Tuesday, June 2, 2020

June 2, 1967 -- Gateway Two Welcomes First Tenants

June 2, 1967 – The president of Tishman-Gateway, Inc. welcomes the first two tenants into the 120 South Riverside Plaza building.  Ross Llewellyn, Inc., an advertising agency and Massachusetts Mutual Insurance Company are the two firms that have taken up space in the second of an anticipated four structures that will make up the Gateway Center project on the west bank of the Chicago River’s South Branch.  The four buildings that today make up Gateway Center are built on air rights over railroad tracks, spanning four blocks from Madison to Van Buren Streets.  A Riverwalk leads pedestrians along the river to the east of the first three buildings, ending just north of Gateway IV, finished in 1983.  120 South Riverside Plaza is a twin to the first Gateway building, finished in 1965.  These two are the shortest of the four buildings that make up the project, which was designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill.

June 2, 2011 – With the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District poised to drop its opposition to tougher water quality standards for the Chicago River, the Chicago Tribune runs an editorial urging the decision forward.  “A cleaner Chicago River,” the editorial observes, “what a gift that would be to Chicagoans.  That wouldn’t just be a boon just for boaters or the tourists who stroll the river’s banks.  It would be a bonanza for the businesses sprouting at water’s edge and the homeowners who have helped fuel an amazing river resurgence.”  The piece continues, “This effort has the support of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Sen. Dick Durbin and Sen. Mark Kirk.  They know the stakes, and they recall the late Mayor Richard J. Daley’s dream of a Chicago River clean enough for fishing and swimming … Come on, commissioners.  Lead on this.  Clean up the Chicago River.”

June 2, 2010 –The Chicago Tribune reports that the Obama administration, in a letter to an Illinois legislative panel, is calling for the Chicago River to be made safe enough for swimming.  The paper reports, “Though it doesn’t outright order the changes needed to make the river safe enough for swimmers, it notes that the federal Clean Water Act requires all waterways to eventually be clean enough for ‘recreation in and on the water.’” [Chicago Tribune, June 2, 2010] Linda Holst, head of the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s regional water quality branch, says, “We might not be able to attain these standards now, but we need to look toward the future and what is possible.”  Reaction is swift.  Louis Kollias, director of monitoring and research for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, says, “We think the river is clean enough for how it is used today.  Why should we be spending millions of dollars to do this?”

June 2, 1960 – Mayor Richard J. Daley orders a suit filed against the Illinois Central Railroad to force it to repair the docks along its property on the south branch of the Chicago River between Michigan Avenue and Lake Shore Drive. The stand-off between the city and the I. C. results from a long-standing agreement between the two parties that provided the city with an easement along the river when it was planning an extension of Wacker Drive to Lake Shore Drive. The city contends that maintenance is up to the railroad because the easement was never used, pointing out that the I. C. has erected signs that forbid the mooring of boats in the area unless permission is obtained from the railroad. The whole mess started during the preceding summer when a series of newspaper articles created a stir about the conditions found on railroad property all along the river. The top photo shows this section of the river approximately where the cloud of steam is showing on the left of the photo. Note the cores of Marina City rising on the north side of the river in the background.  The second photo shows the same section of the river as it appears today.

June 2, 1892 – The Chicago Daily Tribune examines the case of Mrs. Sarah E. Daggett, who “Does not propose to have her property rights and incidentally the rights of the public as regards the Lake-Front Park encroached upon.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 2, 1892].  Daggett, it seems, claims that “she has a vested right in a free and unobstructed view of the lake from her property and considers that the erection of any building, however costly or elegant, would be a damage to her property.” The building in question, yet to be built but eagerly anticipated, is the new home of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her attorney states, that “… she would object to the transfer of the Vatican at Rome to the Lake-Front, or the reproduction of Solomon’s temple in all its grandeur.  Her means are ample for all emergencies, and her inclination to stand up for her rights is said to have been inherited from her father.” Dagget’s case rests on an 1869 court opinion that used an 1827 action of the United States government – the deeding of the property between Madison Street and Twelfth Street to Illinois for the purpose of constructing the Illinois and Michigan Canal – as the establishment of the land east of Michigan Avenue as an area that would be kept free of all obstructing buildings.  Only one other Michigan Avenue property owner joins Daggett in her resistance, which clearly is not enough as one can see today when greeted by the lions facing Michigan Avenue and guarding the great museum behind them.  The above engraving shows Mrs. Daggett's view before the Interstate Exposition building was razed to make room for the Art Institute of Chicago.  

