Tuesday, November 19, 2019

November 19, 1963 -- Lincoln Park Urban Renewal Project Receives U. S. Funding

November 19, 1963 – The federal government authorizes a grant of $16,267,000 for a sizable urban renewal program in Lincoln Park, allowing the city to acquire property and raze the worst buildings in a 271-acre zone bounded on the east by Clark Street and Lincoln Park West, on the north by Webster Street, and on the west by an irregular boundary consisting of Halsted Street and the alley west of Larrabee, and on the south by North Avenue.  The city has already set up a field office for the project at 2020 Larrabee Street, but the federal grant will require a one-third matching contribution from the city, amounting to about $4,000,000 before the project can move forward.  The plan calls for saving most of the 2,084 buildings in the area with 1,467 marked for rehabilitation and 617 for demolition.  The majority of the structures marked for demolition are on the north side of North Avenue between Larrabee and La Salle Streets and on both sides of Larrabee between North Avenue and Webster Street.  Demolishing the buildings will lead to the relocation of 1,200 families.  The plan also calls for closing Ogden Avenue between North and Clark and for using part of this area for plazas connected by a pedestrian mall.  Ultimately, 644 structures would be cleared in 56.3 acres with redevelopment proposed for five areas: (1) a 15-acre tract proposed for a new community park bounded by Webster, Larrabee, and Dickens and Burling Streets (today's Oz Park); (2) both sides of Larrabee between Webster and North; (3) the north side of North avenue between Larrabee and La Salle Street; (4) both sides of Lincoln Avenue between Webster and Armitage, and (5) scattered locations along the route of Ogden Avenue, a street which was phased out as the project went on. These five areas are indicated in the aerial view above with yellow numbers.  Those five areas are indicated in the above map by yellow numbers.  The purple diagonal line is what once was Ogden Avenue, a street named after the city's first mayor.

November 19, 1942 – A huge plan for “revitalizing” [Chicago Daily Tribune, November 20, 1942] the central part of the city is brought before the Chicago Plan Commission by H. Evert Kincaid, the Director of the Master Plan Division.  The plan includes “a helicopter field, park areas with underground parking lots, consolidation of railroad terminals, and a civic center” bounded by Jackson Boulevard, and Madison, Wells and Clinton Streets.  That plan would concentrate office buildings west of State Street, and would redevelop residential districts north of Chicago Avenue.  A proposal to relocate the Dearborn Street, La Salle Street, and Baltimore and Ohio railroad stations to a site south of Taylor Street near State Street is also a part of the plan.  The helicopter field would be placed north of the new civic center and west of the river.  The Romanesque Grand Central Station, pictured above, was one of the stations for elimination as a new central terminal provided a more expedient way of getting railroad passengers in and out of the city.  It made it until 1971 when it was torn down after 81 years of service.  The site on which it stood is the site of a multi-residential building development called Southbank which will offer as many as 2,700 units in five high rises that surround a two-acre park. 

November 19, 1929 – The formal inauguration of Dr. Robert Maynard Hutchins as the fifth president of the University of Chicago is held.  Noting the ceremony a Chicago Daily Tribune editorial states, “Chicago has reason to be proud of the great institution which bears its name and speaks for its highest aspiration before the world, an institution which we hope will be profoundly American though of world wide influence, a congregation of scholars, a mother of leaders in all fields of learning and honorable activity. And in this faith Chicago welcomes the new president upon the threshold of what we hope and believe will be a great accomplishment.”  The selection of Hutchins was wise. Despite his age – he was barely 30-years-old when he assumed the office – he gave 64 public addresses in his first year at the university and appeared regularly on the radio and on the pages of popular magazines, raising his profile along with that of the school.  During his tenure Hutchins re-organized the graduate departments into four academic divisions of the biological sciences, humanities, physical sciences, and social sciences, establishing a separate College for each division and unifying all undergraduate work under one dean.  In 1939 he gained the support of the university trustees and eliminated varsity football. Under his leadership the university prospered, moving steadily forward during the 1930’s on money from generous donors during the previous decades and on funds from the Rockefeller Foundation.  World War II saw millions of dollars in government contracts come to the university; in fact, the old football field was the site in which the Manhattan Project developed the atomic bomb.  A staunch defender of academic freedom and proponent of world peace, Hutchins resigned in 1951 to become an associate director of the newly-formed Ford Foundation.

November 19, 1978 – The Chicago Tribune reports on the “waterfront dream” of architect Harry Weese as he explains the vision for Wolf Point Landings that he has nurtured for over 15 years.  “I first saw it back then and realized it would be a marvelous site for a new town of as many as 30,000 people,” says Weese.  [Chicago Tribune, November 19, 1978]  Back in the early 1960’s Weese bought a piece of river front land at Kinzie and Canal streets for about $12,000.  It was not a great source of comfort to him.  “I had always wanted a stretch of waterfront property.  I wanted to park my boat there, but I was afraid of vandals,” he said.  Times change, though, and in the preceding week new plans are announced for a huge residential project of two new condominium buildings, a 22-story residential building between Lake Street and Grand Avenue and the renovation of the North American Cold Storage building on Canal Street, a project that will create 122 residential units.  Weese was rhapsodic about the project, especially the view, saying, “We have very nice diagonal views of Water Tower Place and the entire Loop area to the south.  And to the west, we’re wide open.  We’ll see great sunsets, and a marvelous view of O”Hare Field.”  The view is considerably different these days.

