Monday, July 22, 2019

July 22, 1963 -- Roosevelt Theater Sold to Chicago Federal Savings

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July 22, 1963 – Chicago Federal Savings and Loan Association announces the purchase of the Roosevelt Theater building at 110 North State Street for $660,000.  The New England Mutual Life Insurance Company, which has owned the building since 1947, originally purchased the property from the Balaban and Katz Corporation.  The president of Chicago Federal, Thomas F. Waldron, notes that his company’s purchase of the theater is “a long range investment in State street real estate.” [Chicago Tribune, July 23, 1963]. The Balaban and Katz organization will continue to lease the property at $33,000 a year with an option to extend the lease for another 21 years.  Waldron points out, though, that “Eventually, we foresee construction of a high-rise office building, annexed to our present 14-floor building, in which Chicago Federal Savings will occupy at least the ground, second, and third floors.”  The Roosevelt, designed by C. Howard Crane and H. Kenneth Franzeim, opened on April 25, 1921, directly across from the main entrance of Marshall Field’s.  After the Chicago Federal purchase, the theater lingered on for another 16 years before it was finally demolished in 1980.  The site of the Roosevelt Theater is today part of the Block 37 shopping center.


July 22, 1979 – Joliet Jake and Silent Elwood Blues, the Blues Brothers, are in Chicago to begin filming the movie that will make them international stars.  “Hundreds of onlookers hung over guard rails as the bluesmen’s ancient black-and-white squad car screamed south on Lake Shore Drive,” reports the Chicago Tribune. “Twenty-seven pairs of newer squads, their lights flashing, followed at close range.  An unmarked helicopter hovered above.” [Chicago Tribune, July 23, 1979] The squad cars are rented from the Chicago Police Department and driven by off-duty officers hired by the film crew.  One off-duty cop says, “I feel good that they’ve chosen to shoot it in Chicago. We have a beautiful city, and it hasn’t had its fair share of movies.”. Residents in high-rise buildings along Lake Shore Drive flood the newsroom of the Tribune with calls, thinking that a high-speed pursuit of a criminal is taking place.  The film looked as though it was doomed to failure when it opened on June 20, 1980 since it was released in less than half the theaters than a typical big film of that era.  In the first week the $27.5 million film brought in $4,858,152, second only to The Empire Strikes Back.  Ultimately, The Blues Brothers, brought in $115,229,890 in foreign and domestic markets.


July 22, 1985 -- TIshman Realty and Construction Company, Incorporated and Japan Air Lines Development announce plans to build a 450-room luxury hotel on the north side of the Chicago River.  Scheduled to open in June of 1987 on the northwest corner of Dearborn Street and the river, the hotel is expected to cost $70 million.  The firms of Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum, Inc. and Takyama and Associates, Inc. project a 350,000 square foot hotel with a 100-seat gourmet French restaurant, a 150-seat Japanese restaurant, and two lounges totaling 160 seats.  The hotel will also feature a 9,000 square-foot ballroom and a smaller 4,000 square-foot gathering hall.  The announcement of the new hotel follows the start of the 35-story Quaker Tower in the same area, a tower that will house the new headquarters for Quaker Oats Company, scheduled to move from the Merchandise Mart in early 1987.  In January of 1997 the Hotel Nikko became the Westin River North Chicago and away went Benkay, the Hotel Nikko's Japanese-style restaurant.


July 22, 1897:  The formal ceremonies dedicating the Logan Monument in Grant Park are held, beginning a 1 p.m.  After the two-hour dedication ceremony, guns sound on the shore and from ships on the lake, and a parade of 10,000 marchers begins at Twelfth Street and Michigan Avenue and moves north on Randolph, west to State, south to Adams, west to Dearborn, north to Washington, west to LaSalle, south to Jackson, finally ending at Michigan Avenue.  Mrs. Logan, the general’s widow, is received that evening at the Coliseum with a fireworks display and band concert preceding that event.  Of Augustus St. Gaudens’ equestrian statue of General Logan, the Chicago Daily Tribune writes, “In the statue of General Logan St. Gaudens has chosen as the dominant idea the expression of courage, the martial courage, which is born of patriotism and indomitable will.”  The above photo shows the dedication ceremony on that July day in 1897.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