Monday, June 1, 2020

June 1, 1981 -- O'Hare Loses "World's Busiest" Title

June 1, 1981 --  O’Hare International Airport loses its title as the world’s busiest airport, according to a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Agency.  After an expansion project Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport now holds the crown, handling 12,278,635 passengers in the first four months of 1981 as compared to 12,267,502 for O’Hare.  Chicago’s airport may not be down for long as a billion-dollar expansion project is in the works.  Today Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the busiest airport in the world, is far ahead of O’Hare in terms of the number of passengers it handles per year, serving over 110,000,000 passengers in 2019 while O’Hare saw over 84,000,000, placing it sixth in the world.  The two airports are neck-and-neck, the two busiest in the world, though, in terms of airplane take-offs and landings with Hartsfield holding a slight edge.  The above photo shows the $540 million Helmut Jahn-designed United Terminal which was part of the expansion effort, opening in 1987.

June 1, 1932 – The city celebrates World’s Fair Day as it looks forward to the Century of Progress World’s Fair, still a year away.  The Chicago Daily Tribune reports, “Factory whistles and bells were sounded at noon, to be supplanted in the afternoon by the first demonstration of the 25 chime carillon on the tower of the hall of science.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 2, 1932] The culmination of the day is the dedication of the Hall of Science, held on the south end of the terrace that is formed by the two wings of the building as it extends to the east.  More than 1,500 people attend.  The president of the Century of Progress, Rufus C. Dawes, uses the dedication of the hall to speak of the appropriateness of the fair’s theme.  “This is especially appropriate,” Dawes says, “because this period [the preceding one hundred years] represents also the great period of development of the physical sciences and their application to the services of man.”  Dr. Frank B. Jewett, the vice-president of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, also speaks, his remarks underscoring the mission of the Hall of Science.  Jewett says that science, more than any other aspect of society, has influenced life over the past century, but “we have lagged egregiously in the development of our understanding and exercise of the social factors which these new things have introduced into human living … No amount of such understanding can even remotely touch the elements of human greed, avarice and misuse of public trust, but real understanding of the underlying forces will greatly simplify the solution of many problems.” The above photo shows the dedication of the Hall.

June 1, 1913 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports on a complaint filed by a special committee of the Traders’ livestock exchange of Chicago, a group that represents 570 traders at the stockyards and handles 50 percent of all the livestock that comes into the city.  According to the group … “Thousands of diseased cattle pass through the Chicago stockyards every year without government inspection and are shipped to other points for slaughter, for breeding, and for fattening.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 1, 1913].  Government inspectors examine only the animals that are bound for the five big Chicago packing houses, according to the complaint. In a letter to the U. S. Secretary of Agriculture, David F. Houston, the president of the livestock exchange writes, “A great many of the cattle purchased on the market which receive no federal inspection before being weighed to innocent purchasers are more or less affected with tuberculosis, and, coming in contact with other cattle in various locations, are bound to spread this much dreaded disease.”  The complaint asks the government for “equal rights and equal protection” for eastern and southern packing plants which lose up to 50 percent of the livestock they have purchased from the Chicago market because inspectors at those localities condemn animals that could have been identified through inspections in Chicago.

June 1, 1912 – Daniel Burnham dies in Heidelberg, Germany at the age of 66 while traveling with his wife, his son, Hubert, his daughter, Mrs. A. B. Wells, and her husband. At the final concert of the North Shore festival the orchestra plays the funeral march from Die Göterdämmerung while the A Cappella choir of Northwestern University offers a song of praise. U. S. President William Howard Taft offers these thoughts, “Mr. Burnham was one of the foremost architects of the world, but he had more than mere professional skill. He had breadth of view as to artistic subjects that permitted him to lead in every movement for the education of the public in art or the development of art in every branch of our busy life.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 2, 1912] The Chicago we know today and other cities throughout the country and the world would be far different places, were it not for the genius of Burnham, who did more than anyone to create the concept of urban planning. "Make big plans," he wrote, "aim high in hope and work, knowing that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will not die."

June 1, 1910 – Hamlin Garden, president of Chicago’s Cliff Dwellers, calls Chicago the “ugliest city on God’s earth” [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 2, 1910] at a meeting of the society.  He goes on to add that his hope is that in twenty-five years the city will be “as beautiful as it is huge.” At the same meeting sculptor Lorado Taft explains his plan to implement a “Midway Beautiful” plan in Hyde Park and appeals to his audience and Chicagoans in general to get the plan underway, suggesting that if this could be accomplished, other parts of the city would follow in creating a “Chicago beautiful.”  The top photo shows Madison Street at about the time of Garden's talk, looking east from Clark Street.  The photo below that shows the same scene today.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

