Saturday, April 21, 2018

April 21, 1948 -- Railroad Fair Begins to Lay Tracks

April 21, 1948 – A gang of more than a hundred railroad workers begin laying racks form the Illinois Central tracks across South Lake Shore Drive at Twenty-Eighth Street and into the grounds where the Chicago Railroad Fair is set to open on July 20.  A cut is made in the southbound lanes of the drive so that tracks can be laid with the northbound lanes tackled the following day.  Asphalt resurfacing of the road “to leave the drive as good as ever.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, April 22, 1948] Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry organized the Railroad Fair “to celebrate the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Opening of the West in the United States, by holding an Exposition in Chicago, showing in Educational, Scientific and Graphic form the building and development of the Railroads of North American with a demonstration of their place and importance in the American Economy.”  [] The fair was originally supposed to run for just the summer of 1948, but it was so successful that the city brought it back for the summer of 1949.  Held on 50 acres of Burnham Park between Twentieth and Thirtieth Streets, the fair was planned in just six months and featured exhibits from 38 railroads and 20 railroad equipment manufacturers. During the two summers the fair ran, over 5.5 million people trekked to the lakefront to see the show.  The laying of the tracks across Lake Shore Drive is shown in the photo above with the Railroad Fair itself shown in the second photo.

April 21, 1901 – A huge iron tank breaks from its supports on the roof of the Galbraith Building on Madison Street and smashes through six floors to the basement.  Seven people are injured, none of them seriously, and all the glass on the Madison Street side of the building is broken.  Two crows are killed in the Slotkin Pet Store on the ground floor.  Fortunately, the accident occurs on a Sunday.  There was no warning, and if the tank had fallen on any other day of the week, casualties would have undoubtedly been far greater.  The tank had been installed a month earlier to supply water to the fire suppression system, and the water in the tank alone weighed almost six tons.  Harry Solomon, one of the fortunate souls who escaped the tank’s fall, said, “The thing was over before we could realize our peril.  A deluge of water and wreckage poured on us as we stood gazing into the great gap that had been cut through the floor not three feet from where I had stood.  I knew in an instant that it was the tank, as we had spoken of the danger of installing the great weight in the old building.  The whole building shook, and I thought there was no hope for us, but we rushed to the fire-escape to avoid going down with the floors.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, April 22, 1901] In the above plate from Rand McNally's 1893 View of Chicago the Galbraith Building is #10 at the very top of the rendering toward the right corner.

April 21, 1967 -- The third and final tornado to strike Illinois on this day begins northwest of Joliet at about 4:45 p.m. It moves east-northeast, building power and momentum as it goes. It takes six minutes for the monster funnel to carve a path of damage 16 miles long through the suburbs of Oak Lawn, Hometown, and Evergreen Park. At the intersection of Ninety-Fifth Street and Southwest Highway it throws several dozen cars stopped in traffic off the road, and sixteen people are killed at just this one location. The south end and east wall of Oak Lawn High School are destroyed at 5:26 p.m. when the school clocks stop. With winds of over 100 m.p.h., the tornado finally blows itself out over the lake off Rainbow Beach. Even though it is no longer on the ground, it still has enough power to pop windshields out of cars parked at the Filtration Plant at Seventy-Eighth Street and the lake. The disaster is immense -- 33 people lose their lives, and over 1,000 suffer injuries. 152 homes are totally demolished, and another 900 or more are damaged. In its analysis of the tornado the National Weather Service concludes, "Most of those killed were people who were not in a position to hear the warning because they were away from home. Actually, the tornado could hardly have come at a worst [sic] time of day or week to catch the greatest number of people out in the open."

Friday, April 20, 2018

April 20, 1916 -- Cubs Win in Eleven in New Northside Field

April 20, 1916 – The Chicago Cubs defeat the Cincinnati Reds, 7-6, in eleven innings.  The Cubs are down three runs going into the bottom of the eighth inning, but the team comes back to tie the game in the ninth.  The Reds aren’t done, though, and it takes three more runs in the bottom of the eleventh inning to win the game with first baseman Vic Saier driving in the walk-off run.  That is not the biggest story of the day, though, for this is the first game that the Cubs play in their new Northside stadium at Wieghman Field.  A caravan of cars nearly a mile long winds its way to the field before game time, and a half-dozen bands participate in the opening festivities.  Fireworks explode in center field while the American flag is raised.  There is even a live donkey on hand, hosted by the Twenty-Fifth Ward Democrats.  A “live and active” black Cub bear is brought to home plate “to do tricks in front of the move camera.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, April 20, 1916] New seats for the occasion have been built beyond the outfield and 30 minutes before the 3:00 p.m. start, part of the crowd in the right field seats climbs down and stands on the field.  It is declared that a hit into this crowd will be worth two bases, and “The players took great delight in driving the ball into that circle of fans,” accounting for nine ground-rule doubles before the game is completed.  All in all, 20,000 fans stay to see the exciting conclusion to “the biggest and noisiest opening day in Cub history.”  Playing in the new ball park Joe Tinker’s Cubs go on to finish fifth in the National League, 26 games behind the Brooklyn Dodgers, drawing 453,685 fans to Addison and Clark Streets. In the first game in the new ball park the Chicago Cub is safe at third in the above photo.

