture on the southeast bridgehouse, check out that funky salamander nipping at that stalwart female’s ankles.  Symbolism a-plenty.

March 23, 1963 – An estimated half-million people turn out “in sparkling spring weather” [Chicago Tribune, March 24, 1963] to greet President John F. Kennedy, jamming the route of his motorcade “wherever he traveled during his four hour stay.”  Secret service agents and police officers scramble at one point as the president orders his limousine stopped on the Cumberland Avenue overpass and gets out to shake hands with members of a crowd of several hundred people who had gathered at that location.  Under the Lake Street viaduct on the expressway workers remove the plastic bubble top of the limousine and haul it away in a city truck.  “Then, with the warm spring breezes ruffling his hair, Mr. Kennedy began his entry into the Loop, an entry made almost triumphant as the nation’s biggest Democratic organization turned all-out to greet the President and their mayoral candidate [Mayor Richard J. Daley] in the April 2 election.”  Another moment that took the motorcade by surprise occurs on Jackson Boulevard, which is “the domain of the various ward organization delegations.”  The bridge tender on Jackson gives the procession a salute by ringing the bridge’s bells and activating its flashing lights.  The bridge remains stationary, though, and where “Jackson boulevard slashes thru the city’s financial district, the air was filled with confetti and ticker tape.”  With temperatures near 60 degrees and bright sunshine throughout his short stay in the city, the president doubly felt the warmth of his Chicago welcome.

March 23, 1946 -- The United States Navy announces that the 265-foot U. S. S. Willmette will be sold, closing a chapter in Chicago history that began in 1903 when the ship was built as a freighter. It was almost immediately converted to a passenger ship that could hold as many as 2,000 people. The name of the ship was the Eastland, the ship that took 812 people to their graves when it capsized in the Chicago River on July 24, 1915. After she was raised, the Navy purchased the hulk and converted it to a training ship with a new name. Captain E. A. Evers, who lived in Willmette, and other interested citizens, were successful in having the ship named after that North Shore community. The Navy found no buyers for the ship, and it was decommissioned and broken up for scrap in that same year of 1946.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

March 22, 1932 -- Lake Shore Drive Gets Another Mile

March 22, 1932 – The Illinois Department of Public Works announces that $400,000 of gasoline tax revenue will be allocated for a one-mile extension of Lake Shore Drive from Montrose Avenue to Foster Avenue.  Although the land has not been created for the section north of Wilson Avenue, the half-mile section between Montrose and Wilson can begin as soon as weather permits.  Plans call for two 40-foot wide roadways with enough land on either side to allow them to be widened to 60 feet.  Grade separations will also be built at Montrose with future grade separations at Lawrence and Foster Avenues.  This is just one part of a highway program that will see $2,000,000 spent on improving roads across the city in 1932.  The above photo shows the new road in 1938 at Wilson Avenue with the completed grade separation.

March 22, 1902 – Members of the Western Society of Engineers inspect the cofferdam being prepared for the foundation of the new bridge at Randolph Street.  In doing so they examine “the first American test of steel sheet piling, which, it is contended will work a revolution in dock and bridge construction.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 23, 1902] Tryggve Larssen, a government surveyor in Bremen, Germany, seems to have come up with the idea for the rolled steel piles with a channel-shaped cross section. [].  The first installation of the new supporting members was in a waterfront structure in Bremen and are still serving their original purpose today.  Impressive, isn’t it, that engineers in Chicago picked up on the idea so quickly, and foundries responded with a similar amount of speed?  In the case of Chicago with its high water table and sandy soil, it was thought that the new Larssen pilings could save at least a month in constructing cofferdams.  As can be seen in the above photo, the cofferdams created for the extension of the city's River Walk were formed with basically the same engineering as they were back in 1902.