May 31, 1960 -- Federal Center Announced

May 31, 1960 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that four Chicago architecture firms are joining together to plan “a glass and steel structure” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 31, 1960] that will replace the federal courthouse.  It will sit on the east side of Dearborn Street between Adams Street and Jackson Boulevard, providing more than 1.3 million square feet of space for somewhere around 5,500 employees of the United States courts and 19 federal agencies.  The paper reports that “The surrounding walks and plaza, as well as the lobby floors, will feature granite paving.  The lofty first floor of the 30 story building will be devoted primarily to the lobby, stairways, and 24 elevators.”  Plans include air conditioning and “if conditions warrant, atomic bomb shelters.”  Completion date for the building is slated for late 1963 with final drawings due by the end of 1960.  This will be the first of two tall government buildings that will replace the old courthouse across Dearborn Street, a building that will be razed as the courthouse is being constructed so that a new federal building can be constructed in its place.  The architectural firms involved in the project are: the office of Mies van der Rohe; Schmidt, Garden, and Erikson; C. F. Murphy; and A. Epstein and Sons.

May 31, 1952 – Major Lenox R. Lohr, president of the Science Museum, today’s Museum of Science and Industry, announces that visitors will soon be able to walk through an 18-foot heart, part of a 3,000 square foot exhibit sponsored by the Chicago Heart Association. As part of the experience a human pulse will be audible. In another part of the exhibit the circulation of blood will be illustrated. The heart would fit into the chest of a 28-story human, which will make the museum an educational facility with a very big heart, indeed.

May 31, 1926 “The Seated Lincoln” is unveiled in Grant Park at a location just east of Van Buren Street. It is the last work of Augustus St. Gaudens, who died in 1907.  Judge Charles S. Cutting delivers the principal address at the ceremony, saying, “Lincoln was in every sense a real human character.  Abraham Lincoln has become a world figure.  He is the symbol of law and liberty throughout the world.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 1, 1926]. All of the principal players involved in bringing the statue to Chicago have long since died.  Augustus Saint-Gaudens completed the first model for the sculpture in 1897, but it was destroyed by a fire in his studio.  He had another model ready for casting in 1906 and died a year later. John Crerar, who died in 1889, began the process by which the statue came to Chicago by leaving $100,000 in his will to create it.  Both of the trustees entrusted with Crerar’s Lincoln fund have died as has New York architect Stanford White, who St.-Gaudens named to design the architectural setting for the monument.  It has been 37 years, then, between the time Crerar funded the statue and its unveiling in Grant Park.  Originally, according to a design by architect Daniel Burnham, the monument was to have stood near a similar monument to George Washington near the proposed Field Museum in Grant Park.  Nothing was done for nearly two decades, though, as Aaron Montgomery Ward led the city into a series of law suits over the appropriate use of Grant Park, ultimately prevailing in his belief that the park should remain parkland. The final case was decided in 1910, and development of the park began.  During this time the sculpture was on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as well as the 1915 San Francisco Exposition.   In 1924 the South Park Commissioners allocated a permanent site on what they intended to be the Court of Presidents and the sculpture was dedicated on this date in 1926.  The commissioners’ intent to install a similar monument to George Washington opposite Lincoln’s seated form never materialized. 

May 31, 1900 – At noon a Northwestern Elevated Railroad train carrying invited guests enters the Union Loop and “the new road, the last one to be completed of those composing the great elevated railroad system of Chicago—the greatest in the world—was formally opened.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 31, 1900] Twenty minutes later the train is speeding northward, having circled the Loop, carrying 250 passengers, all guests of the company.  It takes 22 minutes to reach the northern terminus of the line at Wilson Avenue. On the way the train passes five trains headed south, all packed with paying passengers.  It is a BIG DEAL.  The Tribune reports, “Along the entire line of the road the windows were filled with people, who cheered and waved their handkerchiefs as the four cars composing the first train rolled by.  Tugs and factory whistles violated the anti-noise ordinances in the most flagrant way.”  The guests on the train disembark at the Wilson Avenue station and make their way to Sheridan Park, a station on the Milwaukee Road, where lunch is served. Afterward a ceremony is held on a temporary rostrum.  The Chicago Commissioner of Public Works proclaims, “The completion of the road marks an era in the history of the North Side and will tend to the development of this part of the city.”  The President of the railroad, D. H. Louderback, says, “We intend to make our road the best in the country. Its construction is perfect, and with its four tracks it is the best and most flexible in the city.  We will aim to accommodate all passengers.” This was the last hurrah for Charles Tyson Yerkes, the last line of his transit empire, and he spoke on this day only of the development that would come to the north side of the city because of the new railroad line.  After attempting to pass around a million dollars in bribes to get exclusive rights to operate a city-wide transit enterprise for a period of hundred years in 1899 – and failing to get the appropriate legislation passed – he was persona non grata in the exclusive social circles of the city and at City Hall.  By the end of 1900 he had sold the majority of his Chicago transit holdings and departed for New York.  The Northwestern Elevated Railroad still exists today – hop on the Red Line in the Loop and head north.  The above photos show the railroad under construction and as it appeared at about the time of its opening.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

