Thursday, February 27, 2020

February 27 -- Loop Property Analysis

J. Bartholomew Photo
February 27, 1977 – The Chicago Tribune reports on the 35 square blocks that make up Chicago’s Loop, summarizing the results of “countless hours of study in the offices of the Cook County treasurer, assessor, and recorder of deeds.”  [February 27, 1977]  Some of the more interesting findings are summarized as the article unfolds.  There are approximately 200 owners of Loop property which has an estimated value of $1.1 billion (over $4.5 billion in 2020 dollars).  One-fifth of Loop property is tax-exempt even though commercial properties such as Inland Steel Company and First Federal Savings and Loan Association have built tall buildings on such leased tax-exempt property.  The single biggest property within the Loop is the First National Bank.  The Chicago Board of Education and Northwestern University are the principal owners of tax-exempt Loop property with the Board of Education leasing out an entire block bounded by State, Madison, Dearborn, and Monroe Streets.  Northwestern owns two properties leased as parking garages and half the land under the Continental Bank.  About two-thirds of the tax-exempt land in the Loop is occupied by various governmental units, as well as by religious, education, and charitable organizations.  That land, if taxed, would produce $3.3 million a year in revenue (close to $13 million in 2020 dollars).  Principal owners of multiple properties in the Loop are Tishman Realty and Construction Company and Investment Properties Associates of New York, the two firms holding a combined total of ten buildings worth $133 million (about $566 million in 2020 dollars).  The Massachusetts Institute of Technology owns office buildings at 18 South Michigan Avenue and 347 West Erie Street, the properties willed to the university in 1970 by Catherine Dexter McCormick, the daughter-in-law of Cyrus McCormick.  The university pays full taxes on the buildings.  The Tribune study reveals that all of the major buildings in the Loop are up to date in their tax payments with one exception.  That is the Lytton Building at Jackson Boulevard and State Street, which is in receivership.  The Inland Steel building, pictured above, a marvel of mid-century modern architectural design, was built on tax-exempt land owned by the Chicago Board of Education.

February 27, 1933 – The Sea King, a small boat owned by the Chicago Daily Tribune, takes the first passengers and cargo over the newly opened Illinois waterway, completing the first continuous passage of the 60-mile channel between Utica and Joliet “on the lakes to gulf route, a dream of generations which now is actually realized.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, February 27, 1933]  The Sea King ties up at Ottawa for the night, and a large crowd gathers at an athletic field on the river front as “Salutes were fired from the high school lawn, and a band furnished music.”  The lakes-to-gulf route will formally be opened on June 15 and will extend 3,300 miles by water from the Gulf of Mexico to the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  The Sea King takes on its cargo at the Michigan Avenue bridge near Tribune tower and begins its trip at 3:00 p.m. on February 26.  The ship sails six miles through the Chicago River system, entering the Sanitary and Ship Canal and steaming 28 miles to the lock at Lockport where there is a 41-foot fall into the Des Plaines River, the beginning of the new Illinois waterway, through which the ship sails in three-and-a-half hours.  In order to make navigation possible through Joliet, five new bascule bridges were needed, three of which have already been completed.  Two miles to the west of Joliet the Brandon Road lock and dam is one of the most impressive projects on the waterway.  The dam, which cost $3.5 million, is 1,350 feet long and during periods of heavy rains or snow melt it can allow a maximum of 35,000 cubic feet of water per second to pass over it.  Lake Joliet, which extends close to four miles below the Brandon Road lock, narrows from there to Dresden Heights where there is another lock and dam, about 56 miles from Tribune Tower.  The lock at Dresden, which extends 642 feet across the river, was the last project on the waterway to be completed, costing $2,365,000. At Morris the first merchandise from Chicago is delivered to C. H. Hinds, the freight consisting of “packages of hosiery and dry goods from Marshall Field and Co. and Carson Pirie Scott and Co.”  At Morris the Sea King ties up to the Colonel Sultan, a ship that will sail in March into the Chicago River, becoming the first boat to make a continuous upward passage of the waterway.  The photos above show the Brandon Road lock under construction as well as what it looked like when it was brand new.

February 27, 1933 – The new home of the Chicago Federation of Musicians is opened for business at 175 West Washington Street as several hundred invited guests look over the new digs.  During the ceremonies James C. Petrillo, the president of the federation, is presented with a diamond studded commissioner’s star.  During the evening the guests dance to the music of Wayne King, Ben Bernie, Charles Agnew and Fritz Miller and their orchestras.  Architect Max Dunning designed the building in a modest Art Deco design, notable for the panels above the second story windows that reference the building’s purposes.  The panels have representations of a flute player and harp player and a figure in the middle panel surrounded by musical instruments. 