Monday, November 18, 2019

November 18, 1953 -- Armour Research Foundation Shows Off New Computer Facility


November 18, 1953 – The Armour Research Foundation of the Illinois Institute of Technology holds a preview of its newly expanded computer center at 3201 South Michigan Avenue with about 120 business and industry leaders attending.  On display is the “recent acquisition of new electronic ‘brain’ equipment [that] makes the center one of the most complete in the country for solving complicated mathematical problems that arise in industry.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, November 19, 1953]  The staff of the foundation includes 11 mathematicians, physicist and engineers.  The foundation, known today as the Illinois Institute of Technology Research Institute, was established in 1936 to support operations research.  From 1936 until the present time, continuing its mission even as the Armour Institute merged with the Illinois Institute of Technology, the research firm has maintained its role as an independent corporation, “supporting the faculty of the university and taking on private contracts across multiple, intersecting industries.”  [informs.org]  By 1956 the Foundation employed more that 1,100 full-time staff members and had an annual research income of $11,000,000 ($103 million in 2019 dollars).  In 2002, I.I.T.R.I amended its mission to focus entirely on biomedical research.  The Institute is located in the I.I.T. technology tower at 35 West Thirty-Fifth Street.  The technology building on Thirty-Fifth street, designed by Schmidt, Garden and Erikson and completed in 1964 is shown above.


November 18, 1971 – A special study committee headed by the city’s Commissioner of Public Works, Milton Pikarsky, presents a plan to Mayor Richard J. Daley which will renovate Solider Field, transforming it into a multi-use structure for between $14 million and $22.3 million.  The plan offers two options, the first of which would cost $13,996,264 and would include basic maintenance work and an increase in seating capacity.  The second option is more extensive, and includes “new seating in the south end zone, renovation of the west side press box, new team facilities, new electrical system, new lighting for the north end, new ticket booths, 10,000 seat movable bleachers and new ramps.” [Chicago Tribune, November 19, 1971]  That option would cost $22,329,303.  The present seating capacity of the stadium would be increased from 54,430 to 62,260.  In addition to Pikarsky, the members of the study committee include architects Jerome R. Butler, Jr.,  William Hartman, Charles F. Murphy, Jr. and Jerold Loebel.  It would not be until 1978 that the Chicago Bears and the Chicago Park District would agree on a 20-year lease and, at long last, the renovation of the aging facility.  This patchwork project would carry the stadium until January of 2002 when it was re-built from the ground up in a $400 million project that gave the city a 61,500-seat venue with two video-boards, 8,000 club seats and 133 luxury suites, along with a 2,500-space underground parking facility.  Comparing the two photos shows a pretty striking change from the old to the new.

November 18, 1911 – Harriet Monroe announces that she has garnered thirty pledges of $250.00, seed money for a new publication dedicated exclusively to poetry.  The magazine will allow young and unknown poets a forum that is largely non-existent in periodicals of the time.  Monroe says, “The average magazine editor’s conception of good verse is verse that will fill out a page.  No editor is looking for long poetry.  He wants something light and convenient.  Consequently, a Milton might be living in Chicago today and be unable to find an outlet for his verse… In other words, the modern English speaking world says ‘Shut up!’ to its poets, a condition so unnatural, so destructive to new inspiration, that I believe it can be only temporary and absurd.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, November 19, 1911] Monroe nurtured the magazine from the start, reaching out to poet Ezra Pound at the outset … it was Pound who forwarded the unpublished T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” to Monroe, and Poetry was the first magazine in which the poem was published.  Monroe died in 1936 of a stroke, but under the leadership of the editors that followed the magazine continued its excellence until in 2002 Ruth Lilly made a bequest of more than 100 million dollars to the magazine and its foundation.  One of the offshoots of the bequest is the amazing Poetry Center, designed by John Ronan at 61 West Superior Street, a building that contains a 30,000-volume poetry library, an exhibition gallery, a performance space for public events, and offices for the foundation and the magazine.

November 18, 1863 – As a result of a collision that has destroyed the Rush Street Bridge, all traffic across the river, north and south, is directed across the bridge at Clark Street.  Chaos.  According to the Chicago Tribune, “Yesterday afternoon, the bridge was open for a few minutes, to allow a number of vessels to pass, and the omnibuses, drays, hacks, family carriages, farmers’ wagons, etc, collected until the street was completely filled at the bridge, and extending into Lake street some distance, and for fully two squares south on Clark street.  Teams became restless, wagons got tangled and wedged in, drivers swore and scolded, each claiming the right of way, etc.”  The paper uses the commotion to editorialize in favor of quickly filling subscriptions to build a new bridge at State Street, following up on the city’s offer to provide half of the cost of the bridge if businesses and companies would supply the other half, an amount of about $14,000.  The completed State Street Bridge is shown in the 1868 photo above.