Tuesday, May 21, 2019

May 21, 1895 -- Rush Street Stand-Off

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May 21, 1895 – For more than an hour the Rush Street Bridge is out of commission, tying up river traffic so that “the whistles of steamers caught in the blockade were being continually sounded, and a pandemonium was kept up during the time.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 22, 1895].  Around 7:00 p.m. two ships, the Seneca and the Arthur Orr, each being maneuvered by a tug boat, enter the river at almost the same time. The captain on each ship apparently knows the destination of his counterpart – the Burlington docks at Sixteenth Street.  It is clear from the time the two ships enter the mouth of the river that the vessel that reaches the dock first will have the chance to tie up, leaving the other vessel to figure out a way to lay up for the night.  The vessels whistle for the Rush Street bridge to be rotated and the bridgetender on duty refuses to swing the bridge.  The ships cannot be stopped, and the Arthur Orr strikes the bridge in the south draw while the Seneca strikes the bridge in the north draw, the effect being that the bridge is prevented from turning until the boats can be backed out.  The captain of the Arthur Orr, in violation of marine laws that inbound vessels must take the north draw, refuses to back his ship from its position.  The captain of the Seneca, claiming the right-of-way, also refuses to reverse his vessel.  The Chicago Daily Tribune reports, “A war of words resulted between the seamen and bridgtender, and there was considerable bad language used.”  To make matters worse, several heavy horse-drawn wagons and “many pedestrians” are on the bridge and are thrown one way as the Arthur Orr swings the bridge three feet out of position, then thrown in the opposite direction as the Seneca slams into the bridge, moving it back to its original position. The police show up to find Rush Street on both sides of the bridge blocked with vehicles and a dozen boats sounding their shrill steam whistles for the bridge to open.  The boats begin to pile up, one of them colliding with the Arthur Orr, which once again sends the ship into the bridge, once again moving it several feet.  The William H. Woolf and the Mable Bradshaw, approaching from the west come close to the opposite side of the bridge before they can be stopped, in effect blockading the bridge from the west.  The city’s Harbormaster is unable to convince the original two ships to move and even the deckhands start going after one another … “They called each other names and threats were made.”  Finally, at 8:20 p.m. the Seneca give ways and backs away from the bridge, and the chaos begins to lighten.  Fortunately, the bridge is not seriously damaged.  Just another day, a very noisy day, on a river that sees over 25,000 ships a year sailing in and out of its docks.  As the above photo, taken five years later, shows ... the bridge at Rush Street was an obstacle to be conquered.  Michigan Avenue, by the way is the street on the left of the photo.  


May 21 1863 – Item right after “Disgraceful” (“men and boys, by scores, violate not only the laws of decency and the ordinance of the city, but desecrate the Sabbath, by collecting in large numbers, and bathing in the Lake, on the Sabbath, all along the shore from the Light House to Huron street, thus making an indecent exposure of their persons to residents in the vicinity …”) [Chicago Tribune, May 21, 1863] and “A Ferocious Dog” (Yesterday morning, a demented lad, named James Small, aged about fourteen, was attacked by a large and savage dog, belonging to a butcher named John Lownzre, on Madison street at the foot of Franklin street”) … there it is: “Theatre—J. Wilkes Booth”.  The Tribune provides a glowing appraisal of the young actor’s skills, noting the improvement he has made since his Chicago debut a year earlier.  “In every part he plays,” the review states, “the auditor will perceive the marks of the student, and this being so, errors of judgment must be eradicated with time and experience.  Since his advent in Chicago, some eighteen months ago, no one who has attended his performances, can fail to see an improvement, and we predict ere he has attained his thirtieth year ... no one will ever regret having witnessed him in any of his characters.”  The first McVicker’s Theatre, on Madison Street between Dearborn and State, where John Wilkes Booth appeared, is pictured above.


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 tr


ees 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.)