February 27, 1925 – Item in the Chicago Daily Tribune on this date … “Because ‘they aren’t wearing ‘em any more,’ more than 1,000 corsets, the stays sterilized and refurbished by down-and-outers, lie moldering in the Monroe street warehouse of the Christian Industrial league.  They are gifts of friends of the institution.  ‘Placed end on end, says George A. Kilbey, manager of the league, ‘there are enough corsets in that one spot to carpet Michigan avenue from the link bridge to the Illinois Central building [about two miles].  They could wrap up the city hall.  In fact, there is enough steel in those stays to armor a light battle cruiser.”

February 27, 1919 -- The final three pieces of real estate necessary for the construction of the Michigan Avenue bridge are secured. The city pays $719,532 to the estate of W. F. McLaughlin for a piece of property on the east side of Michigan Avenue fronting the south side of the river. $62,500 goes to John S. Miller for a triangular piece of land across Michigan Avenue from the McLaughlin property. Levy Mayer nets $91,760 for a small piece of property directly south of the McLaughlin holding. With these three transactions the city is ready to build the bridge that will change the north side of the city forever. The photo above shows the three pieces of property on each side of Michigan Avenue south of the river.  The Rush Street, which was dismantled when the Michigan Avenue bridge was opened, is at the right.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

February 26, 1998 -- Harry Caray Fans Line Up to Say Good-Bye


February 26, 1998 – Fans queue up outside Holy Name Cathedral to say good-bye to Harry Caray, who died on February 18.  Some wait for as long as seven hours to walk down the aisle of the cathedral and stand before the casket of the former play-by-play announcer of both the White Sox and Cubs.  When the door to Holy Name opens at 6:00 p.m. the line of waiting fans winds around the cathedral, north up State Street, east on Chicago Avenue, and south on Wabash all the way to Superior.  Near the casket stands a photograph of Caray singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch.  Caray’s son, Skip, who will take over for his dad in the Cubs broadcast booth, says, “I’ll bet my father is looking down at this and laughing his butt off.  He would love it … Oh my God, I just want to walk around here shaking hands.  I don’t know what to say about all the people.  Not just the people of Chicago, but all over the country – and all the cards.  What a great tribute to him.”  [Chicago Tribune, February 27, 1998] 

February 26, 1954 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that two of the city’s oldest buildings will soon fall to the wrecking ball.  Plans are to replace the first, the 62-year-old Wilkinson Building at the southeast corner of Washington and Wells Streets, with a three-story parking facility for 500 cars.  Known as the Teutonic Building when it was constructed, it was renamed for Theodore Roosevelt before the new owner, John C. Wilkinson, gave the family name to the structure after purchasing it for $175,000 in 1946.  The second building, a five-story structure at the northwest corner of Washington and Dearborn Streets, will have its three top floors demolished and the remaining two floors rebuilt into a “modern two-story shop and office building.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, February 27, 1954] The building was purchased in October of 1953 for $400,000 with the rebuilding of the structure estimated to cost $135,000. You won’t find anything left of the building there today … the location is approximately where the flagpoles stand on Daley Plaza.  Pretty good job of peeking into the future for the 100 North Dearborn Corporation, the owners of the property – it picks up a corner lot a block away from the seat of city and county government for a half million bucks that ten years later the city would have to acquire in order to build its slick mid-century modern civic center.  The original Teutonic Building is shown in the Rand McNally drawing in the top photo.  The second photo shows that the parking facility that took its place in the mid-1950's is still parking cars just east of the Wells Street elevated tracks.

J. Bartholomew Photo
February 26, 1912 -- Ebenezer Buckingham dies at his residence, 2036 Prairie Avenue.  A graduate of Yale University, Buckingham came to Chicago in 1850, and in 1865 took over management of the grain elevators located at the Illinois Central depot at the mouth of the Chicago River.  By 1873 he and his brother, John, had increased the capacity of the elevators from 700,000 bushels to 2.9 million bushels.  Investing wisely as the city exploded both in population and in industry, Buckingham became the president of the Northwestern National Bank in 1890.  In 1853 Buckingham married Lucy Sturges, and a son, Clarence, and two daughters, Kate and Lucy, were born to the couple.  It was the death of Clarence Buckingham that led Kate Buckingham to provide the generous gift of the fountain dedicated to the memory of her brother that sits today at the head of Congress Avenue. 