May 30, 1968 -- Medussa Challenger Strikes Again

May 30, 1968 – It has only been a year that the Medusa Challenger has been at work on the Chicago River, but the big lake freighter will continue to make her presence known for years, indirectly causing enough traffic problems during her time sailing through the city to cause Chicagoans to refer to her as the “jinx ship.”  On this night the 562-foot ship is halted in her trip up the river when the Clark Street bridge short-circuits and refuses to open.  With the Dearborn and State Street bridges open to allow the ship to approach Clark Street, the malfunction causes traffic on all three streets to stop for an hour and 15 minutes.  Finally, at 7:30 p.m. the Clark Street bridge is made operable and “with a blast of its horn, the ship was under way as was the traffic, including one car driven by a man who had a permanent solution to the whole problem … ‘You know what they should do with this river?’ he said.  ‘They should have it paved.’” [Chicago Tribune, May 31, 1968] For all you might ever want to know about the ship and its ill-fortune in Chicago, you can head to this section of Connecting the Windy City.

May 30, 1939 – The Chicago and North Western Railroad rolls out a set of brand new diesel-electric locomotives, just off the assembly line of the Electro-Motive Corporation in LaGrange, to pull the “400,” its famous high-speed train, to Milwaukee. In the coming week the locomotives will be placed in service between Chicago and St. Paul, Minnesota.  The new locomotives are capable of running 117 miles an hour even though they are still pulling standard equipment.  Sometime in August new streamlined cars from the Chicago shops of the Pullman Standard Car Manufacturing Company will be added to the consist.  The new locomotives are powered by four 1,000 horsepower 12-cylinder diesel engines, which drive four generators that supply current to eight traction motors, four on each unit.  Finally, after nearly a half-century of trying to clear the smoke of steam locomotives from the lakefront and the southwest side of the city, it appears that a solution has arrived.

May 30, 1893 – The laying of the cornerstone of the new Memorial Hall on the southwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street takes place under the direction of the Grand Army of the Republic. Both streets are crowded with veterans and ordinary citizens “all anxious to behold the ceremony and listen to the addresses incident upon the formal commencement of the creation of a magnificent structure, which will be a credit to the city and take high rank among the costly edifices already so numerous in Chicago.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 31, 1893] The plot of ground, known as Dearborn Park, was originally part of the southern boundary of Fort Dearborn, part of the “public ground” that extended east to the lake and south to Madison Street. It required a coming together of the Directors of the Chicago Public Library and the Grand Army of the Republic to get a bill through Congress that would allow construction on the land. It took persistence . . . the legislation only passed after three attempts over the course of ten years. In a simple ceremony the flag is run to the top of the flag pole, a band plays the Star Spangled Banner and dozens of artifacts are placed in a copper box that will lie below the cornerstone. Then General E. A. Blodgett, the Commander of the Illinois Grand Army of the Republic, closes the ceremony, saying, “In the name of the soldiers and sailors who have saved our nation we thank you for the honor. We rejoice that our city thus proclaims to the world that patriotic self-sacrifice is not to be forgotten. We trust that our beloved land may never again be deluged in blood. Yet we remember that the perils of peace are scarcely less than the perils of war. The demands for loyalty are as great upon the sons as they were upon the sires. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” The Memorial Hall with its great dome occupies the northern half of what is today the Chicago Cultural Center. The photo above shows the site at the time with Randolph Street on the right and Washington Boulevard on the left. The second photo shows the area as it appears today.