Monday, May 20, 2019

May 20, 1925 -- Lake Calumet Development Approved

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May 20, 1925 – The Chicago City Council passes ordinances authorizing the Nickel Plate Railroad to begin construction of the first part of a $6,000,000 industrial harbor in Lake Calumet. The ordinance allows the railroad to build a belt line around the harbor, providing additional land for terminal purposes.  In return, the Nickel Plate is obligated to spend at least $600,000 to dredge a channel 200 feet wide with two turning basins in Lake Calumet.  The material dredged from this part of the operation will be used to build up additional land, which will then be leased or sold to industries seeking space near the harbor.  It is anticipated that the revenue that results will “provide the city with ample funds to complete other phases of the project.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 21, 1925]. The council session is prolonged by two controversies.  One involves the number of votes needed to pass the ordinances. Those in favor of the plans maintain that only a two-thirds majority, or 33 votes, is required.  Opponents maintain that State statutes governing the sale or lease of public property must be approved by a three-fourths vote, or 37 votes.  The bill passes 36-9.  The second issue involves several amendments offered to the bill by Thirty-Seventh Ward Alderman Wiley W. Mills.  The first amendment would delete from the ordinance provisions that exempted the railroad from special assessments for the construction of a 100-foot street around the harbor.  The second amendment calls for the railroad to bear the cost of carrying One Hundred Third Street over the railroad's main line.  The original bill stipulated that the city would pay half the cost.  The third amendment eliminates language which entitles the Nickel Plate reimbursement of its entire investment if it fails to complete the work according to contract terms and the city steps in to complete the project.  Mills says, “Something is being put over here that makes other things in recent years pale into insignificance.”  As can be seen in the above aerial view, the railroad maintains a presence in the area. Although the Nickel Plate is long gone, the Norfolk Southern Railroad uses its Calumet Yard as a classification facility with some intermodal business as well.  The bridge running across the top of the photo is that One Hundred Third Street Bridge Alderman Mills was referencing.  Neat to see the city’s skyline way back there on the horizon.


May 20, 1895 – The City Council takes another step in an effort to establish a lakefront park with the following order: “Whereas. The Second Regiment Armory and Battery D, located on the Lake-Front, between Madison and Washington streets, are being used for the benefit of private parties; and Whereas, It is important that these buildings be removed without delay; therefore, be it Ordered. That the Commissioner of Public Works is hereby directed to see that such buildings are removed at once.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 21, 1895] In debate over the resolution Alderman Madden observes that “the buildings were only used for dances, prize fights, dog shows, and bicycle races.” Alderman Coughlin counters that the city is using one of the buildings as a police station and a fire engine house and that “It was all very well to talk in time of peace, but when soldiers were wanted the Council gladly would accommodate the regiments controlling the armories.”  The bill passes by a vote of 51 to 10.  The armory can be seen in the above rendering on the far side of the massive Industrial Exposition Building, which was torn down to make way for the Art Institute of Chicago.


May 20, 1914 – The board of the South Park Commissioners authorizes its superintendent, J. F. Foster, to begin “at once” the first phase of Grant Park improvement by beautifying a strip of land west of the Illinois Central tracks between Jackson Boulevard and Randolph Street.  Foster says, “These plans will be worked out by our landscape architects and gardeners from the original complete Grant park plan submitted by Olmstead brothers of Boston.  The park will be beautified in units.  The second portion to be improved will be that west of the Illinois Central tracks and running south from Jackson boulevard to the proposed new Illinois Central terminal to be built south of Twelfth Street extended.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 21, 1914] The above photo, taken in July of 1914, shows Monroe Street as it crosses the Illinois Central tracks.  The Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago sits on the right side of the street today on the lake side of the railroad tracks.


May 20, 1965 – The Plaza of the Americas on the north side of the Wrigley building is opened, extending from the lot line on Michigan Avenue almost to Rush Street. This is the first of two great public spaces on Michigan avenue to be developed by private interests. Pioneer Court, jointly developed by the Tribune Company and the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States, will open on the east side of the avenue in the upcoming month. The Plaza of the Americas is a joint undertaking of the Wrigley company and Apollo Savings and Loan Association of Chicago, which occupies the building just to the north of the Wrigley Building. That building is now the Realtor Building at 430 North Michigan Avenue. On this day in 1965 at 11:45 the flags of Chicago and the United States are raised, followed by the flags representing the nations of the Organization of American States. There is to be a pole set aside for the Cuban flag, but no flag will be raised. “It was decided that until Cuba becomes free, its flag would not be flown,” Edward P. Kelly, the chairman of Apollo Savings, says. [Chicago Tribune, May 16, 1965]