July 21, 1861 -- Illinois Central Brings Longest Train Ever to Enter Chicago

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July 21, 1861 – The longest train ever to enter the city arrives on the Illinois Central Railroad as 80 cars, stretching over a half-mile, bring nearly 900 tons of wheat to the Chicago market.  It would be three more years before the Chicago Board of Trade is organized as a means to establish standardized futures contracts in a setting where buyers and sellers could exchange commodities.  Given the size of the train that arrived on this day in 1861, and, considering the fact that over 180 more cars arrived during the two days that followed, it is not difficult to understand how quickly the power of the Board of Trade grew once it was established.  The above illustration shows the lakefront and the Illinois Central operation in the 1860's, looking north from what is today Roosevelt Road.


July 21, 1963 –In a pictorial essay, the Chicago Tribune highlights the “building boom” that is under way in the city, highlighting five big projects: (1) Carl Sandburg Village on North La Salle Street; (2) the Outer Drive East apartment on Randolph Street near the lakefront; (3) the new federal office building (now the Dirksen Federal Courthouse) on Dearborn Street between Adams and Jackson; (4) the new Midwest headquarters of the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States on Michigan Avenue between the river and the Tribune building, and (5) the Civic Center (now the Richard J. Daley Center) just beginning to rise just east of the City-County building on Clark Street.  These were heady days in the city, as bold new structures rose throughout the decade in the city that worked.  The model for Sandburg Village, minus the brick walls that hide everything from view, is shown in the above photo.


July 21, 1919 – The lead in today’s Chicago Daily Tribune packs a powerful punch, “Not since the disastrous fire of ’71 has the city council at any one meeting considered improvement ordinances of such far reaching effect.”  This is the day that the city council votes on a budget package that will potentially lead to more than $195,000,000 in city improvements, including the completion of a bridge across the river at Michigan Avenue.  There is apparently no opposition to the plans.  “So anxious are the large majority of the aldermen to make Chicago go ahead that it is proposed now that plans be considered at once for initiation of improvements next year,” the Tribune reports.  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 21,1919]  Bond issues will lead to the widening of Ogden, Ashland, Western, Robey (now Damen), and South Water Streets.  Two million dollars will cover the cost of finishing Michigan Avenue.  Up to $30,000,000 will cover “reclaiming and improving submerged lands between Grant and Jackson parks.”  Aside from the money involved, the council will ask for an investigation of civic improvements in Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Kansas City, Omaha, Minneapolis and St. Paul because “Charles H. Wacker of the Chicago plan commission has repeatedly stated that these cities are attempting to become real rivals to Chicago in trade, commerce, manufacturing and municipal improvements.”  The above photo shows the proposal of the Chicago Plan Commission for eliminating the South Water Street markets and improving the area just south of the river.


July 21, 1919 – The Chicago City Council passes two huge ordinances that will, together, have an immense impact on the future of the city.  One is the lake front development ordinance, adopted by a vote of 66 to 2.  This decision ratifies an agreement between the city, the South Park Commission, and the Illinois Central Railroad, restricting development on the lakefront from the Chicago River all the way to Forty-Seventh Street.  The other act submits bond issues for street improvements totaling $28,600,000 that will be on the ballot for approval in November.  Charles H. Wacker, head of the Chicago Plan Commission, says, “This is the greatest day, barring none, in Chicago’s history. It means more to the growth, development, and greatness of the city than anything which has heretofore happened . . . When these improvements are completed this city will have passed from the provincial town class to a real metropolitan city.”  The photo above shows the lake front five years later in 1924.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