February 26, 1903 -- With the payment of $100,000 (close to $3 million in 2020 dollars), the Studebaker brothers become absolute owners of the Fine Arts Building and the ground beneath it. The ground on which the building stood had been held in a 99-year lease that began in May of 1885 with an annual ground rent of $2,000. The building, designed by Solon Spencer Beman, opened in 1886 with a four-story annex added for use by the Art Institute in 1898. On July 7, 1978 the building was declared a Chicago City Landmark. The photo below shows the building as it looked in 1900.
February 26, 1880 – The Chicago Daily Tribune offers a lengthy dissertation on “the legislation affecting and defining the rights of the Illinois Central Railroad to a location on the Lake-Front …” [Chicago Daily Tribune, February 26, 1880]  In the winter of 1851 the Illinois legislature granted the Illinois Central Railway Company a charter to build a railroad from the terminus of the Illinois and Michigan canal to Cairo with a branch line extending to Chicago and another to Galena.  A section of the charter stated, “The said corporation shall have the right of way upon, and may appropriate to its sole use and control for the purposes contemplated herein, land not exceeding 200 feet in width through its entire length … All such lands, waters, materials, and privileges belonging to the State are hereby granted to said corporation for said purposes.” There was a limitation contained in the charter, though, an important one for Chicago – “Nothing in the act contained shall authorize said corporation to make a location of their track within any city without the consent of the Common Council of said city.”  An amendment to the charter gave Chicago the “power of exercising a police supervision over the harbor for the distance of one mile from the shore line.”  In 1852 the Illinois Central asked for a right-of-way into Chicago and the Common Council passed an ordinance granting it on June 14. The ordinance granted the railroad the right to enter the city at a point that would eventually become Thirty-First Street and, following the boundary of Lake Michigan, north “to such grounds as the said Company may acquire between the north line of Randolph street and the Chicago River … upon which grounds shall be located the depot of said railroad within the city, and such other buildings, slips, or apparatus as may be necessary and convenient for the business of the company.”  The charter also granted the railroad the right to “use in perpetuity” a width of 300 feet from Twelfth Street to the northern line of Randolph Street, ground that had to be not less than 400 feet west of Michigan Avenue and parallel to it.  By 1856 the company had created land from the lake according to the distance specified in the charter.  On September 15, 1856 the Common Council gave the company permission to create additional land east of its right-of-way.  Thirteen years later the Illinois legislature, in what came to be known as the “Lake-Front Bill,” gave the city control, formerly exercised by the state, of the lakefront between Monroe Street and Park Row, today’s Twelfth Street. The bill also gave “all the right and title of the State of Illinois in and to the submerged lands constituting the bed of Lake Michigan and lying east of the tracks and breakwater of the Illinois Central Railroad Company for the distance of one mile” to the Illinois Central from today’s Roosevelt Road to the river, provided the railroad continue to pay to the state seven percent of its gross earnings, an amount specified in the railroad’s original charter.  Under this law the three railroads running along the lakefront – the Illinois Central, the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy, and the Michigan Central – were directed to pay the city $800,000 at intervals within a year of the passage of the act. On April 15, 1873 the legislature repealed this act.  Despite the repeal, however, in 1880, the year this article appeared in the Tribune, the company maintains that its riparian rights are still intact, holding that “it is a well-established principle in law that the land under navigable waters, to which no private owner has any claim by virtue of his land abutting the water’s edge, belongs to the State, and not to the Federal Government, with the limitation, however, that nothing shall be done to it to interfere with navigation.” The Illinois Central asserts that it has followed all of the stipulations of the 1869 act “and no subsequent action of the Legislature of a repealing character can be of any avail.” The city maintains, though, that a quid pro quo was established at the time of the 1856 agreement in which the city ceded an extra 100-foot strip of land from Randolph Street to what is now Roosevelt Road and, in return, the railroad agreed to erect a breakwater along that stretch of shoreline to prevent erosion that was threatening to wash Michigan Avenue into the lake.  City lawyers also state that the city never accepted the $800,000 specified in the 1869 law, further noting that when the 1869 law was passed, there were “Several property-owners on Michigan avenue, in the immediate vicinity, who had an easement in that portion of the property north of Madison street, and believed that the erection of a depot thereon would seriously damage their lands fronting Michigan avenue”.  A judge granted them an injunction, writing that “in view of the original dedication of the property in question as public ground to be forever free from buildings, it was not in the power of the State or the city to alienate it for another purpose.” Therein lies the issue in 1880 – the railroad was forbidden to put up any buildings between Randolph and Monroe “but there was no prohibition … against filling in or laying tracks.”  The issue of riparian rights and the struggle between the city and the railroads over the lakefront would not stop here.  It would continue for another century.  The photo shows the lakefront sometime around the time of the Tribune article.