Monday, December 17, 2018

December 17, 1938 -- Subway Construction Kicks Off
December 17, 1938 –The first dirt is turned in the $40 million project to bring a subway to the city, a project that has been in the discussion stages for over 50 years.  Thousands of citizens on the sidewalks of LaSalle Street follow a parade of local officials and city leaders to just south of Chicago Avenue where the ceremonies convene on State Street.  In 24-degree weather Public Works Administrator Harold L. Ickes delivers a 3,000-word speech, saying, “Today we are able to come together to inaugurate the most portentous civic undertaking since this city shook off the ashes of the great fire and started hopefully and determinedly to build again for the future … The subway that we inaugurate today will be only a beginning. As the city is able to extend it, this will be done, until Chicago will have as complete an underground traction system as any city in the world.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 18, 1938]  Chicago Mayor Edward Kelly says, “Chicago digs its first spadeful of pay dirt today … Day and night during the coming months the barometer of business in Chicago will respond to this mighty stimulus of money and men in overalls … We did not want to wind up with a makeshift transportation system.  We are achieving modern transportation in step with the times.  Yes, it has taken almost half a century to get under way, but Chicago has got what it wants – and without additional taxes or special assessments.”  The plan is to run the subway from Congress Avenue north to Lake Street, west under Lake Street to Canal Street, then northwest under Milwaukee Avenue to meet the Logan-Humboldt elevated lines.  The line opened in October of 1943.  A second subway project was suspended during World War II and was opened in February of 1951.  The above photo shows subway construction in progress on State Street, looking north from Madison Street.

December 17, 1905 – Looking back over the preceding year, the Chicago Daily Tribune reports that in 1904 the city erected “the equivalent of over forty-seven solid miles of buildings, single frontage, costing approximately $62,000,000.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 17, 1905] Additionally, the real estate transactions for the year totaled approximately $140,000,000.  The construction of apartment houses was double that of 1904, and “despite all these new buildings, builders and agents having them in charge report that they are being filled as soon as completed.”  The southern portions of the city lead the building boom which, the article points out, “simply goes to show what must be accepted as a great sociological fact, that the foreign elements of Chicago’s population, which predominate in the northwest division of the city, are greater home builders and are more attached to the individual home than the more well to do native born element which predominates n the south division.”  Leading the city as far as factory and warehouse construction is the new Sears, Roebuck and Co. plant on Harvard Street on the city’s west side.  In the central business district there were 71 real estate transactions, 30 more than in 1904 and “there is no doubt that they have strengthened greatly, especially in the choicest section of the business district,” where Joseph Leiter refused a $60,000-a-year rental of a small lot at the southeast corner of State Street and Jackson Boulevard which “at the present time … is a trifle startling, to say the least.”  The above photo shows the Sears complex on the west side, designed by Nimmons and Fellows, and begun in 1905.

December 17, 1936 – The Chicago Park District announces a project that will hopefully streamline the traffic flowing through Lincoln Park while providing a new bathing beach and bathhouse for the area as well.  A $1,100,000 grant from the Works Progress Administration is still needed to get the plan going, but when fully funded the project will carry Lake Shore Drive past North Avenue for another half-mile while La Salle Street will be extended from its terminus at Stockton Drive to meet the new section of Lake Shore Drive.  Additionally, a breakwater will be built 1,500 feet from the shoreline at North Avenue, and sand will be used to fill the space between the new breakwater and the shore, creating a new beach.  It is hoped that the new plan will reduce the congestion that has plagued the two lanes of Stockton Drive as it winds through the park, carrying rush hour traffic from both LaSalle Street and Lake Shore Drive south of North Avenue.  The 1934 photo above shows Stockton Drive to the left, winding north past the statue of Abraham Lincoln that today stands below and south of the La Salle Street extension.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

