Wednesday, August 23, 2017

August 23, 1985 -- Navy Pier -- a Forgotten Gem

August 23, 1985 – Under the headline “Tattered Navy Pier Finds Dance Card Empty,” the Chicago Tribune describes the sorry condition of the municipal pier at the end of Illinois Street and Grand Avenue, finished in 1916 for $4 million.  According to the paper, “…the unique 3,000-foot pier has deteriorated to the point that its sewer system has been plugged up and its roofs are sieves.  The upper walkways are too dangerous, and the floors of lower storage rooms can barely support their own weight.”  The pier has no adequate fire protection system, so that any event held there must keep a fire engine standing by.  With one exception, a major event has not been held at the pier since the inauguration of Mayor Harold Washington two years earlier.  Joe Wilson of the Department of Public Works says, “I don’t think $60 million would give you much more than the basic structure, but it depends on what you want.”  Wilson says that an average of 20 people visit the pier on weekdays and about 75 on weekends.” The above photo shows the east end of the pier in the 1980's.

August 23, 1914 – Henry Korthagen, an unemployed painter, pays the 25-cent admission to the observatory of the Masonic Temple Building on State Street, crawls through a window to the northwest corner of the building and then jumps.  His body strikes the crowded sidewalk on State Street at noon on a Saturday.  A dentist on the twelfth floor of the building, Dr. A. Jay Blakie, sees the body fly past his window, with a black derby hat following 20 feet behind.  “From my position above,” Blakie says, “the sidewalk looked like the surface of water after a stone has been thrown in.  A circle of humanity just eddied back from the crumpled object in the middle of it.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 24, 1914]  Korthagen had visited the Painters and Decorators District Council at 300 West Madison Street earlier, seeking to pay back dues and gain reinstatement to the union.  Those at the union headquarters describe him as cheerful at the time.  The observatory at the Masonic Temple is pictured above, all the way up there at the top of the building.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

August 22, 1942 -- U.S.S. Wolverine Is Commissioned

August 22, 1942 – At 3:00 p.m. the United States Navy formally commissions the aircraft carrier Wolverine off Madison Street.  The ship is the country’s only paddlewheel aircraft carrier and will be used to train pilots operating out of the Naval air station in Glenview as they practice carrier landings and take-offs.  Captain E. A. Lofquist, Chief of Staff of the Ninth Naval District, makes the dedication address, after which the Navy’s commission pennant, displaying one red stripe, one white stripe, and seven stars set in a field of blue, is raised from the Wolverine’s masthead.  Two fighter planes, one of which is piloted by Commander Edward J. O’Neill, a pilot who flew in the Battle of Midway and the officer in charge of operational training once the ship is commissioned, circle overhead during the ceremony.  The city fireboat Fred Busse and two tugs carry several hundred young men who have signed up to take the naval aviation course. For more on the Wolverine and her sister carrier, the Sable, you may turn to entires in Connecting the Windy City here and here.  Information about Navy Pier and its service during World War II can be found here

August 22, 1969 – The City Council Buildings and Zoning Committee unanimously approves the guidelines for the development of the Illinois Central land and air rights south of the Chicago River and east of Michigan Avenue, asking for a change so that advertising signs will be banned in the area.  Louis, Hill, the Commissioner of Development and Planning, says that developers will provide streets, utilities, a fire station, a dock wall along the river, a six-acre park, a school, and a subway and station to serve the area.  The approval follows four days after the Chicago Plan Commission approves the same plan.   The area approved for the new development is shown in the photo above.

Monday, August 21, 2017

August 21, 1933 -- Teachers Line Up

August 21, 1933 – More than 1,000 teachers and other school employees in the city come to the offices of the Board of Education in the Builders’ Building at LaSalle Street and Wacker Drive in order to receive their share of $1,250,000 in 1931 tax anticipation warrants.  They exchange the scrip issued two years earlier for the warrants that can be turned into cash.  When the exchange begins in the morning, over 100 people are waiting in line.  Between January of 1931 and May of 1933 teachers were paid their monthly salaries only three times. By 1933 Chicago school district employees were owed $22.8 million. In place of their regular salaries the teachers received “scrip” that could then be redeemed at businesses and banks, most of which did not honor the full value of the paper. Earlier in 1933, on April 24, five thousand teachers moved on five of Chicago’s largest banks, “confronting bankers, trashing offices, smashing windows, and throwing ink on the walls.” [] Other demonstrations followed, prompting one teacher to observe, “Few of us are the sweet complacent, non-thinking 100 percenters that we used to be. Our eyes have been opened … After four years of learning that bankers are our worst enemies, that politicians are interested in our votes and power only and use our children merely as pawns in their selfish games, that we can depend on no one but ourselves, we cannot be restored to our previous complacency.”  It would not be until 1934 that an infusion of federal money would allow the teachers of Chicago to receive actual paychecks again as well as the back pay owed to them.  The original Builder's Building is pictured above.  It is considerably larger today as the result of a 1986 addition.

August 21, 1976 – The Chicago Tribune reports of a demonstration by nearly 100 cab drivers at the Civic Center, protesting a ruling by the city commissioner of consumer affairs, Jane Byrne, that they must wear uniforms.  The ruling, due to take effect on September 7, causes anger among the cabbies who say that over the preceding year three drivers have been killed, seven shot, one had his throat cut, and another suffered amputation of a leg as a result of a robbery.  Uniforms will just make them a more recognizable target when they are away from their cabs, the drivers say.  One driver says that he has to drive 16 to 18 hours a day to make a living, and that there is not enough money to buy and maintain a uniform.  Jane Guthrie, a driver for three years, says, “How can the city tell self-employed persons to wear uniforms . . . If your cab breaks down in a bad neighborhood it’s bad enough getting out without having to wear a uniform which advertises that you’re stranded and have money on you from driving.”  [Chicago Tribune, August 21, 1976]