July 20, 1863 -- Palmisano Park, the Early Days

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July 20, 1863 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports of a gruesome accident at the lime quarry of Stearns and Company, about a half-mile west of Halsted Street.  At about 5:00 p.m. a foreman, Michael Gaven, makes preparations to blast a section of wall, calling workers away from the area and setting the fuse.  After waiting nearly ten minutes, he moves to the site of the intended blast to figure out what has gone wrong.  Just as he reaches the area, the explosion comes, “tearing Mr. Gaven’s body into fragments.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 20, 1863].  The 45-year-old leaves a wife and three children.  The 27-acre site was used as a limestone quarry from 1833 to 1969 by the Illinois Stone and Lime Company, after which it was used as a landfill for clean construction waste from 1969 to 1974.  During its run as a limestone quarry, enough rock was removed to carry the space 380 feet below the street level.  After the dump site was shut down the City of Chicago and landscape architecture firm Site Design Group began planning an “environmentally-sustainable design … inspired by the natural history of the site.” [www.chicagoparkdistrict.com]. The landfill was capped with more than 40,000 square feet of clean topsoil, culminating in a 33-foot hill that offers spectacular views of the city to the northeast.  The new park was named after Henry Palmisano, the owner of a bait shop at 3130 South Canal Street, who passed away in 2005 during construction of the park.



July 20, 1984 – Strolling through Millennium Park today, it is difficult to imagine what the area was like before the transformation began.  Back in 1984 Cindy Mitchell, the president of Friends of the Park, had this to say about the area east of Michigan Avenue between Randolph and Monroe Streets, “This could be the premier spot of the downtown area, a real tourist attraction and a place for Loop workers to enjoy a lunch, but it needs a great deal of work and some creative thinking.  [Chicago Tribune, July 20, 1984] In a stroll through the garden with a Tribune reporter and photographer, Mitchell pointed out that “The flower beds have no flowers.  Benches are in need of paint.  Workmen were trying to start up the two large decorative and long-dry water fountains. When the water was turned on in the first fountain, a huge leak sprang through the deteriorated masonry.  The second fountain proved more of a challenge and refused to flow.”  That wasn’t the worst of it.  Grass along the Michigan Avenue sidewalk is nonexistent; what little grass there is in the “park” is parched.  Stairways are deteriorating at an alarming degree and most of the wiring in the park lights is so far gone that few of them work.  “Deeper in the park, the pigeons munch on piles of debris and share the lawn and benches with dozing derelicts, bag people and other itinerant-looking characters, some of whom frequent the back reaches of the park along the balustrade esplanade and dissuade visitors from using the area.” Commander Robert Casey of the First Police District says of the park that, although it is generally safe, “Office workers go there to smoke marijuana, and the bums sleep there during the night.  We run the wagons in there early in the morning to get rid of the rummies.” Mitchell asserts, ‘When you’ve got a problem, you can’t just throw up your hands and say, ‘It’s impossible.’ You have to say, ‘Let’s attack this problem. We can lick it.’ It takes some vision, some planning, some creative thinking. It takes determination. After all, Chicago’s motto is, ‘I will.’” Two decades later creative thinking paid off when Millennium Park opened and the city received a beautiful new front yard. The before and after pictures tell the story.


July 20, 1881 – The Directors of the Board of Trade receive assurances that an ordinance vacating a portion of LaSalle Street between Jackson Boulevard and Van Buren Street will be valid and, based upon this information, vote to purchase the property at this location for $10,000.  The next step will be to organize a Building Association since Illinois law prohibits the Board from erecting a building exceeding $100,000 in valuation.  It is anticipated that the new building will cost at least $800,000, but the matter of the building itself is left for another day.  The Chicago Daily Tribune summarizes the results of the meeting in this way, “The Board of Trade purchases the property for $10,000.  This it leases to a Building Association for a term of fifty or one hundred years at a fixed rental.  The Building Association erects the edifice, and leases to the Board of Trade what may be required at a certain rental, yet to be determined upon.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 21, 1881] This would be a decision that would produce a huge impact on this area. According to Homer Hoyt in his One Hundred Years of Land Values in Chicago, "From 1881 to 1883 the value of land on Jackson, Van Buren, Wells, and LaSalle streets near the Board of Trade advanced from $200 and $400 a front foot to from $1,500 to $2,000 a front foot .. the total increase in the value of land and buildings within half a mile from the Board of Trade from 1881 to 1885 was estimated by current observers at from $20,000,000 to $40,000,000."  The first Board of Trade building to stand on this site is pictured above.  Barely visible above the front entrance at the base of the tower are the two statues of Agriculture and Industry that still stand in the plaza outside the present day Board of Trade building.