December 16, 1980 -- Chicago Cultural Center Controversy
December 16, 1980 – Mayor Jane Byrne defends a proposed city ordinance that she submitted to the City Council in the preceding week that would take control of the city’s Cultural Center from the Chicago Public Library Board, transferring it to a “small arts agency run by one of her appointees.” [Chicago Tribune, December 16, 1980]  Under the proposal the “supervision, care, and custody” of the Cultural Center, which has attracted 1.2 million annual visitors since its restoration in 1977, will be transferred to the Council on Fine Arts. Upon hearing of the proposal, Library Board member Stanley Balzekas says, “I’m in a state of shock over this … Where is this going to stop?  Are they going to take the branch libraries away from us next?  The board has never been contacted about any of this.  We learn about it in the papers.”  This brouhaha comes on the heels of the mayor’s attempt to fire and then deny a pay raise to the deputy library commissioner, a cousin of State’s Attorney Richard M. Daley.  Today the former central library for the city is overseen by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs.  It presents “hundreds of free international, national, regional and local artists, musicians and performers, providing a showcase where the public can enjoy and learn about the arts.”  []

Ernest A. Grunsfeld, Jr.
December 16, 1941 – Just nine days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Palmer House hosts a meeting of 550 architects at which 339 members of the American Institute of Architects agree to do full time work in support of the war effort with 241 members saying that they would be willing to go wherever they are assigned.  Ernest A. Grunsfeld, Jr., a member of the Institute’s executive committee, says, “The idea had its beginning at a meeting called to discuss air raid shelters.  We recalled that in the last war technical men rushed about in an effort to aid, and many ended by accepting any job to get in the swim rather than fitting in a position where they would do the most good.  So we set out to find what jobs the government needed done and what men were available to do them.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 17, 1941] Participants at the meeting also decide to open an office in the city to place architects where they can do the most good. 

December 16, 1942 – It is interesting to note how many things that we take for granted today begin as strange, curious, or contested, often taking years before they find acceptance.  One such item went to court on this date in 1942 as the City of Chicago, upon failing to get a permanent injunction against milk sold in paper cartons from Circuit Court Judge Benjamin P. Epstein, went immediately to the Illinois Supreme Court with its suit.  The case hinged on an interpretation of a 1935 city ordinance requiring that milk be sold in “standard” containers.  The United States Supreme Court had already sent the case back to Illinois, saying that it was a matter for the state courts to decide.  The case involved milk sold in single-serving containers, and in a 19-page opinion Judge Epstein ruled that the state legislature’s milk pasteurization law, passed on July 24, 1939, took precedence over the city’s law and permitted milk to be sold in the cartons.  “While the state legislature desired to preserve in the city the right to regulation,” Epstein wrote, “it did not intend to give to the city the right to prohibit that which the state permitted.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 11, 1942]  Interesting case . . . a mystery today why city officials would initiate a case, follow it through the local court, the Illinois Supreme Court, the U. S. Supreme Court, back to the local court and again to the state’s Supreme Court over a milk carton, all of this in the middle of wartime.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

December 15, 1936 -- Chicago Surface Lines Ordered to Remove L.S.D. Tracks
December 15, 1936 – The Illinois Commerce Commission orders the Chicago Surface Lines to tear up tracks that cross Lake Shore Drive at Chicago Avenue and which run parallel to the drive between Chicago and Grand Avenues.  The commission gives the transit agency 60 days to implement the order.  This ends a fight that has gone on for a dozen years, ever since the tracks were first laid on park district property in 1921 under a temporary order.  The removal of the tracks will facilitate the movement of traffic along the drive once the bridge across the river is completed sometime during the following year. Otherwise, the tracks would virtually nullify the gains brought on by the bridge that connects the north and south sides of the city negated by the obstacle caused by the tracks. The commission’s decision runs to 23 pages and concludes, “that the Chicago avenue tracks east of Lake Shore drive are unnecessary and that these tracks do not now serve any public convenience or necessity and should be removed.”  The tracks were laid down in May of 1921 to serve a temporary event at Navy Pier, the Pageant of Progress.  Three years later the Lincoln Park Board filed a petition to have the extension removed.  Thus, began a decade-long fight which culminated in October of 1936 after five months of testimony that led to a transcript of 6,000 pages that included 176 technical exhibits.  The above photo looks south on Lake Shore Drive toward Chicago Avenue from Oak Street in the mid-1930's.

