Sunday, January 26, 2020

January 26, 1865 -- Ralph Waldo Emerson Lectures in Chicago

January 26, 1865 -- Ralph Waldo Emerson gives a lecture, entitled "Education," at Unity Church, the second of six that he will give in Chicago. The Chicago Daily Tribune describes Emerson as "a plain unaffected gentleman, [who] speaks with marked emphasis and with the utmost propriety, without gesture, and looks more like an educated well to do farmer than the highly cultivated scholarly lecturer."

January 26, 1923 – A Chicago Daily Tribune editorial strongly supports replacement of movable bridges in the city with permanent “fixed” bridges.  “So long as we allow dredges, tugs, freighters, and other craft to steam through the heart of the city,” the editorial begins, “blocking main streams of traffic at every street which they cross, we will allow an unnecessary handicap to be imposed upon our growth, prosperity, and comfort.  That is not wise city building.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 26, 1923] Replacing the movable bridges could be devastating to owners of elevators, lumber yards, and other freight concerns with valuable property along the river, the editorial concedes, but for the benefit of the entire city, the editorial goes on to add, it would be worth it to condemn the property in question and pay for the owners a fair rate.  “The general welfare of the city is more important than any fancied rights, based upon custom, of these property owners,” the editorial states.  “Probably it would not only pay the city through stimulation of growth and easier circulation of traffic but would return cash dividends through greatly reduced expenditures for bridge construction, operation, and maintenance.”  The editorial concludes, “Fixed bridges are a logical development of a greater Chicago.  We may as well begin to make up our minds to that development and prepare for it.”  The city is still preparing … every bridge on the main stem of the river and the south branch still swings open – although on a far less intrusive and far more regulated schedule than was the case in 1923.

January 26, 1953 – Chief city bridge tender Edward Scott brings news that an era on the Chicago River may be passing, saying that 16 of the city’s bridge tenders averaged less than one bridge opening a week during 1952.  The bridges on the north branch of the river at Cortland Street, Webster Avenue, Ashland Avenue, Fullerton Avenue, Damen Avenue, Diversey Parkway, Western Avenue and Belmont Avenue opened for a total of only 800 “swings” during the entire year, an average of only 50 bridge openings per man for Scott’s crew.  Since the preceding February these bridges have been left unmanned, and when passage up or down the river was required, bridge tenders moved from bridge to bridge in city cars.  The city seems to be moving in the direction of erecting fixed bridges in these locations because of the scarcity of traffic on the once busy north branch.  In a related development the Great Lakes division and Chicago district army engineers have offered the opinion that the dredging of the river north of North Avenue from 9 feet to 18 feet is unnecessary, a move that the city itself once supported but is now against.  The oldest trunnion bascule bridge in the city at Cortland Street is shown in the above photo.
January 26, 1993 – Mayor Richard M. Daley announces a $30 million plan for State Street that would reopen it for traffic, an acknowledgement that turning the street into a pedestrian mall 14 years earlier was an ill-conceived idea.  A 100-page report that spells out the way in which future development will take place on the street has a central idea at its core, “State Street is making a comeback as the heart of a mixed-use district, with cultural and educational institutions, entertainment and educational institutions, entertainment center and office buildings complementing the retail core.” [Chicago Tribune, January 26, 1993]  At a time when suburban malls beckoned shoppers with acres of parking space and North Michigan Avenue blossomed into an upscale shopping destination, the State Street mall had the effect of “isolating State Street from the rest of the Loop,” as Daley says at a meeting of the Greater State Street Council. Therefore, the idea is to recognize the changes that have taken place and to build on the southern anchor of State Street – the new Harold Washington Library and the expansion of DePaul University into the former Goldblatt’s department store.  Traffic will be brought back to the street, curbs will be straightened, sidewalks narrowed to 36 feet or less, new streetlights installed and trees and shrubs planted.  There is even talk of a light-rail system running along the street. Today State Street has indeed come back.. It’s a far different place than it was 25 years ago, but a mix of college students, residents in new and re-purposed high-rises, and office workers has ensured that State Street is still that Great Street.  The above photo shows the opening of the State Street Mall on October 29, 1979.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

January 25, 1961 -- Skidmore, Owings and Merrill Architect Looks to "City of Water"