July 20, 1913 – The Chicago Daily Tribune’s art critic, Harriet Moore, writes an opinion piece in which she supports the City Club in its campaign against billboards.  Her argument begins with a single question, one she asked at a previous hearing in which a City Council committee was listening to testimony from both advocates and opponents of the signs, “Is it your opinion that beauty has neither health value nor financial value in a modern metropolis?”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 20, 1913]  She then answers the question with three separate responses:  that beauty is a health producer (“Hideous objects and harsh sounds, assaulting eyes and ears in a manner not to be escaped, destroy the harmony of life by introducing discords, and reduce the joy of life by insulting the senses with ugliness.”); that beauty is a commercial asset in any community (“Without beauty a city is merely a place to make money in and get away from.”); and, beauty is a great investment (“Why does the whole world flock to Italy, spending there millions every year?  Because, a few centuries ago a few hundred artists builded and carved and painted beautifully.”)  Moore concludes, “Chicago has the opportunity to become one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  The lake, the long stretch of park which is to border it, Michigan avenue widened to the river and adequately connected with the Lake Shore drive, the widened Twelfth street, the new railway terminals, the enlarged business district—these and other conditions and projects will create a beautiful metropolis.  Along with these large plans for civic beauty should go eternal vigilance against all kinds of defacement and in favor of all kinds of minor improvements.  The fight against billboards is an important detail of the general campaign.”

Friday, July 19, 2019

July 19, 1966 -- Cubs Lose By One in 18-Inning Game


July 19, 1966 – The Chicago Cubs put together an impressive display of offense as they put 24 runners on base through a combination of ten hits, 10 walks, two hit batters, and two errors.  Unfortunately, 18 of those runners do not cross home plate as the Cubs lose, 3-2, to the Cincinnati Reds in an 18-inning affair that lasts just seven minutes short of five hours before an official crowd of 6,941.  Robin Roberts, starting his second game for the Cubs, brings a 1 to 0 lead into the eighth inning when left fielder Billy Williams misjudges a ball by Reds pinch hitter Mel Queen, allowing a run to score, tying the game. Roberts, just six weeks shy of his fortieth birthday, continues through 11 innings.  He has retired 12 out of 13 batters when Reds third baseman Tommy Helms singles to start the eighth inning, setting the state for pinch hitter Jimmy Coker who hits a ball that Williams apparently loses in the sun in left field.  Cubs reliever Bob Hendley handles innings 12 through 14 and Ferguson Jenkins comes into the game in the fifteenth inning after Hendley allows two walks. Jenkins cruises through another three innings, strikes out the first two batters in the eighteenth … and then disaster strikes as Don Pavletich, a journeyman catcher and first baseman, homers over the left field wall.  The two teams combine for a total of 115 times at bat with the Reds using 16 players and the Cubs 15. In the above photo Robin Roberts receives congratulations from catcher Randy Hundley, Ron Santo, Ernie Banks and Don Kissinger after a 5-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.


July 19, 1984 –The Chicago Harbor Lighthouse is named to the National Register of Historic Places.  The lighthouse originally came about as a part of a number of harbor improvements that the city undertook to prepare itself for the 27.5 million people that would attend the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.  Standing at the mouth of the Chicago River, the lighthouse replaced one that had stood at the end of the North Pier when it was completed in 1859, but with the addition of nearly a quarter mile of new pier, stood 1,200 feet from the outer limit of the pier.  Work had begun in the 1870’s on a mile-long breakwater to protect the harbor, and on September 1, 1893 the new lighthouse was completed 100 feet inside the southeast end of the breakwater. There it stood until 1917 when the breakwater was extended southward, and the United States Congress appropriated $88,000 to move the lighthouse onto the renovated breakwater off the harbor.  Two structures were added as a part of the move – a 28-foot square fog signal building and a boathouse.  The lighthouse was fully automated in 1979.  In 2005 the Coast Guard determined that the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse was excess and on February 24, 2009 it was transferred to the city.  The lighthouse is such a part of the city that there is a reference to it in a relief sculpture at City Hall where “The Spirit of the Waters” features the lighthouse in the background.  