December 15, 1895 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports on the progress being made in “transforming the present unsightly vacant space on the Lake-Front into a handsome park.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 14, 1895] At both ends of the proposed new park – at Randolph Street and at Park Row, about where today’s Roosevelt Road runs south of the park – the greatest work has been done.  About 700 feet of a new sea wall that will help to create a new harbor has been run south of Randolph Street.  The Illinois Central Railroad is creating the south end of the sea wall, using two pile-drivers.  On the west side of the tracks, 500 feet of foundation have been laid for a retaining wall with work halted during the winter season.  Railroad spurs have been laid at the south end of the park on which hundreds of loads of dirt have been dumped into the lake to create new land although this section of the new park “presents the appearance of the outskirts of a brick-yard.”  The top photo shows the lake park, today's Grant Park, in 1893 before work started on its improvement.  The 1907 photo below that shows all of the land that has been added to the east of the Illinois Central tracks as the development of the new park continues.

December 15, 1940 – Newly elected Congressman Charles S. Dewey calls upon all Chicagoans to begin backing a plan to place an airport in the heart of the city, a project that would extend from the lake a mile west to the New York Central Railroad tracks and from Sixteenth Street north to the south end of Soldier Field.  Dewey’s plan would raise the airport above the Outer Drive and the Illinois Central tracks just to the west of that roadway.  The congressman lists four distinct advantages of his plan:  (1) the city could recoup the cost of construction through fees charged to the airlines; (2) the project would provide a huge market for unskilled labor; (3) the location of the new airport would be a huge improvement in air service to the city and a boon for all city businesses; and (4) at least a square mile of “blighted area” would be removed from the near south side.  Dewey says, “It is fantastic to put the main airport out at the edge of the city.  The cheapest land, actually, is that in the blighted areas near the center of Chicago.”  Meeting objections that an already noisy city will become even noisier with an airport in its center, Dewey says, “A city is practically built upon noise.  Listen to that street traffic noise 20 floors below my office.  Noise means activity.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 16, 1940]   Dewey served one term as a representative from the Ninth Congressional District of Illinois, was defeated in his bid for re-election in 1945 and went back to the banking business as a vice-president of Chase National Bank.  

Friday, December 14, 2018

December 14, 1910 -- Grant Park Takes Shape with Construction Debris
December 14, 1910 –The Chicago Daily Tribune reports on “one of the most remarkable features of the construction of buildings in downtown Chicago.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 14, 1910] As more and more tall buildings are erected in the city, engineers have found a unique way of moving the thousands of tons of material created by digging foundations. When a new foundation is begun or an old building is razed to make way for a new one, a shaft is sunk from the curb line down to the tunnel system that runs beneath the central section of the city.  The refuse is dumped down this shaft, where it pours directly into open cars below the chute.  The article indicates that a large part of Grant Park has been made with debris carried 60 feet below the city streets to Polk Street and Michigan Avenue where a crane lifts the cars and dumps them.  The system works, both to reuse the debris as landfill and to keep busy Loop streets free of hundreds of wagons, hauling construction waste.  The above photo shows Grant Park taking shape on the other side of the Illinois Central Railroad tracks in 1907.

December 14, 1953 – Mayor Martin Kennelly receives authorization from General Service Administrator Edmund F. Mansure to begin running the Congress Street expressway through the post office building and across adjoining railroad tracks to the Chicago River.  On the same day, the Public Works Commissioner Virgil E. Gunlock obtains authority from the Civil Aeronautics Administration to revise development plans for O’Hare Airport in order to prepare the field for civilian passenger operations by the summer.  Kennelly and Gunlock consider the authority to build the highway from the post office to the Chicago River a major victory.  The Chicago Daily Tribune reports, “Gunlock said some of the city’s leading lawyers had told him he never would be able to get the necessary authority to build the super-highway over this short stretch of land.  He said the mayor and he considered their success in this more important than getting authority to put the super-highway thru the post-office building.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 14, 1953] Projections peg the cost of pushing the road through the post office building at $1,176,200 of which the city will pay $600,000 and the federal government $576,000.   The photo above shows the east side of the post office on August 11, 1954, complete with holes punched through it to make room for the expressway, a road that one can see under construction on the other side of the building.