April 20, 1883 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that the dam that separates the Des Plaines River from the Ogden ditch has broken and that “The pumps on the South Branch of the river at Bridgeport, erected at a heavy cost by the city in order to transfer the foul water of the river to the canal, will, it is feared, have their usefulness considerably impaired by a condition of affairs which is daily growing more serious.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, April 20, 1883]  This is bad news for Chicago, which has kept the river flowing, to a greater or lesser degree, into the Illinois and Michigan Canal for close to 20 years, thus sending the city’s sewage westward and away from the lake.  If the Des Plaines is allowed to flow at peak times into the Ogden ditch, engineered by William Butler Ogden and John Wentworth and a dozen other landowners in order to drain their property near Mud Lake, then the direction of the Chicago River will be compromised and potential disaster will lurk.  At the time of the paper’s report “the water [of the Des Plaines] now sweeps freely into the ditch through an aperture twenty or thirty feet wide.” 

April 20, 1900 -- Just three months after the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal opened, the project that was to end all of Chicago's river troubles . . . BAD NEWS. Marine interests pressure the Chicago Sanitary District to order the controlling works in Lockport to be shut down on this date. The depth of the river has dropped so low that at least 20 big ships are unable to make it over the roof of the Washington Boulevard tunnel, and grain shippers are impatient at the delay in getting cargo in and out of the city. In a neat job of parrying criticism, the head of the drainage board says, "The problem with the lake Captains is that they load their vessels too heavily. They often load down to seventeen and eighteen feet draft when they know there is only seventeen feet of water in the river." On top of everything else the tow line between a tug and the steamer Panther snaps, and the ship slams into the steamer Parnell at the Wells Street dock. The photo above shows the controlling works in Lockport, a city that got its name because of the lock located there on the original 1848 Illinois and Michigan Canal.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

April 19, 1991 -- Chicago Architecture Foundation: A Tribune Review

April 19, 1991 – One of the great treasures of Chicago is the Chicago Architecture Foundation, an organization of nearly 500 volunteers who lead close to 80 tours and who work diligently to hammer home the point that design really does matter in shaping the spaces in which we live.  It is interesting to look back 27 years ago to a Chicago Tribune article on the foundation written as it celebrated its first twenty-five years with March 9 of that year designated by Richard M. Daley as Chicago Architecture Foundation Day.  It was in 1967 that a group of architects, fearing that gentrification of the near south side would sweep away a particular treasure, the Glessner House, formed the Chicago School of Architecture Foundation with its offices in the Glessner House itself.  Ten years later the “School of” left the name and the focus of the foundation changed from preservation to education with an emphasis on showcasing the unique contributions that Chicago architecture has made to the city, the nation and the world. In the 1991 Tribune article the executive director of the organization, John Engman, says, “People around the world think of Chicago, unfortunately, for its gangsters and fortunately, for its architecture.  But Chicago architecture is what defines this city as a unique world city more so than anything else.  Architects throughout the world make pilgrimages to this town.”  [Chicago Tribune, April 19, 1991] At the time the organization consisted of about 300 docents who started walking tours from the Monadnock building.  Today there are nearly 200 more docents, and the foundation is looking forward to moving to new headquarters in the 111 East Wacker Drive building above the docks from which guests depart on the foundation’s signature Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady Cruises. John Engman said 27 years ago, “The city is our museum,” and for the dedicated volunteers who stand on tour boats in rain or shine, who lead tours everywhere from Hyde Park to Fort Sheridan, and who spend hour upon hour preparing for their assignments, that is still true.

April 19, 1962 – Mayor Richard J. Daley presents a revised plan for the development of 60 acres of the area east of Michigan Avenue and north of Randolph Street, today’s Illinois Center.  The mayor says, “This proposal has been prepared to assure the orderly development of one of Chicago’s most valuable areas.  It is a vast undertaking that can provide more than 30,000 persons who could enjoy nearby employment, cultural, and recreational facilities.  This development will increase tax revenues and will be a great stimulus to the future growth of Chicago.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, April 20, 1962]  The city plan commissioner, Ira Bach, indicates that the development of the Illinois Central Railroad’s air rights in this area could provide 12 million dollars in real estate taxes each year.  The area about which the Mayor speaks is the area enclosed in the dotted lines.  Looking at this area as well as the area north of the river today is a visual lesson in the positive and negative aspects of urban planning.

April 19, 1925 --The Flying Finn, Paavo Nurmi, wins the 3,000 meter run at the first annual Loyola Relays at Grant Park stadium, today's Soldier Field. Rain in the morning leaves the track in poor condition, and the weather is cold and blustery. Still, 5,000 spectators watch as Nurmi covers the distance in 8:49.25, considerably off his world record of 8:32. The sensation from Finland is content to let fellow countryman Willie Ritola lead the pack through the stiff northerly winds until two laps remain. On the last curve he passes Ritola and goes on to win by 20 yards. Refusing to pose for pictures, he gathers up his gear and heads into the locker room as the crowd cheers. In difficult conditions he and Ritola are the only two runners to finish the race. The statue of Nurvi, pictured below, stands outside the Helsinki Olympic stadium.