July 19, 1859 – The laying of the cornerstone of the new building for the Board of Trade takes place on the lot adjoining the Wells Street Bridge on South Water Street.  According to the Chicago Press and Tribune, “The accommodations the Board are to enjoy will be of the most complete and desirable character, giving them the entire second floor, in a noble hall of 95 feet by 50 feet – its area unbroken by pillar or column.  From this, at either end, open off such ante rooms as the convenience of officers or members require.”  [Chicago Press and Tribune, July 10, 1859]  During the ceremony the President of the Board of Trade, Julian S. Rumsey, places a sealed box in the cornerstone, the box containing the First Annual Report of the Board, copies of daily papers, a list of officers and members, the previous day’s telegraphic dispatches, coins in circulation at the time, and a broker’s ticket for 15,000 bushels of corn.  It is anticipated that the new headquarters for the Board of Trade will be completed by the fall.  President Rumsey is pictured above.


July 19, 1922 – Steam shovels begin excavation work in Grant Park, the first step in the construction of the new stadium south of the Field Museum.  The stadium, designed by Holabird and Roche in a neoclassical style, is the result of an architectural competition to build a stadium as a memorial to American soldiers who lost their lives in service to the country.  The stadium will be completed in three stages between 1922 and 1939, with its final capacity holding over 100,000 people. 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

July 18, 1971 -- Illinois Center Project Gets Entrance Road


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July 18, 1971 The Chicago Tribune reports that workmen have begun pouring concrete for the extension of South Water Street to Stetson Avenue one block east of Michigan Avenue in the proposed Illinois Center development project.  The new road will allow entry to the $1.5-billion development that will rise on a former Illinois Central Railroad freight yard.  The road will widen from 74 feet at Michigan Avenue to 92 feet at the east end, providing room for six lanes of traffic.  It will occupy the middle-level of a complex, multi-level design with the ground level handling trucks and service vehicles and two upper levels providing passage for pedestrians.  As the road is being constructed, work will continue on Two Illinois Center, a 30-story office building that will stand next to the nearly completed111 East Wacker Drive.  The photo shows Two Illinois Center under construction with today's 111 East Wacker Drive standing to the north.  The far right tower is actually on the west side of the Michigan Avenue bridge.  It is today's AMA Plaza, the home of the IBM corporation when it opened in 1971.


July 18, 1966 –The first steel column, 35 feet long, weighing 30 tons, is set in place for the John Hancock building at Michigan Avenue and Delaware Place.  It is anticipated that in the following 16 months, 42,000 tons of steel are to be placed, forming the skeleton of a tower that will reach 1,105 feet above the ground.  As rosy as this day is, things quickly fall apart.  Under the load of a single steel column, one of the 57 caissons on the project slipped downwards approximately an inch in one 24-hour period. The structural engineer for Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, Fazlur Khan, called for a halt to construction so that all of the caissons could be tested.  He was right to do so, as 26 of the 57 caissons were found to be defective. Following the testing, it took four months and 11 million dollars to repair the  foundation elements.  The tower topped out on May 6, 1968 and was at the time the second-tallest building in the world. It has been awarded the Distinguished Architects Twenty-Five Year Award and has been included in the World Federation of Great Towers. 