December 14, 1937 – Kate Sturges Buckingham dies at her home at 2450 Lake View Avenue at the age of 79.  The Chicago Daily Tribune observes, “To tell the life story of Kate Buckingham would be to tell the story of Chicago.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 15, 1937]  Buckingham’s great uncle, Alvah Buckingham, built the first grain elevator in the city in 1850.  In 1855 her maternal grandfather, Solomon Sturges, founded the storage elevator business that lay at the heart of the family fortune.  That empire crashed to the ground in 1871 when the Great Fire destroyed the elevators on the river.  Rebuilding followed and in 1877 the family moved into a new home on Prairie Avenue, soon to become the most prestigious street in the city.  When Buckingham’s father died in 1911, he left an estate of over four million dollars.  Two years later Buckingham’s brother, Clarence, died, followed seven years later by her sister, Lucy Maud.  Kate Buckingham became involved in the Art Institute of Chicago partly as a result of her brother’s influence.  Clarence Buckingham had been a governing member of the institution for 30 years and a trustee for a dozen at the time of his death.  Lucy Maud Buckingham had also assembled a collection of over 400 pieces of Chinese art, which Kate Buckingham presented to the Art Institute in Lucy’s name.  She also gave a collection of medieval sculpture, tapestries, and decorative arts to the AIC in 1924 in memory of her sister.  Her greatest gifts – Buckingham Fountain and the Alexander Hamilton monument – were given as a memorial without her name attached.  At the dedication of the Hamilton monument not far from her final home on Lake View Avenue, Chauncey McCormick said of Buckingham, that she had “a possessive love of Chicago, and she wanted to beautify the city for the people.”  [Schultz and Hast.  Women Building Chicago 1790-1990:  A Biographical Dictionary]  You can find additional information on Buckingham and her family here.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

December 13, 2014 -- Maggie Daley Park Officially Opens
December 13, 2014 –Although visitors will still be kept from walking on new sod and a section of the children’s play area won’t be finished until the spring of 2015, Maggie Daley Park opens at 11:30 a.m.  Replacing the Bicentennial Plaza east of Columbus Drive between Randolph and Monroe Streets, the park is named for the former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s wife, who died from breast cancer in 2011.  Under the guidance of landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh, the 27-acre park takes two years to construct at a cost of $60 million.  The park features a one-quarter-mile ice skating ribbon, tennis courts, rock-climbing walls, and a Play Garden, along with the Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Survivors Garden, as well as many other features.  Mayor Rahm Emanuel is especially impressed with the children’s playground, saying, “It will allow kids to challenge themselves and do things they didn’t know they could do.”  [Chicago Tribune, December 13, 2014]  

December 13, 1882 – The Chicago Daily Tribune publishes an editorial in which it protests strongly against an elevated railroad in the city, saying:  “The public should organize its protest against any scheme of this kind with a promptness and emphasis that shall leave the Council no doubt about the popular disapproval which unquestionably prevails.  There is neither necessity nor demand for elevated railways in Chicago.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 13, 1882] The editorial goes on to remind those behind the elevated scheme of a provision in the Illinois Constitution that “private property shall not be taken or damaged for public use without just compensation ... such compensation, when not made by the State, shall be ascertained by a jury.”  Using this constitutional provision, the writers go on to say, “Probably the full significance of this constitutional provision has not occurred to the gentlemen who are so eager to supply Chicago with an elevated railway system which Chicago doesn’t want.  They may discover that their purses, long as they are, will not hold out to satisfy the owners of the property which they propose to destroy.”  It took another ten years of wrangling, but the elevated system’s first train left the station in June of 1892.