May 30, 1889 – Little Frank Degan, the son of a policeman who lost his life on May 4, 1886 at what today we call the Haymarket Riot, pulls a cord and unveils the statue that will commemorate the events of that day.  There are close to 2,000 spectators, more than one might expect for an event staged on a rainy day. Over 175 uniformed officers are in attendance.   Chicago manufacturer Richard Teller Crane, head of the commemoration committee, opens the ceremony, saying that the event “… commemorates an important event in the history of our city and our country.  It commemorates a sacrifice of life made in the interests of the people.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 31, 1889]. Then Mayor DeWitt Clinton Cregier accepts the monument on behalf of the city, ending with his speech with these words, “This is a free and lawful country, with plenty of room for the people of all the earth who choose to come here to breathe the free air and to obey these laws, but not an inch of room or an hour to dwell here for those who come for any other purpose.”  Following the mayor is Franklin H. Head, the president of the Chicago Historical society, who delivers a lengthy speech that traces the development of democracy in the country, leading up to the May day in 1886 when a bomb exploded in a protest march and 67 policemen are killed or maimed.  Head warns, “It should be borne in mind that apostles of anarchy do not propose a modification of existing laws and institutions, but a wholesale destruction by violence and throttling of all law.  History would, as always, repeat itself: violence would beget violence, and crime would beget crime.  All the powers and forces of evil would come again and inaugurate anew the reign of Chaos and Old Night.”  At the end of Head’s address, Mayor Cregier asks the crowd for three cheers “for the monument and the heroes whose brave deeds it commemorates.”  And then “… the crowd slumped away through the mud and the water.  The Haymarket Monument was unveiled.”  The statue dedicated that day in May of 1889 has had a nomadic existence.  It was dedicated in the middle of Haymarket Square on Randolph Street, just west of Desplaines Street.  Forty-one years later a streetcar, whose motorman claimed he was sick of looking at the statue, left the tracks and crashed into the monument.  It was patched up and relocated to Union Park.  Then, in 1956, with half of the old market square obliterated by the Kennedy Expressway, the statue was moved back, close to its original location, sitting on a plinth overlooking the highway.  In the turbulence of anti-war protests of 1969 a bomb targeted the statue, breaking over a hundred windows in the neighborhood and spraying pieces of the statue onto the Kennedy Expressway.  It was rebuilt only to be blown up again on October 6, 1970.  Once again the statue was rebuilt, and afterwards given a 24-hour police guard.  In 1972 it was moved to the lobby of the Central Police Headquarters and from there, in 1976 to the Chicago Police Academy.  Today it can be found behind a controlled access fence at Chicago Police Headquarters at 3510 South State Street.  There it was placed on a new pedestal and unveiled by Geraldine Doceka, the great-great granddaughter of Officer Matthias Degan, the officer whose son unveiled the original statue in 1890. The original work was designed by Frank Bathchelder of St. Paul, Minnesota and sculpted by Johannes Galert of New York with funds raised by the Union League Club of Chicago.  It was Galert’s first major commission.  The statue's first location and its present location are shown above.

Friday, May 29, 2020

May 29, 1960 -- Fullerton Avenue Bridge to Be Replaced with Fixed Structure

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May 29, 1960 – The Chicago Tribune reports that after four years of legal hassles, the city will finally begin work on replacing the 65-year-old swing bridge across the Chicago River at Fullerton Avenue.  The city’s chief bridge engineer, Stephen J. Michuda, says this is the oldest uncompleted bridge project in the city, indicating that he worked on plans for the replacement bridge when he was a young assistant engineer in 1936 and 1937.  In 1955 the federal government approved a fixed bridge at Fullerton Avenue, a move that would save the city between $3 and $4 million in construction costs and between $30,000 and $45,000 a year in operation and maintenance.  A fixed bridge was opposed by parties that had interests in shipping on the North Branch, opposition that delayed construction.   The black and white photo shows the fixed bridge at Fullerton Avenue. Notice the amount of space the turntable consumes in the middle of the channel. The second photo shows the fixed bridge as it exists today.

May 29, 1991 – After defeating the Detroit Pistons in the N.B.A. playoffs a day earlier, the Chicago Bulls learn that Detroit defender Dennis Rodman, who pushed Chicago forward Scottie Pippen out of bounds in Game 4, opening up a six-stitch gash under his chin, will be fined $5,000.  N.B.A. operations director Rod Thorn, says “We looked at the facts and made a judgment. We had our security people investigate, and we feel he was seriously contrite.  The fine was for pushing Pippen.”  [Chicago Tribune, May 30, 1991] On the same day a letter of apology from Rodman is received by the Bulls, N.B.A. officials, and members of Detroit, Chicago and national media outlets. Addressed to “Mr. Scottie Pippen,” the letter reads, “Dear Scottie, I am writing this letter to apologize to you for the incident that happened in Monday’s game.  You are a great player and I’m glad you weren’t hurt by the incident.  It was merely one of frustration.  I am not the type of player of which I have been accused.  The situation was one of those things which should not have happened.  I am ready and willing to accept any fines or consequences set by the league for my actions. I sincerely apologize to you, your teammates and the entire Chicago Bulls organization.  I also hope that there are no hard feelings between you, your teammates and me.  Good luck in the NBA finals—its’ a tough road ahead of you. Sincerely, Dennis Rodman.” Bulls coach Phil Jackson responds, “We accept his apology, but we won’t forget the incident. You accept the apology at face value.”  Michael Jordan also jumps in, saying, ”As a team, we’ve forgotten about that.  We beat them and achieved something.  We’ll deal with Detroit when we play them again.”  The Bulls went on to beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the championship series in five games.  The confrontation between Rodman and Pippen, who would become teammates, was intense as can be seen in this YouTube clip.