Sunday, May 19, 2019

May 19, 1934 -- Stockyard Fire Burns Eight City Blocks

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May 19, 1934 – A ferocious fire burns for more than four hours at the Union Stockyards on the city’s South Side.  Before it is brought under control it destroys eight city blocks – approximately 80 acres – and 1,200 people are injured.  Hundreds more lose their homes.  Nearly all of the buildings in an area bounded by Halsted, Emerald, Forty-First, and Forty-Second Street are destroyed, along with about a quarter of the pens and barns in the stockyards.  Over 2,200 firemen battle the flames in a fire that Mayor Edward Kelly says is “the worst fire Chicago has known since the great one of 1871.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 20, 1934].  Although firemen manage to save the great packing concern of Armour and Co., many landmarks in the stockyards are destroyed, including the International Amphitheater, the Stockyards Inn, the Saddle and Sirloin Club, Drovers National Bank, and the Livestock National Bank.  Six fire department pumpers are destroyed as they sit attached to hydrants.  It is believed that a carelessly tossed match or cigarette began the blaze, which quickly burned out of control due to winds of up to 60 miles-per-hour and a lack of rain during the spring.

May 19, 1862 –The first regular meeting of the newly elected Common Council is held, and the alderman get off to a big start.  Alderman Hoyt presents an ordinance regulating cows … “providing that no person should drive cows in herds to pasture, who lives east of Clark street on any street west of Clark street, and vice versa.”  [Chicago Tribune, May 20, 1862] From the looks of it this burg is becoming civilized, and Clark Street seems to be turning into a pretty big deal. 


May 19, 1893 -- The battle for the city’s lakefront, which continues to this day, commences as a judge issues a restraining order that prevents the city from leasing any part of the Lake-Front Park “to a circus or to any party or parties for any purpose except as a public park.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 20, 1893] Although the judge says that he will allow the circus to continue in the park until the end of its run on June 5, he orders that all other parties leasing space in the park must get the heck out. Elbridge Haney, attorney for Montgomery Ward and Co., says, “The city authorities have rented the property at ridiculously low figures to circuses and other shows. This year they have rented it for two weeks for $5,000. Then the city has for years maintained a yard for storing paving blocks, tar wagons, stones, old lumber, and all sorts of rubbish, and lately it proposes to add another objectionable building for stabling sixty garbage horses and wagons. Last Monday it commenced the erection of such a building, and I compelled the city to quit work as soon as I discovered it.” The battle over the Lucas Museum of Narrative Arts, pictured above, a plan that has now been abandoned, is just one more episode in a 125-year narrative about how best to use the city's lakefront.


May 19, 1908 – A plaster of paris model goes on display at the Art Institute of Chicago, showing landscape architect Frderick Law Olmsted’s vision for Grant Park. The Chicago Daily Tribune reports rapturously, “From the sooty network of railroad tracks and the malodorous wastes of mud and garbage, there will rise, according to the model, a magnificent plaza, beautiful buildings, broad meadows, great trees, swimming pools, boat houses, brilliant flower gardens, impressive boulevards and winding drives.  Above all, Chicago will regain its heritage, the lake, which will be bordered by high wooded banks, surmounted by promenades and drives.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 20, 1908] The focal point of the plan will be the Field Columbian museum, situated in the center of the park on Michigan Avenue, dwarfing the Art Institute’s building just to the north.  The plan locates the Crerar library to the south of the Field Museum, balancing the Art Institute to the north.  Other amenities include a gymnasium, natatorium, “a monster playground,” boat houses, restaurants, rest houses and “airy piazzas.”  The chairman of the South Park Commissioners, Henry G. Foreman, says of the plan, “Chicago has become so used to a front yard filled with smoke, and cinders, and railroad tracks, and ugly freight cars, and mud, and refuse, that any plan to change it seems to many people a mere dream.  It is hard to wake people up to the fact that we not only have great opportunities, but that we are making the most of them, and soon will have adjoining the loop a great and beautiful park.”

Saturday, May 18, 2019

May 18, 1952 -- North State Parkway Mansions to be Razed

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May 18, 1952 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that another pair of old mansions will be reduced to rubble so that a 17-story rental apartment building can be built at 1538 and 1540 State Parkway.  Completion of the new building, designed by Shaw, Metz and Dolio is scheduled for 1953. The apartment building will have space for 60 families and indoor parking for 36 cars.  All units will be at least five rooms with two bedrooms and two bathrooms.  A unique feature of the new building is that it will be constructed in the shape of a cross with only one apartment occupying each arm of the cross, allowing for wider views and better cross ventilation.  Scheduled for demolition is the home at 1538 North State Parkway, built by William H. Bush in 1887 on land that he purchased from Hobart Chatfield-Taylor, a Chicago author who owned all of the land extending from that lot to Lincoln Park.  Today's 1540 North State Parkway is pictured above.  