December 13, 1951 – Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson II, Indiana Governor Henry Schricker and Cook County Board President William Erickson come together to dedicate the Calumet Expressway and its Tri-State Parkway extension, extending from U. S. Route 41 in Hammond to Doty Avenue and 130th Street in Chicago.  The new parkway allows motorists to bypass the industrial areas of northern Indiana and South Chicago in order to connect with a national toll road that will cross Indiana and Ohio and join the existing Pennsylvania turnpike. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

December 12, 1972 -- Apparel Mart Plans Announced
December 12, 1972 –The General Manager of the Merchandise Mart, Thomas V. King, announces that a 27-story building housing showrooms for the apparel industry, along with exhibition spaces and a 500-room hotel, will be built on Wolf Point, just to the west of the Mart. There will be space for 1,400 cars in and around the new addition.  Its presence will allow the movement of women’s and children’s showrooms on the ninth floor of the Merchandise Mart to be moved to the new building.  It is expected that construction will begin in the spring of 1973 on land that is owned by the Kennedy family of Boston.  The 1.7-million-square-foot project will go head-to-head with another proposed apparel mart that is planned for the corner of Randolph and Clark Streets, the site of the Sherman House Hotel.  That proposal never made it past the announcement phase, and in the early 1980’s work began on the Thomson Center on that block as the hotel came down.  The project on Wolf Point, though, with plans drawn by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, still stands.  When construction would on the new Apparel Mart in 1976, the Kennedy family controlled it for over two decades.  In 1998 Vornado Realty Trust  purchased it from the family along with the Merchandise Mart for $625 million.  The top photo shows the Apparel Mart as it appeared when it opened.  The photo below that shows it wedged behind three towers, one of which has been completed, the second of which is halfway toward completion, with the tallest of the three is set to begin construction when the east tower is done.  

December 12, 1928 – Colonel W. C. Weeks, the United States district engineer in Chicago, states that he will recommend the issuance of a permit for the construction of an outer drive link bridge across the Chicago River.  Almost immediately a bill asking congressional approval of the bridge is sent to Senator Charles S. Deneen and Congressman Charles R. Chindbloom in Washington, D. C. Weeks is persuaded, in part by the words of James Simpson, chairman of the Chicago Plan Commission, who wrote, “The people of Chicago will be unable to obtain the full benefit of the millions of dollars which they have spent in creating the lake front parks and drives unless they are properly connected so that the entire development will be accessible to all sections of the city … Traffic movement is increasing continually and the delay caused by insufficient river crossing results in a very large loss to all those who are affected by traffic congestion upon our north-and-south streets.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 13, 1928] The above photo shows the mouth of the river just about this time ... note that the bridge at Michigan Avenue is the last bridge before the lake.

December 12, 1943 – With United States war production at full throttle the Chicago Daily Tribune announces that the Illinois Institute of Technology has developed the “mightiest program in its history and a record of having become the busiest as well as the biggest engineering college in the country.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 12, 1943]  The school is running a twelve-month calendar with three 16-week terms with all holidays, except Christmas, eliminated from the schedule.  Classes begin at 7:30 a.m. and continue until 5:20 p.m.  The grueling schedule turns out certified engineers in 30 months.  “Frills in college life have been discarded,” the paper writes.  “Graduation ceremonies cut to the minimum as senior classes increase in number, and, if four weeks of the year were not the absolute smallest amount of time needed for registration and administrative work, college officials say these weeks would be utilized for classes.”  The school is spread out across the city with classes taking place in 27 separate war plants.  Classes are also being held at the John Marshall Law School, George Williams College, the Civic Opera Building, and 333 North Michigan Avenue.  Since the United States entered the war in December of 1941, 34,256 students have been enrolled in courses at the school with the enrollment standing at 4,665 as the year comes to an end.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