May 29, 1966 – The Chicago Tribune reports that the first steel has been erected above ground for the 120 South Riverside Plaza office building that is being constructed over the air rights of the railroad tracks of Union Station just west of the South Branch of the Chicago River.  The steel, produced at the South Works of United States Steel and fabricated at the Gary plant of the American Bridge division of U. S. Steel, is part of 9,100 tons of steel that will be needed to complete the 22-story structure, a duplicate of the building at 10 South Riverside Plaza.  Tishman Realty and Construction Company has plans for a total of four buildings in the area that will be called Gateway Center, a project that will cost an estimated 100 million dollars.

Chicago Tribune Photo
May 29, 1916 – The tugboats Iowa and Gary tow the hulk of the steamer Eastland down the north branch and into the main stem of the river, headed for South Chicago, where the vessel will be converted into a training ship for the Illinois naval reserve.  As the Eastland passes through the draw of the Wells Street bridge, homebound citizens, standing in the rain and remembering the 812 people carried to their deaths on the ship just ten months earlier, jeer at the sight.  “Take ‘er out into the lake and sink ‘er,” shouts one man.  “Blow’er up!  Scuttle ‘er! Put her at the bottom where she put her passengers,” shout others.  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 30, 1916]. The crew on the tugboats and the few deckhands on the ghostly Eastland seem “to be a sort of ghost crew, ashamed to be caught aboard such a craft.” The taunting crowds bring the employees of the Reid, Murcoch and Co. to the windows of the building on the north side of the river, a place that had been used as a temporary hospital and morgue for the hundreds of victims of the disaster.  At each bridge – Clark … Dearborn … State … and Rush … several hundred people “stood in the rain and watched until it disappeared in the mist.” 

May 29, 1906 – A fire breaks out in Armour Elevator “D,” located on a slip on the west side of the Chicago River at approximately Twenty-Second Street and Morgan, smoldering undetected until it blows out the north and south ends of the elevator and lights the night sky enough to be seen from Ravenswood to South Chicago. Sixty-two fire engines, some of them from as far north as Lakeview, and three fireboats are called to fight the fire in a massive structure containing a million bushels of wheat, corn and oats. The first firemen on the scene have to haul their equipment down a bank to the slip to get close enough to the fire. There are no nearby fire hydrants, so all of the water has either to be pulled from the slip or else come from fireboats. The massive Commonwealth Electric company plant northwest of the elevator is repeatedly ignited by burning embers, so the fire department’s efforts are devoted chiefly to saving it as well as lumber yards that lie to the west. Acting Fire Chief McDonough states, “It was impossible to save the elevators, and all the efforts of the department were directed to saving the millions of dollars’ worth of property in the vicinity. The recent rains soaked the lumber in the adjacent yards and probably did considerable toward stopping the spread of the flames.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 30, 1906] The photo above shows the elevator as it appeared before the fire, which must have been a spectacular conflagration.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

May 28, 1951 -- Chicago Plan to End Blight Outlined at City Hall

May 28, 1951 – Proposals for the rehabilitation of 40 square miles of the city’s central area are displayed on three large screens in City Council chambers as 200 members of the City Planning Advisory Board listen.  The blighted area extends from Lake Michigan to an area west of Western Avenue and from Diversey Parkway south to Fifty-Fifth Street.  Carl L. Gardner, the secretary of the board, says the effort will be “the keystone for building a better Chicago.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 29, 1951]. Gardner emphasizes that the rehabilitation of the city is crucial, noting that between 1946 and 1950 the central core of Chicago lost 125 tax-paying businesses due to “blight and the noninviting, depressive, and dangerous worker environment which it produces.”  Gardner asserts that the process of rehabilitation must include efforts to eliminate traffic congestion through the construction of expressways, to replace current slums with new housing developments and accompanying park land, and to build a new railroad terminal system to consolidate and replace current terminals.  The photo shows Carl Sandburg Village in the midst of construction in 1961, one of the projects that came out of the proposal.  The project was financed by the city and, standing between Clark and La Salle Streets on the east and west and Division Street and North Avenue on the south and north, it was intended as a buffer between the Gold Coast and blighted areas to the west.