July 18, 1889 – The Chicago Daily Tribune surveys the field in the running for the World’s Fair of 1892 (that actually ended up being the World’s Fair of 1893) and concludes that Washington, D. C. is the “only place which is making an earnest effort.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 18, 1889]  That’s good news, according to the paper, because during the summer months that will form the heart of the fair, the nation’s capital “despite its broad avenues and its shade trees, is as hot as the ante-chamber of the infernal regions.”  But the heat isn’t the only problem that the nation’s capital faces in the competition for the fair.  Its railroad facilities are inadequate, and the Tribune proclaims, “Unable to deal with the small attendance at an inauguration how could Washington handle the far greater course at a world’s fair?”  Chicago is the only choice, and the article makes that clear, saying, “Here is a climate which is cool and delicious when in other cities men are dying by the score from sunstroke.  Here all can come for low rates, and be well cared for when they come” The article closes with a quote from the Omaha Bee, “expressing the sentiments of the West.”  Said the Bee, “As the youngest of the great metropolitan cities Chicago typifies more fully and fitly even than New York the vigorous and rapid march of American progress, and she represents more truly the best spirit, character, and aspirations of the American people.  Chicago could provide abundantly for all who would visit the exposition, and she has attractions far exceeding those of the Easter metropolis …There can be no reasonable question that the exposition would be a great financial success if held at Chicago.”  Just look at the photo above.  All of that open space by the cool, cool lake ... ignoring the steam engines, of course.


July 18, 1977 -- The developers of River City outline a proposal that they say will add $110 million to Chicago’s economy.  Robert McGowan, president of Chessie Resources, Inc., the owner of the site on the east side of the Chicago River south of the Loop and a partner in the development plan, predicts that the 11,000 people who will occupy the residential towers at River City will add that amount of money to the city’s downtown stores.  Bertrand Goldberg, the architect of the three 72-story towers projected for the site, says, “The beauty of the project is that no city money will be involved in the construction phase.  Everything – the schools, recreational facilities, sewers, streets, and sidewalks – will be provided with private capital.”  [Chicago Tribune, July 19, 1977]  Goldberg’s plans include three towers, each of which will have three separate sections connected every 18 floors by two-story service areas, containing schools, a day-care center, 24-hour nursing service, a gym, mail room, security center, laundry and convenience stores.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

July 17, 1941 -- Blighted Areas Identified for Renewal

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July 17, 1941 – The executive director of the Chicago Plan Commission, T. T. McCrosky, designates three additional areas of the city as “blight districts” suitable for redevelopment by a private corporation.  The first area is on the North Side in an area bounded by Chicago Avenue, the alley between Rush Street and Michigan Avenue, Grand Avenue, and the alley west of Wells Street.  The second area is on the West Side in an area bounded by Congress Street, Racine Avenue, Roosevelt Road, Canal Street from Roosevelt north to Polk street, Polk Street west to a line with Union Avenue, and north to Congress Street.  The final area is on the South Side, an area bounded by Federal Street, Thirty-First Street, Lake Park Avenue, and Twenty-Sixth Street. McCrosky says, “All three of the districts I have designated would be suitable for apartment houses.  The one on the north side should be for the benefit of middle salaried white collar workers … The west side district which also would permit the worker to walk to the loop, would provide for the start of a general west side improvement.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 18, 1941]  McCrosky’s announcement comes a week after Illinois Governor Dwight H. Green signs the Neighborhood Redevelopment Corporation Act, which permits private corporations to condemn property for slum clearance … but only after the corporation has obtained 60 percent of the land needed for the project and has received approval from a municipal redevelopment commission. 


July 17, 1933 – A parade to honor General Italo Balbo and the aviators who accompanied him from Italy to Chicago begins at the Stevens Hotel on Michigan Avenue at 2:30 p.m. and proceeds north to the bridge across the Chicago River.  The Italians ride in United States Army cars and are escorted by cavalry troops from Camp Whistler on the grounds of the Century of Progress Exposition.  At the bridge the troops “present sabers and leave the flyers to an escort of army officers, who will take them to Fort Sheridan.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 17, 1933] At the fort the flyers review the troops at 3:30 p.m. and watch “an aerial demonstration by Army planes from Selfridge Field, Michigan, exhibition jumping by army riders and a polo game.” The afternoon ends with a reception at the Officer’s Club. This will be the last official act in honor of the Italian airmen.  On the following day, they will fire up their 24 Savola-Marcinetti seaplanes and head on the thousand-mile trip to New York City.  For more on the flight of Balbo and his men you can turn to Connecting the Windy City for this blog entry and this one.