December 11, 1970 -- Wrigley Gets Permission for Lights
December 11, 1970 –The City Council approves an ordinance that allows the William Wrigley Jr. Co. to install new floodlights.  The company will pay $5,400 a year for ten years for the ability to install floodlights, seven feet high and 180 feet long, between the upper and lower levels of Wacker Drive on the south side of the river east of the Michigan Avenue bridge. The Wrigley building, usually a brightly lit mass of gleaming terra cotta, has been dark since floodlights atop an Illinois Central Railroad warehouse on the east side of the bridge were removed in preparation for the development of Illinois Center.  

ecember 11, 1880 – The Judiciary Committee of the City Council agrees to sell prime lake front property to the Illinois Central Railroad Company, adopting the following resolution:

Resolved, That the Mayor be authorized and requested to take such steps as he shall deem proper and expedient to procure the passage of an act of Congress at the present session relinquishing to the City of Chicago all the right, title, and interest of the United Sates in and to the streets and public ground in Fort Dearborn Addition to Chicago, with authority in said City of Chicago to sell and convey so much of the latter as lies east of Michigan avenue and south of the south line of Randolph street for the erection of a railroad passenger depot.

On top of this, the committee has also prepared a bill to be considered in Congress, as follows:

A bill to confirm to the City of Chicago the title to certain public grounds: That all the right and title of the United States to the streets and grounds dedicated to public use in that part of the City of Chicago in, the State of Illinois, known as “Fort Dearborn Addition to Chicago,” subdivided and platted under the authority of the secretary of War in the year 1839, be and the same hereby is relinquished and granted to the said city and its successors, with authority to sell and convey so much thereof as lies south of the south line of Randolph street and between the east line of Michigan avenue as now laid out and improved and the roadway of the Illinois Central Railroad Company for the erection thereon of a railway passenger station-house and other purposes incident thereto: provided, that nothing herein contained shall deprive the owners of contiguous lots of any valid right or claim, if such exists, to compensation on account of the change of use to which the public ground herein authorized to be sold and conveyed was originally dedicated by the United States.

So … once again the city fathers make an attempt to sell the city’s lakefront property, showing how close we came to having no lakefront in the central city at all today.  The first attempt at making a deal occurred in 1869 when the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation allowing the sale of property north of Monroe Street and west of the Illinois Central trestle for the sum of $800,000.  Additionally, the area east of the railroad tracks and a mile east into Lake Michigan was to be given to the Illinois Central to build a harbor for the city.  The plan raised a storm of public indignation, and the city refused the initial part of the $800,000 when the railroad offered it. 

Out of the 1880 legislation a railroad station did get built – for the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, which had obtained trackage rights from the Illinois Central Railroad. It would be decades of litigation before citizens could finally be assured that the property on the lakefront would be protected.  It would be nearly a century before the railroads would, for the most part, leave the city’s front yard.

The above photo shows the lakefront in 1858, dominated completely by the railroad and warehouses.

December 11, 1911 – At a meeting of the Chicago City Council Mayor Carter Harrison reveals that an agreement has been reached between the South Park commissioners and the Illinois Central railroad in which the city will take possession of the lakeshore between Park Row on the south end of what is today Grant Park and Fifty-First Streets.  The Chicago Daily Tribune says of the deal, “These riparian rights, heretofore held in the grip of the railroad, have a value to the citizens of Chicago that is considered by the park commissioners beyond computation, considering that they will now be enabled to construct a shore boulevard drive between Jackson and Grant parks, with bathing beaches, pleasure piers and islands.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 12, 1911]  A direct result of the agreement will be a place between Twelfth and Thirteenth Streets for the Field museum after the railroad tears down its central station and associated outbuildings in that area. The railroad will also lower its tracks below grade north of Twelfth Street, in effect hiding its operation as much as possible from sight.  There are dozens and dozens of other stipulations in the agreement, but there is probably no other document in the city’s history that has done more to create the extensive green space along its shoreline than this one.  South Park Board President John Earton Payne says the agreement will make the connection between Grant Park and Jackson Park “the most beautiful parkway and drive in the world.”  The above photo shows the south end of Grant Park and the Illinois Central terminal in 1911.  The statue in the middle of the park is the statue of General John A. Logan -- still in the same location today -- showing how much the lakefront has changed in this area in the past century.