May 18, 1886 – The Schiller Monument in Lincoln Park is unveiled on a Saturday afternoon before 7,000 people, including members of 60 separate German societies and lodges of the city.  Mayor Carter Harrison and William Rapp, editor of the Staats-Zeitung, make speeches appropriate to the occasion.  The Chicago statue is recast from a model of the original sculpture that stands in Marbach, the birthplace of Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller.  The original sculptor was Ernst Rau.  According to the Chicago Park District a large number of German immigrants held a meeting in Turner Hall, after spending several years raising money for the monument, and subsequently placed a cornerstone and foundation for the work in Lincoln Park.  William Pelargus, a sculptor from Stuttgard, was hired to recast the original Marbach monument, and a Lake View stone cutter was given the commission to create the granite base.  The Laing and Son Granite Company repaired the monument in 1959 and installed a bronze plaque on the base.  It still stands in its original location. The top photo shows the original monument in Marbach.  Below that is the memorial as it looked in the early 1900's.  It is not much changed today, as can be seen in the final photo.  


May 18, 1878 – The cornerstone is placed for the First Regiment’s armory on Jackson Street between Wabash and Michigan Avenues, celebrated in “one of the finest military parades and reviews that has taken place in this city for years.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 15, 1878] The first meeting to organize a National Guard regiment in Chicago took place on August 28, 1874 with the militia funded through private donations.  George M. Pullman contributed the first $500 with 22 of the city’s leading citizens contributing $100 apiece.  The first drill hall was established at 112 Lake Street.  In February of 1875 the First Regiment assembled as demonstrations swept the downtown area.  The six companies of the regiment were credited with saving the city from almost certain rioting as the men encamped in the armory.  The members of the regiment, still without a suitable place to call home, played an instrumental role in putting down the disturbances that came in July of 1877 during the rioting that occurred during the railroad strike, stationing cannons on the Twelfth and Sixteenth Street bridges.  Finally, the First Regiment dedicated its new armory on the site of the old Trinity Church on October 29, 1878.  The armory remained open until 1900 when a new armory was begun farther south on Michigan Avenue.  The above photo shows the armory as it stood on Jackson next to the Leiland Hotel.


May 18, 1967 – Officials of Chicago Helicopter Airways, Inc. predict that the helicopter line may be hauling a million passengers annually within a few years. The chairman of the company, John S. Gleason, Jr., says that preliminary plans have begun for developing a downtown heliport in Grant Park or on adjacent Illinois Central air rights. Gleason is encouraged by reports that a projection of 300 flights a day operating out of a revamped Midway Airport could result in the shuttling of a million passengers a year between Midway, O’Hare and the Loop. He is also optimistic about a third major airport being built in the lake. Optimism is the engine that turns the rotors, right? Even if the craft never gets off the ground, the noise sure gets your attention.

Friday, May 17, 2019

May 17, 1926 -- Wacker Drive Opened From Michigan to Wabash

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May 17, 1926 – The east link of the new Wacker Drive is opened between Michigan and Wabash Avenues shortly after noon.  The Chicago Daily Tribune reports, “Many of the joy riders, attracted by the new skyline views of The Tribune and Wrigley towers and the Jewelers building, slowed down and some stopped in order to scan the scene at greater length.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 18, 1926]. The last segment of the project, the block between State Street and Wabash Avenue, the only remaining block still to be excavated to the lower level, will begin construction on the following day.  The construction of Wacker Drive was a direct result of the Chicago Plan of 1909 in which architect Daniel Burnham recommended the double-decked roadway along the south bank of the river as a means of eliminating the congestion on River and Rush Streets.  The project was completed from Lake Street to Michigan Avenue in 1926 at a cost of $8 million.  The illustration above shows the new road as proposed in the Chicago Plan of 1909, underwritten by the Commercial Club of Chicago.  


