Thursday, March 23, 2017

March 23, 1963 -- John F. Kennedy Comes and Goes



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


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

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

March 22, 1902 -- Sheet Piling's Debut




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


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

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

March 21, 1894 -- Grant Park: A Proposal



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

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