May 28, 1981 – The Chicago Tribune prints a feature on the renovation of the Manhattan building at 431 South Dearborn Street, which a real estate company, Strobeck and Reiss, is rehabilitating at a cost of $5 million.  The vice-president of the firm, James Lindeman, begins the article by asserting, “We’re going to take good care of the old gal.”  [Chicago Tribune, May 28, 1981]. Demolition of the interior of the building began two months earlier in an operation that will convert the building into 105 rental apartments.  The Manhattan, designed by the “Father of the Skyscraper,” William LeBaron Jennings, who, among other innovations, was the first architect to include wind bracing in his designs, prompts Lindeman to observe, “This is the granddaddy of them all.  The structural engineers really groove on this stuff.”  William Hasbrouck, the architect on the project, says of the building, “It’s a handsome example of early Chicago-school architecture. The Manhattan was enormously modern at the time.  It had a curtain (nonload-bearing) wall; it was just a brick curtain wall rather than then the metal curtain walls that became famous later.”  A listing on the National Register of Historic Places means that federal law prohibits any tinkering with the exterior of the building, and Hasbrouck says, “The building deserves to be seen in its best light. The owners owe that to the public. This is a public trust.”  Inside the 1891 building an inadequate central stairway and five antiquated elevators presented a difficult problem, but the architect solved it by using the two outer elevator shafts as space for new stairways with the middle shaft providing an entry to each floor’s utility room.  All the kitchens and bathrooms were stacked over one another in the plan, and each apartment was given its own heat pump.  The Manhattan works especially well for a conversion from an office building to a residential building because Plymouth Court on the east side cuts the block behind the building in half, restricting the plan for the building to an uncommonly narrow configuration.  This means that, unlike the problem many office conversions pose, apartments in the Manhattan can be located with ample access to windows and light.  Lindeman’s hope is that the build-out will provide more residential opportunities in a place that does not have enough “walk-to-work housing.”  Hasbrouck believes that the conversion will ultimately connect to the ongoing work at Printing House Row and Dearborn Park.  He says, “If the city is going to start over, it should grow out from the center. I think sociologically the Manhattan will do wonders for the Near South Side.”  These days the average list price for a unit in the building is a bit over $235,000.  Rentals average $1,550 a month. [www.condo.com]

J. Bartholomew Photo
May 28, 1926 – It is announced that the Builder’s Mart, with a design by Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, will be erected at the southwest corner of Wacker Drive and La Salle Street. This will be the first improvement on the brand new Wacker Drive west of 35 East Wacker, completed in 1926. A. E. Coleman, President of the Building Construction Employers’ Association, says, “[This building] will tend to unite the business interests identified with the building industry. The popularity of such a proposition has been signified by building interests, as more than fifty per cent of the space already has been applied for.” In addition to Coleman’s association, it is anticipated that the structure will also hold the Chicago Master Steamfitters’ association, the Builders’ Association of Chicago, the Iron League of Chicago, the Illinois Highway Contractors’ association, and the Illinois branch of the Associated General Contractors of America. There will also be 10,000 square feet of space set aside for the Builders’ Club. Off the lower level of Wacker Drive will be a garage with space for 150 vehicles. The 1927 building stands on the right side of La Salle Street in the photo above with a glassy addition designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill completed in 1986.

May 28, 1906 –Colonel S. R. Whitall, the commanding officer at Fort Sheridan, issues orders that prohibit soldiers from entering Highwood, the disobedience of which will lead to 14 days in solitary confinement on a diet of bread and water for any offender.  Whitall’s order comes as part of a chorus of cries against the saloonkeepers in Highwood, a call for reform that has reached a peak after the suicide of a 17-year-old Lake Forest girl a day earlier after a night spent in Highwood.  The Reverend E. R. Quayle, the head of the Law and Order League, says, “The midnight closing law is ignored on every hand, at least three of the resorts keep open on Sunday, and nearly all of them operate gambling tables in full view.  Three of them operate ‘back rooms’ that are equivalent to wine rooms.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 29, 1906] Even the Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad becomes involved, announcing that it will no longer sell liquor on its trains.  Over the preceding weeks the scales slowly tipped against the saloonkeepers as convictions were secured with five establishments forced out of business. The suicide death on May 27 of Ms. Georginna Bower, the daughter of a Lake Forest house painter, increases the intensity of the crusade. The above photo shows a strip of Highwood saloons a year earlier in 1905.


May 28, 1894 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that Hugh M. G. Garden has been awarded the gold medal of the American Institute of Architects for the best architectural design, a plan that the architect worked up for the New York Herald.  The Herald’s plan to replace its offices at Broadway and Ann Street resulted in a competition to which Garden contributed his design, “a nineteen-story office building, the planning of which was rendered extremely difficult on account of the extreme irregularity of the lot.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 28, 1894] The paper continues, “The design is radically different from the office buildings of the day and is remarkable for its picturesque sky line, the top being a delightful grouping of gables, balconies, towers and turrets … If built [it will be] the highest commercial structure in the world.”  Garden, the president of the Chicago Architectural Sketch Club and one of the designers of the Montgomery Ward warehouse building at 600 West Chicago, was an active member of the Prairie Style designers who inhabited Steinway Hall not long after the conclusion of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.  His design for the New York Herald did not win the competition.  The winning design by George B. Post is shown above along with the sketch of Garden’s vision. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

May 27, 1939 -- Monroe Street Viaduct Opens

May 27, 1939 – The new $264,300 Monroe Street viaduct across the Illinois Central Railroad tracks east of Michigan avenue is opened to traffic at noon.  The viaduct carries six lanes on a 60-foot roadway, doubling the size of the viaduct that it replaces.  The new viaduct is part of a series of city improvements that come as a result of state legislation related to the construction of the new Union Station.  Other projects included in the initiative are:  connecting Canal and Orleans Streets, uniting the north and west parts of the city; widening and elevating Canal Street between Washington Street and Roosevelt Road to make a direct route to the new Illinois Central terminal; building a Congress Street viaduct; assisting the city in straightening the Chicago River’s South Branch, thereby relocating railroad tracks that strangled the south portion of the city east of the South Branch.  The black and white photo shows the construction of the viaduct in 1939.  The second Google Earth photo shows the corner of Monroe and Michigan as it appears today.