May 17, 1912 – After being caught in a dangerous air pocket, Farnum T. Fish, “the youthful aviator at the Illinois Aero club’s flying field,” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 18, 1912] is forced to descend from 8,800 feet and land his plane in Grant Park in front of the Auditorium Hotel. He is almost immediately arrested by park police officers.  At the South Clark Street police station, the 16-year-old aviator is formally charged with violating Section 1 of Chapter 7 of the 1911 code of the South Park Commissioners, which states, “No person shall make any descent in or from any balloon, aeroplane, or parachute nor shall any person aid or permit any balloon, aeroplane, or parachute to descend in any park or in any boulevard.  Any person violating any clause or provision of this section shall be fined not less than $10 nor more than $100 for each offense.” When released on a $400 bond, Fish observes, “Chicago must be ahead of the times. I know of no city in the world with such an ordinance.” Known as the “Boy Aviator,” Fish received FAI Airplane Pilot’s Certificate #85 in Dayton, Ohio in 1911.  He flew nearly continuously in various air meets throughout 1912.  In 1915 he flew for Pancho Villa in Mexico where he was shot in the leg while flying over enemy troops, still managing to land his plane before collapsing at the air base.  He was commissioned as a lieutenant in the United States Army in July,1918 and served as an overseas test pilot for the Army Signal Corps.  He was a member of the Air service Officers Reserve Corps form June 1919 to 1934 and returned briefly to active duty in 1942. He died on July 3, 1978. 

May 17, 1913 – In a rare display of cross-town (even cross-country) unity, over 35,000 Chicagoans slip through the turnstiles at Comiskey Park to pay tribute to New York Yankee manager Frank Leroy Chance, a former North Sider. As I. E. Sanborn reports for the Chicago Daily Tribune, “It was impossible at anytime to tell Chance fans from Sox fans. For that one day each was both and both each.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 18, 1913] The festivities begin at 2:00 p.m. when the White Sox band marches onto the field from the south entrance and settles behind home plate. For an hour afterward the “field looked like anything but a baseball park. The diamond was full of acrobats, tumblers, jugglers, trick dogs, human snakes and Sandows (professional bodybuilders).” Just before 3:00 Chance heads to home plate with the Yankee line-up, accompanied by Governor Edward Dunne and Mayor Carter Harrison. The fans jump up “with a roar which in the aggregate sounded like several hundred Niagaras all working at once.” The crowd is even more enthusiastic when it is learned that Chance will play first base for an inning with the New York team. Before that, though, he is presented with a pair of giant floral pieces eight feet tall, and a horseshoe of red carnations and roses. Chance had led the Cubs to World Series championships in 1907 and 1908, but in 1912 while in the hospital recovering from blood clots that resulted from blows to the head from pitches, the Cubs released him and the Yankees signed him to a three-year contract worth $120,000. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1946, 22 years after his death. On this day in 1913, though, the city is his – not so the game, which the last-place Sox win, 6-2. As Sanborn wrote, “It was a wonderful testimony to the warm spot Chicago has in its heart for the young Lochinvar (You won’t see too many baseball writers these days making references to Sir Walter Scott in their copy . . .) who came out of the farthest west more than a dozen years ago, stole a bride among its fairest daughters, and gave the city in return a proud place in the annals of baseball.”


May 17, 2016 – As it nears its first year of operation the Bloomindale Trail, Chicago’s “606,” comes under fire as hundreds of people march in a protest against the trail, saying that its popularity is making the area unaffordable for families who were there before the trail opened.  In a press release the Logan Square Neighborhood Association announces the march with this assertion, “Our families are being displaced from the community they love because housing costs are skyrocketing.”  The protest aims to get six aldermen from the area to get behind two ordinances.  One would institute a property tax rebate that would make it easier for families to stay in the neighborhood.  The other would cordon off an area on the west end of the 606 in which demolition fees would be assessed by the number of residential units in a building being demolished with fees as high as $25,000 for a single-family home.  Gentrification on the west end of the trail creates particularly strong pressures – the median income in the area is less than $50,000 a year while on the east end of the trail the median income is over twice that amount.  A report by the Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University concludes, “Before 2012, the abandoned rail line was a penalty on property values of about 1.4 percent.  After the 606 was underway, being near the 606 began to command a premium, but only on the western side of the trail.  Although the rail line was no longer a penalty in 606 East, buyers did not pay an additional premium for homes near the trail in this higher value market.  The story is different in 606 West.  There, buyers were willing to pay a 22.3 percent price premium for properties within one-fifth of a mile of the trail.”