William E. Hartmann
January 25, 1961 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that architect William E. Hartmann, a managing partner of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, has delivered an address at the annual meeting of the State Street Council in which he urges a “sweeping downtown building plan.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 25, 1961] Hartmann says, “I suggest a ‘City of Water.’ The idea of Lake Michigan, the Chicago river, and Buckingham fountain should be extended into further water exhibitions in the center area.  The federal and civic center might enlarge on this theme.” He goes farther, asserting that 30 percent of the downtown area should be given over to housing.  An all-weather sport stadium for 60,000 people should be located close to downtown and children should have “a Tivoli, sort of Disneyland or Freedomland, perhaps on an island in the lake.”  Hartman proposes a center for the performing arts as well with a symphony hall, opera house, and theaters.  The focus on art should continue with “public art as focal points – public sculpture, plazas and fountains.”  Finally, the architect suggests that “the iron girdle of the Loop” be replaced with an improved transit system.  With the exception of the performing arts center and the massive sports complex, it is amazing today to see how many of Hartmann’s ideas are on display in today’s Chicago – fountains, public art and sculpture, Maggie Daley and Millennium Parks, and on and on.

January 25, 1955 – The Chicago Daily Tribune goes to press with the following headline on Page One:  Halas to Quit as Bears Coach After ’55.  George H. Halas, the coach of the Bears for three decades, will continue as president of the club that he organized in Decatur, Illinois in 1920 and brought to Chicago the following year.  Says Halas, “I decided to step down two years ago.  When we began rebuilding, I made up my mind that as soon as we were a strong contender again, so I could turn the club over under the most favorable circumstances, I’d move out.  I figured it would be about 1956.  Fortunately, everything went according to schedule.  We’re contenders now, we’ll be better next fall and by 1956 I won’t have to ask anybody to take over a loser.”  Halas kept his word, leaving the team in the 1956 and 1957 campaigns, but he was back again in 1958 and coached the team for another decade, winning his last championship with the club in 1963.

January 25, 1925 -- The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that because the roads through Lincoln Park are the only practical way of getting from the Loop to the residential sections of the city north of North Avenue, the park, originally designed for leisurely carriage rides, is dealing with 5,000 cars per hour passing through it. That volume comes at a cost. In 1924 there are 1,420 cars damaged in accidents with 499 people injured. The photo above shows Lake Shore Drive in the 1920's, looking north from Oak Street. At the end of the road is Lincoln Park, where things got really congested at North Avenue.
January 25, 1906 – Plans are presented to the United States Secretary of War Charles Joseph Bonaparte for “the finest naval station in the world … to be erected at Lake Bluff.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 26, 1906]  Total cost of the new base, including the land on which it will be built, is expected to be $2,500,000.  Plans include an administration building, an instruction building, four dormitories, a mess hall, guardhouses, a powerhouse, detention barracks, officers’ quarters, a general storehouse, marine barracks and a hospital.  A railroad spur from North Chicago will run into the base, for which the Chicago and North Western Railroad will pay $14,000.  Plans are for the initial phase of construction to accommodate 1,000 recruits.  Captain Albert Ross, who will oversee construction of the new naval base, says, “We depart from old notions, with the idea that in bringing the youngster in he should not be allowed to pollute the body politic, and so the first step is detention in barracks.  He enters the front door, turns to his right, is taken up by the officer of the day to see that the papers given him are all right and that he has been enlisted properly. He then goes into the barber shop, where he is shaven and shorn, and from there into the disrobing room – all valuables are stored in lockers for that purpose – and he removes his clothes. He then goes into the bathroom where he is scrubbed; from there he is taken to the surgeons’ room, where he is examined, then to the paymaster’s issuing room where he is clothed in uniform. He comes in as a civilian and goes out as a naval recruit … we have five units to cover the training scheme – the detention, messing, sleeping, drilling, and instructing – each one under a different roof and surrounded by the best sanitary and fireproof building attainable.  No other nation in the world has gone so far in this business.”  Between 1909 and 1911, 39 buildings would be built at what is today Naval Station Great Lakes.  All of them would be designed by architect Jarvis Hunt, working from his offices in Chicago’s Monadnock building.  On July 3, 1911 Joseph Gregg of Terre Haute, Indiana is the first recruit to arrive at the base, officially opened two days earlier.  The above photo shows Building One and a parade of recruits in 1913.