July 17, 1977 – Paul Gapp, the architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, evaluates the new Apparel Mart at 350 North Orleans Street, observing that once the Joseph P. Kennedy family bought the land where the new building stands on Wolf Point, family members “began a leisurely study of what to do with it.”  Gapp continues, “After all this high-powered cerebration, one might have expected an imposing structure to rise on a precious patch of 7.5 acres.  Instead, we got the Apparel Mart, a disappointing, $56 million architectural performance that succeeds mostly in saving money … The Mart, inside and out, has that hard-edged crowd control look that speaks of hustling retailers racing up in taxis and airline limos; sprinting from showroom to showroom to buy brassieres and bush jackets; having a late dinner, then flopping into bed for a few hours before arising to catch an early plane back to Cleveland, Omaha, or Sarasota, Fla.”  Gapp seems willing to forgive the buildings “windowlessness” because it “does not intrude into an elegant environment, and thus is not as blatantly offensive as [Water Tower Place] the marble monstrosity on North Michigan Avenue.”  In the Skidmore, Owings and Merrill design Gapp sees “a watch-every-nickel structure of little distinction and absolutely no elegance, done by a first-rate firm.”  Gapp ends his assessment with a remarkably accurate prediction, by way of Skidmore architect Bruce Graham, whose assertion that the Apparel Mart buildings are “’background buildings’ that someday may be dwarfed into nothingness.  “The Mart must stand on its own demerits, even if Graham is right when he says that a skyscraper approaching the size of the Standard Oil Building may be built on the very tip of Wolf Point,” writes Gapp.  A 48-story apartment building, Wolf Point West, a bKL architecture design, opened last summer.  A 60-story commercial building is currently just coming up out of the ground.  And the tallest building on Wolf Point will almost completely obscure the Apparel Mart when it rises in the next few years.  The conceptual photo of the completed Wolf Point development project, shown above, seems to validate Graham's belief that the Apparel Mart would one day become a "background building."


July 17, 1881 – The Chicago Daily Tribune prints the report of William H. Genung, the chief tenement house inspector, who provides figures on the work of his department during the preceding week.  The report gives some idea of the size of the problem with which the city is faced as 180 houses are inspected, containing 2,086 rooms, inhabited by 559 families, consisting of 2,550 people.  Small pox will claim the lives of 1,181 people in the last months of this year, and the city is hard at work to eliminate the conditions that foster the disease.  In the Second Ward that today encompasses the east side of the Loop, part of the Gold Coast, and Streeterville, tenement houses such as the one Genung’s department inspected were places in which people lived in cramped circumstances in deplorable sanitary conditions.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

July 16, 1890 -- West Chicago Street Railroad Begins Service

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July 16, 1890 – A cable car leaves the Fortieth Street station and the West Chicago Street Railroad goes into operation with a cable running at the rate of seven miles an hour. The opening of the line was an event on the West Side as the Chicago Daily Tribune reports … “Small boys reveled in the excitement, and some of the farmers got up early enough to see the first grip-car start.  Horses attached to hay wagons and green-grocery carts became frightened at the phenomena, and the sidewalks were utilized as plank roads.  People who were coming down-town on horse-cars got off and paid another fare to ride on the grip.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 17 1890].  The superintendent of the line says, “Our most difficult task will be the teaching of gripmen … A man can learn to run a grip in about four days, and it will take the same man six weeks to learn to drive a horse.”  The West Side cable system consisted of two lines – the Madison Street line, running directly west and the Milwaukee Avenue line which ran northwest.  Both lines connected to the Loop circulator through a tunnel under the Chicago River at La Salle Street. The principal power house for the system was located at Madison and Rockwell Streets although at the height of its operation the system had six powerhouses, pulling two dozen cables that moved 230 grip cars and at least three times that many trailing cars.