Thursday, May 16, 2019

May 16, 1930 -- Marquette and Joliet Monument Dedicated

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May 16, 1930 – Charles B. Pike, the president of the Chicago Historical Society, presides over a ceremony at which a monument is unveiled on the bank of Portage Creek near Stickney, the site at which Father Marquette and Louis Joliet came into the vicinity of the Des Plaines River. In the 1670's Portage Creek would have been to the west of Mud Lake, through which the two French explorers had to portage after leaving the Chicago River   In his remarks Pike credits two Chicagoans, Dr. Lucius Zeuch and Robert Knight, whose research led to the establishment of the historical site. The Reverend Joseph Reiner, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Loyola University, provides a narrative of the development of Chicago, a process that begins with Marquette’s and Joliet’s discovery of the possibility that a route might exist between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River by way of the modest Chicago River and the interior waters of Illinois.  Bertha Lerman, secretary of the Junior Citizens’ Club, pulls a canvas covering from a granite boulder that was set by the Chicago Historical Society on the old trail.  Today there is a much more elaborate work of art at the site. Located in the Chicago Portage National Historic Site in Lyons, it is on the west side of Harlem Avenue on a line with Forty-Eighth street.  The sculpture at the site, shown above, is by Guido Rebechini.



May 16, 2009 –The Nichols Bridgeway, a 625-foot pedestrian bridge connecting Millennium Park to the new Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago, opens.  Designed by the Pritzker prize-winning architect of the Modern Wing of the museum, Renzo Piano, it gradually rises from the Great Lawn southwest of the Pritzker Pavilion to a height of 60 feet as it meets up with the Bluhm Family Terrace on the third level of the Modern Wing.  As walkers move along the 450 tons of steel that make up the bridge, they are treated to spectacular views, west down Monroe Street toward the South Branch of the river, east to the open space of Grant Park and Lake Michigan, south to the spectacular new addition to the museum (and the railroad tracks that once occupied the entire area), and, north to Millennium Park and its lush Lurie Garden.  The bridge, built by Industrial Steel, Construction, Inc., is named after its benefactors, John D. and Alexandra Nichols.  


May 16, 1910 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that James A. Pugh, the largest stockholder in the Chicago Canal and Dock Company, has confirmed that the company will build piers into the lake at the mouth of the river without permission of the city – if the United States War Department renews the permit that it granted the company 18 months earlier.  A member of the City Council’s committee on harbors, wharves, and bridges says, “If Pugh gets his permit and goes ahead without a city franchise to build his piers he will get into a fight.  We’ll tie the thing up in the courts, if necessary, until we can get a bill through the legislature.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 16, 1910] Good luck, Mr. City Council Guy.  The terminal got built – it’s the long light-colored structure to the left of Ogden Slip, extending toward the brand new Lake Point Tower, nearing completion in 1968.  


May 16, 2000 – The Chicago Tribune editorializes about cost overruns at Millennium Park. “Private-sector corporations generally prefer the design-build method of contracting for new facilities,” the editorial observes. “They hire a unified team of architects and builders that can deliver an agreed-to building for an agreed-to price. Then there’s the method Mayor Richard Daley is using on the Millennium Project . . . you might call it the design-as-you-build method.” At issue is a Frank Gehry-design that, as originally proposed, was supposed to cost 150 million dollars and which had by this time risen to $270 million. “And crews are still building the support structure,” the editorial sniped. “What happens when they start adding the fancy stuff?” In a stinging conclusion, the editorial asks, “And one last question for the planners: After you’ve made your last change and gotten your elegant little culture park just the way you like, where are the hoi polloi going to go for the Blues, Jazz, Gospel and Taste concerts that are too big for Millennium Park? Or is that just another small, hanging detail?” A space of over 17 years is probably time enough to judge whether the “little culture park” was worth the investment. Judging from the crowds at what is now the most popular tourist destination in the midwest, it feels as if the “small, hanging details” worked out. The photo above shows the park as it started to take shape in 2001.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