Friday, January 24, 2020

January 24, 1891 -- World's Columbian Exposition Michigan Avenue Colossus Proposed

Chicago Tribune photo

January 24, 1891 – As plans are being made for the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, it is still unclear where, exactly, the fair will be located as the year begins.  Still, blueprints are being prepared for the great fair’s buildings, at least five of which are to be erected on the lakefront in what is today's Grant Park.  Ultimately, only the Art Institute of Chicago would be placed in that location, but it is interesting to look at some of the structures that might have been built if things had worked out differently.  One of the most magnificent would surely have been a “water palace” which the Chicago Daily Tribune describes on this day in 1891.  A Chicago architect, W. H. Smith, designed a structure about which the Tribune raves, “Of all the buildings which may be placed on the Lake-Front it is generally considered that the proposed Water Palace will be the gem.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 24, 1891]  The work is to be a circular hall with a circumference of 250 feet, “composed entirely of glass and such structural iron as is necessary, surmounted by a transparent dome of falling water, on the summit of which, at a height of 250 feet, ride the three vessels whose voyage of discovery began the civilization of the New World.  These ships are to be fac-similes in size, shape, and and rigging of the original fifteenth century types.”  Between 400 and 500 people will be able to move around on the three ships’ decks, and they will see “immediately around and beneath them a globe of moving water, sparkling in the sunlight.”  At intervals, a column of water 100 feet high will rise, “converting the dome into a geyser effect.”  Surrounding the structure will be a water-filled moat containing a naval exhibit of historic battleships of the country, the effect being “a seemingly infinite expanse of water”.  The interior of the building will hold various historical exhibits.  The building will be especially striking at night with electric lights “giving the dome the appearance of an iridescent globe … a structure of imprisoned light – a water palace, domed by an ocean.”  What a spectacle it would have been if they had pulled this one off!

January 24, 1913 -- At a joint meeting of Chicago Sanitary District officials, aldermen, and representatives of the meat packing companies on the southwest side of the city, agreement is reached to discontinue the use of Bubbly Creek as a drain for the sewage of the stockyards. The attorney for the district says, "The policy of the district always has been that the disposal of the industrial waste in the yards is an individual one for industries there. They can't have their waste discharged into Bubbly creek and from there into the Chicago river or into the canal." It was, of course, too little and too late. The damage had already been done. The unfortunate body of water begins at what once was the northern boundary of the massive Union Stockyards just north of Pershing Road about halfway between Ashland and Racine and flows north into the Chicago River. According to a 2011 article in the Chicago Tribune when scientists studied the waterway in 2004 they found "fibrous material" on the river bottom up to three feet thick. You can define "fibrous material" any way you want, but however you define it, it ain't good. It's still there, and it's still a-bubbling.

January 24, 1952 – Judge Benjamin P. Epstein of the Circuit Court rules that the Chicago Park District has the right to construct underground parking garages in Grant Park along Michigan Avenue and to finance the project through the sale of revenue bonds.  This is a test case in which the plaintiff, the Michigan Boulevard Building Company, asks for an injunction restraining the park district from selling the revenue bonds, “contending that as a nonprofit corporation the park district has no right to issue the bonds or pledge revenue from them.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 25, 1952] The suit also asks for a declaratory judgment that would uphold the claim that the park district has no right to permit use of park land for the garages.  A year earlier the Illinois legislature passed bills that allowed the park district to construct the garages and to finance them through the sale of bonds.  The first of the proposed underground garages will open on September 1, 1954. The dedication of the garage is shown in the above photo with the partially completed Prudential building in the background.
January 24, 1991 – The editorial board of the Chicago Tribune offers a positive appraisal of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority’s decision to hire Benjamin Thompson and Associates to design and oversee a $150 million renovation of Navy Pier.  Noting that the firm has had success in transformational projects such as Boston’s Faneuil Hall, Baltimore’s Harborplace and New York City’s South Street Seaport, the editorial says that the choice of architect shows that “… the board in charge of reviving Navy Pier is steering in the right direction.” [Chicago Tribune, January 24, 1991]  The piece goes farther, though, urging planners to use the scope of the project to unite two opposing views as to what the future of Navy Pier should be.  “Ever since it became apparent that Navy Pier was disintegrating into Lake Michigan and needed a major bodylift, people who want to preserve it for cultural and recreational activities have been battling those who want to re-create the lively eating-and-shopping waterfront bazaars of Boston and Baltimore,” the editorial states. “But … the pier is so huge that it has room for both concepts."  Concluding the editorial is one final suggestion, “Incorporate the graceful contour of the old pier in the new one; at age 74, it’s still a beauty.”