March 22, 1955 -- The federal government awards a $507,765 contract for reconstructing the Congress Street arcade through the Chicago post office in a move that will permit extension of the west side expressway through the building and across the river on a new bridge by the fall of 1956. Pathman Construction Company is the successful bidder. The city will pick up another $600,000 of the project. Since 1952 the federal government has spent another eight million dollars altering the post office building so that it can accommodate the new expressway, The post office can barely be seen in the center of the photo above as the area east of the building waits for the construction of what today is the Congress Expressway.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

March 21, 1969 -- Anti-War Protests Threatened as Cops Are Indicted

Rennie Davis (middle), flanked by Tom Hayden and Jerry Rubin
March 21, 1969 – Rennie Davis, the coordinator of the National Mobilization Committee in Chicago, already under indictment for his role in disturbances at the Democratic National Convention in 1968, threatens to bring new protests to the city.  Speaking at a press conference with Lee Weiner, a Northwestern University research assistant also under indictment, Davis says, “I believe the demonstration leaders who were indicted will receive the support to show that the Nixon administration made a serious mistake and will be sorry for it.” [Chicago Tribune, March 22, 1969] Protest will come in the form of an anti-war march on April 5, to coincide with similar marches in a half-dozen other cities.  At the same time Davis is speaking Superintendent of Police James Conlisk announces the suspensions of four of the eight policemen indicted by a grand jury for their actions during the convention.  Conlisk says he will recommend dismissal of the officers to the police disciplinary board.  Prior to this announcement, only one of the officers had received any disciplinary action.  Captain Raymond Clark, director of the police internal investigations division says the investigation of the officers was “thorough, but apparently the government has avenues of investigation not open to the police department.”

March 21, 1894 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports on the remarks of Judge Lorin C. Collins, a respected jurist who served as the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives and as a Chicago Circuit Court Judge before retiring to private practice in 1893.   He speaks of the great opportunity that lies before the city in potential park land along the lake, saying of the land that one day would become Grant Park, “Every one admits that the people have rights there, but so long as we go putting buildings there, which are not ornamental, and filling it up the same as the property west and south, they see no use in maintaining them.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 21, 1894]   The judge’s proposal, which he says would be trivial in comparison to the building of the World’s Fair of 1893, still is huge in its scope.  He says, “I would propose, as a general plan, to remove all the Illinois Central tracks north of the new depot, which are mainly used for freight purposes, and take away all the unsightly structures north nearly or quite to the river. Condemnation proceedings could be instituted, and I do not think a jury would fix the damages at excessive figures.  Any legislation necessary could be secured at Springfield for such a purpose with comparative ease, and I think the State would willingly cede what rights it now claims in the land in question.  I would pay for this improvement by a general park tax on all the city and the entire cost would not be as great as that of Jackson Park now.  Bonds might be issued allowing future generations to help pay for something of which they would get the benefit … One can hardly estimate the great benefit to the city from having a magnificent park on our Lake-Front.  Not only would it be of incalculable benefit to the residents of the city, but it would be a park such as no other city in the world has, and render us proportionately famous … I would wipe out everything there except the Art Institute and make one grand park of it.”  The above photo, taken in 1893, looks south in the area that would one day become Grant Park. 

March 21, 1867 -- Before a packed Coliseum crowd Professor R. D. Hamilton holds forth, providing instruction in the taming of horses. The venue is so crowded that the doors are ordered closed to prevent any more people from crowding in. At the end of the lecture a grocer, one Mr. Minogue, brings a bay horse "which proved to be a vicious brute" [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 22, 1867], apparently hoping that the good professor could perform his magic on the beast. Before anything could be accomplished, though, the horse "sprang wildly" into the packed crowd. "A scream of terror rose from every part of the house, and this had the effect of still further maddening the infuriated animal, who struggled and pranced form one circle of seats to another among the thickest of the spectators, till he reached nearly to the roof of the circus." At that point the flooring gave way above a series of lion's cages and horse and spectators disappeared.. Predictably, someone cried, "The lions are loose," and terror reigned. "There were a few women among the audience, and, of course, they all fainted . . . what became of the horse no one knew for a while; but it appears he had succeeded in chasing the buffalo loose . . ." Before long the doors were opened, and the members of the audience were free. Soon after that Professor Hamilton sought out the "irrepressible horse" and "in a brief space of time the wild horse was as tame and peaceful as a lamb." All in a day's work in pre-fire Chicago.