May 15, 1880 -- Illinois Central Railroad Bridge Opens at River Mouth

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May 15, 1880 – A new bridge opens on the Chicago River, one that carries Illinois Central railroad trains over the river near Elevator “A,” located on the south side of the river near its mouth.  A steam locomotive and one passenger car carries 30 men across the river to celebrate the completion of the project “which was conceived by the late William B. Ogden, and finally brought about by William F. Whitehouse, the Solicitor of the Dock and Canal Company.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 16, 1880].  The cost of the one-track bridge comes in at $27,000, and it is built “on a pier of solid masonry … the strongest and most substantial one of the river, and probably the Northwest.”  Various speeches are made at the offices of the Peshtigo Company (There still is a Peshtigo Court – one block long, the last street one crosses before heading under Lake Shore Drive on the way to Navy Pier on Grand or Illinois Street), including one by Mayor Carter H. Harrison.  Attorney B. F. Ayer, the general solicitor of the Illinois Central Railroad and the chairman of the Western Railway Association, offers a toast to the success of the bridge.  Illinois Central shareholder B. H. Sheldon observes that “in order to remain the Imperial City she is … it was necessary for Chicago to have afforded her every facility for the transaction of business cheaply and expeditiously,”  going on to say that before the bridge was completed “two great railroads, within 300 feet of each other, had not been connected before. Until now cars had to be transferred by the belt line nine miles around, which involved vexations delays and great inconvenience.”  The bridge is long gone … I have searched and searched and can’t find a single photo of it – just this 1893 rendering.  Elevator A is circled in red with the bridge just east of it indicated as well.  The tracks on the left side of the bridge belong to the Illinois Central.  The tracks on the right side of the bridge are the property of the Chicago and North Western Railroad, running along the north side of the river all the way from Kenzie Street on the North branch.  The elevator stands just about where the Hyatt Hotel is located today.


May 15, 1893 –It’s a big, big day in the city as the first of the World’s Fair Congresses kicks off at the spanking new Art Institute, a building that will for the next seven days be the “Place aux Dames” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 15, 1893] or the site of the Woman’s Congress, a colloquium that “is to be conducted by women, for women, and the subjects that will be discussed are all related to some phase of the life of modern women.” Preparations have been ongoing since May, 1892 and provide for four classes of meetings, the largest of which will consist of two daily sessions held in the Hall of Washington and the Hall of Columbus, each of which will accommodate 3,000 people.  Mrs. Potter Palmer and Mrs. Charles Henrotin will open the Congress on this day with a welcoming address.  One subject that the Woman’s Congress will cover in depth is “Woman’s Progress,” with discussion of such topics as “civil and social evolution of woman; the administrative ability of woman; woman the new factor in industrial economics; the ethics of dress; woman as an actual force in politics; woman as financier; woman in municipal government; the political future for woman and woman’s war for peace.”  One of the unique features of the Congress will occur on the final day, May 21, a Sunday, when religious services will be held at the Art Institute at which only women ordained as ministers will take part.  On that closing evening a “sacred concert” will be held “in which the line of sex will again be drawn, both as to composers and performers, both being, it is hardly necessary to say, women.”  The highlight of the concert will be the Columbian Ladies’ Harp Orchestra, “led by Mme. Josephine Chatterton, who has arranged for this harp orchestra a grand ‘Marche Triumphale,’ … the first time in this country so large a harp orchestra will be heard.


May 15, 1881 – With a fresh legal judgment giving the South Park Commissioners responsibility to improve and maintain streets that move people onto boulevards leading to or passing around parks, the Chicago Daily Tribune offers an opinion on what should be done with Michigan Avenue south of the river.  The editorial shines a spotlight on the one thing “which all the property-owners and residents along the line of Michigan avenue ought to agree to, and which will greatly enhance the beauty of the new boulevard.”  That is … getting rid of all the fences along the front yards that line the street.  “It is only by this means,” the editorial says, “that uniformity can be secured and protection guaranteed against rickety or incongruous fences.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 15, 1881]  


May 15, 1938 – An “autogiro” takes off from the Chicago Airport (today’s Midway) at 1:40 p.m., lands on the roof of the main post office at 1:45 and heads back to the airport 15 minutes later. This is a symbolic flight. The two-seater rotor craft will only carry 200 pounds of mail, and it can only fly about 100 miles per hour. BUT this event, as the Chicago Daily Tribune points out, “ . . . presages the day when all mail will be flown between these two points.” With pilot Johnny Miller in the cockpit, the autogiro takes off on the first day of National Air Mail Week, commemorating the day twenty years earlier when air mail service was initiated. The sacks of mail are delivered directly to Postmaster Ernest J. Kruetgenon who stands on the roof of the post office, 14 stories above the Chicago River. Only 200 guests are on the post office roof, but the event is seen and heard by many. The Field Building at 135 South La Salle opens its entire fortieth floor to spectators, and the Board of Trade opens its forty-fourth floor to the public. The event is also covered by W.G.N., WBBM, and the coast-to-coast Mutual broadcasting system.