July 16, 1866 – For three hours a fire that begins in a haystack at the rear of State Street near Polk Street rages out of control, consuming 40 buildings over three acres of the southern section of the Loop.  Forty families are burned out of their homes as “The resistless fury of the flames for the first two hours was indeed sufficient to strike terror into the hearts of all who lived in the neighborhood.” [Chicago Tribune, July 17, 1866] The fire department cannot immediately respond to the fire because much of the equipment is tied up in another part of the city, and by the time help arrives the flames have spread from the west side of State Street to homes on the east side. In the 30 minutes that it takes for the fire apparatus to begin work, “the flames were spreading from house to house and every moment gaining ground.”  Wabash Avenue is impassable as homeowners are busy moving furniture, bedding and trunks into the street in panic.  They had reason to be afraid as firefighters, realizing that fighting the conflagration on both sides of State Street is fruitless, make a stand in the alley between State and Wabash, hoping to prevent the fire from spreading.  It is “Here, after a desperate struggle their efforts began to tell. The fire was kept in bounds, and the fears of those residents in the vicinity were, in a measure, allayed.” Two firefighters are injured seriously and carried to their homes, and a resident is also injured after falling from the roof of his home.  Preliminary estimates place losses at over $140,000 but “the most distressing part of the calamity is in the great number of poor families who are thus deprived of their homes, who have lost all their furniture, and are thrown into a state of destitution.”  As bad as the day is, it is only a preview of what will befall the city five years later.  The 1858 photo, which looks southwest from Washington and LaSalle Streets, gives some idea of how close together homes were placed as well as how easily a fire could consume a large area, given the right conditions.



July 16, 1859 – A reporter for the Chicago Press and Tribune takes a walk “in the eastern extremity of the city, within the North Division, in search of a breeze …”  [Chicago Daily Press and Tribune, July 16 1859] During his walk up Pine Street as far as Huron the reporter sees “very many splendid residences in rapid course of erection, and which when finished, with the beautiful houses and grounds of that vicinity, will make it one of the most splendid and interesting neighborhoods of the city.”  At the corner of Pine and Ontario Streets, a block of ten residences are being constructed, “similar to the great marble block on Michigan avenue.” At the corner of Pine and Huron Streets are two residences that Solomon Sturgis is building, each four stories in height with a basement.  Word is that Cyrus H. McCormick intends to begin a “first class dwelling” on Rush Street, between Erie and Huron and that work on a sewer on Huron Street from Rush to Cass Streets has been started.   All of the beautiful homes will, of course, be lost in another dozen years when the great fire of 1871 destroys the entire north side of the city.  There is no more Pine Street these days … the street on which the rich were busily building their beautiful homes back in 1859 is today’s Magnificent Mile on North Michigan Avenue.  The above etching shows Pine Street looking north toward the water tower from Huron Street not long after the tower was completed in 1869.  The photo below shows the same view today.


July 16, 1894 – In the midst of the Pullman strike Light Battery F, Second Artillery, is proceeding down Grand Boulevard, today’s Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, escorted by a cavalry escort, when disaster strikes.  The Chicago Daily Tribune reports the following day,  “ . . . going at a gentle trot over a smooth boulevard a shell somewhere in one of the ammunition chests exploded, the detonation set off all the cartridges and all the rest of the shrapnel shells—a storm of powder and leaden balls and scraps of iron sufficient to stop the charge of a brigade of cavalry.  There was first the booming, deafening crash of the powder; it smashed every bit of glass in the neighborhood, jarred the whole southern side of the city, tore the caisson that had held it into bits of twisted iron and splinters of oak, crushed the life out of the four horses attached to it and to the gun following.  Two cannoneers had been sitting on the ammunition chest that exploded first.  Their comrades found the fragments of them, one to the right, one to the left, 150 yards away.  They did not look as if they had ever been men.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 17, 1894]  The men had left camp that morning for a 25-mile ride along the city’s boulevards to exercise the horses, learn more of the streets of the south side of the city and to convey the image that in the midst of the labor crisis the troops were there to maintain order.  Joseph Gaylor, Edward Doyle, and Jeremiah Donovan are buried at Fort Sheridan, where their graves can still be found today. Relatives claim the body of Private Fred Stoltz, and his remains are sent home to Sago, Michigan.  The photo above shows Grand Boulevard about a half-dozen years after the tragic event.