May 27, 1975 – After a City Council subcommittee approves $7.2 million for the rehabilitation of Navy Pier, a project that the Department of Public Works estimates may take closer to $34 million, the Chicago Tribune weighs in with its opinion. “Either it will be revived somehow,” the editorial states, “or it will be a big black eye on Chicago’s face as long as it remains. We hope a practical way can and will be found to make Navy Pier once again used, attractive, well served by public transportation from end to end as well as to it. The site is one of the most scenic and interesting urban sites in the country. Surely some time Chicago will find a means of turning Navy Pier’s unused potential into reality.”

J. Bartholomew Photo
May 27, 1933 – A creditors’ petition for reorganization is filed in the United States District court for the One La Salle Street building.  According to the suit the building’s owners are in default $5,250,000 on a first mortgage and have accrued taxes of $500,000.  The petition puts forward a plan to seek a new mortgage of $750,000 to pay off taxes and establish solvency to an operating fund while issuing 52,500 shares of stock to first mortgage holders.  The attorney for the building’s bondholders claims that the half-million in taxes have been paid and a cash surplus exists.  The attorney, Bernard Nath, says, “Eighty-nine percent of the bondholders and the owner of the building, the One La Salle Street Building corporation, have approved the reorganization plan.  We expect to go through with the reorganization foreclosure proceedings now under and bid in the property for the bondholders.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 28, 1933]. For 35 years this 49-story building, designed by the architecture firm of Vitzhum and Burns, was the tallest building in the city.  It was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. 

May 27, 1930 –The President of the 1933 Century of Progress, Rufus C. Dawes, pulls a lever on a steam shovel and scoops the first dirt from the site where the administration building will be erected for the Century of Progress World’s Fair, to be held along Chicago’s lakefront in the summers of 1933 and 1934,.   The Vice-President of the South Park commissioners, Philip S. Garver, addresses a gathering of fair directors and public officials, officially turning over the use of the park property to the fair’s trustees.  In accepting the site, Director Dawes says, “We pledge ourselves to the use of this land for the enjoyment, education, and entertainment of the people of the world.  The exposition will fittingly portray the history of Chicago and be worthy of the city’s proud position among the cities of the world.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 28, 1930] In the top photo President Dawes moves the first bucket of dirt, which will give way to the Art Deco Administration building shown in the second photo.

May 27, 1917 – Seven weeks after the United States Congress approves a declaration of war on Germany, the Chicago Conference Committee on Terms of Peace holds a rally at the Auditorium Theater in which protestors rail against the country’s entanglement in the war an ocean away.  Two thousand people are turned away from the packed Auditorium, and they instigate what the Chicago Daily Tribune calls the city’s first “war riot.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 28, 1917] The paper reports, “The scene was Grant park, just across from the Auditorium hotel.  Michigan avenue’s thousands of Sunday promenaders came to an amazed halt.  A steady flowing stream of automobiles pulled up short, blockading the boulevard for many blocks in each direction … Then a huge, bearded and mop headed Russian thrust himself above the heads of the others … ‘Why should American workmen fight the workmen of Germany for any _______   _________ in the White House?’ he bawled.”  It took an hour to put down the riot as “The air was filled with clubs, that cracked down upon the heads of the rioters.  The members of the meeting shrieked imprecations, women bit and scratched the police, bull throated malcontents bawled threats and ‘Down with the government!’ “Free speech!’ and 'No war.’”  At first 40 officers show up, followed by 35 detectives.  In ten minutes there are another 400 policemen trying to maintain order.  The Tribune reports, “’Free speech!’ screamed the women. ‘We want free speech!’ ‘You’ll get it,’ bellowed back a square shouldered policeman as he whacked another disturber over the head.”  The Reverend Irwin St. John Tucker, chairman of the peace terms conference, issues a statement in which he separates the meeting in the Auditorium from the disturbances across Michigan Avenue.  It reads, “The Chicago permanent conference on terms of peace is responsible only for the mass meeting held in the Auditorium and for the resolutions officially presented therein … The conference is determined, while exercising all our rights under the law, strictly to observe all our obligations under the same.”