January 24, 1991 – Hartmarx Corp. announces that it plans to close its 44-year-old Baskin store at 137 South State Street in order to move to La Salle Street.  The company will also close its other Loop store at 3 First National Plaza, shrinking its square footage in the business district by two-thirds.  The chairman of Hartmarx, John Eyler, says, “We had the opportunity to build a second headquarters store for downtown Chicago.  Once you make the decision that La Salle Street is becoming a focal point for quality retail in the Loop, you have to ask, ‘Can I afford to have another store four blocks away?’” [Chicago Tribune, January 25, 1991] In the previous several years Chas. A. Stevens, Wieboldt’s, Goldblatt’s, Montgomery Ward and Company, and Sears, Roebuck and Company have all closed their State Street stores.  During that time La Salle Street has undergone a transition.  Bruce Kaplan, the president of Northern Realty Group, Ltd., says, “Historically, La Salle Street hasn’t been a good place for retail because banks have dominated the ground floors of the buildings there.  But as the automatic teller machines started to dominate and people stopped going to the bank every Friday, they’ve begun to free up these ground floors.  The obvious answer is to put retail in them; it’s probably the highest and the best use of the space.”  For more on the State Street store and what eventually became of it, you can turn to this blog in Connecting the Windy City.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

January 23, 1952 -- Mt. Greenwood Cemetery Receives Disaster Victims

January 23, 1909 – As thousands of mourners watch, 47 hearses carry the remains of the workers who lost their lives at the George W. Jackson “intermediate” crib fire four days earlier.  The procession begins at 12:45 p.m. at the South Chicago police station.  It is led by the Chief of Police and the employees of the George W. Jackson Company.  Each hearse is accompanied by two policemen and a ring of mourners.  One of them, a woman who has lost two sons and a nephew in the disaster, cries, “I can’t stand it – God help me.!”  The policeman next to her wipes a tear away with his sleeve and responds, “It’s about all I can stand myself.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 24, 1909]  At Mount Greenwood Cemetery a single large grave is waiting.  Four policemen are assigned to each casket as it is lifted and placed in a series of rows in the grave.  When the last casket is placed, Father Edward O’Reilly of St. Patrick’s church begins the simple service as a woman in the throng of mourners cries out, “My brother!  Oh, my brother!”  It appears that only a small portion of the massive crowd at the cemetery is made up of families that have lost loved ones.  The Tribune describes the scene, "Eaters of popcorn and confectionery who had come to the funeral merely as a spectacle stood in the front row around the grave while frail women and children and men whose spirit had been broken by the loss of a brother or a father wept softly behind the throng, unable to hear the words of the clergymen.”  Even as the service is taking place, two more bodies are being pulled out of the lake, and a coroner’s jury is being sworn in to investigate the accident which took between 70 and 100 laborers’ lives when fire broke out on a temporary crib being used to construct the four-mile tunnel that would furnish fresh lake water to a pumping station at Seventy-First Street.  For more on the disaster turn to this entry in Connecting the Windy City.  The above photo shows the procession of mourners on that January day in 1909.
January 23, 1979 – The Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners approves a $100,000 stainless steel sculpture that will be placed on the northwest corner of Fullerton Avenue and Cannon Drive.  Half of the cost will be underwritten by a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts and the other half from citizens who have donated money to Friends of the Park. The sculpture’s creator will be Ellsworth Kelly.  According to the Chicago Park District website, “Ellsworth Kelly studied art at the Pratt Institute and developed metalworking techniques as an army engineer in World War II.   After the war, the G.I. Bill allowed him to study at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.  While in France, he began producing his earliest abstract paintings. Kelly returned to America in the mid-1950s and began making his earliest freestanding sculptures.  By the early 1970s, he was exploring curves in his paintings and in totemic aluminum and steel sculptures that had subtly curving forms.” [] The commissioned work on Fullerton Avenue, “Curve XXII, would be Kelly’s first major commission for an outdoor sculpture. Today it stands on the northeast corner of Fullerton Avenue and Cannon Drive.  It replaces a monument to Carl von Linné that was moved to the University of Chicago.  For more about the Linné monument and Kelly’s sculpture you can turn to posts in Connecting the Windy City here and here.

January 23, 1893 – At a meeting of Michigan Avenue property owners in the offices of Montgomery Ward and Company, “practical steps to begin beautifying the Lake-Front and make it ‘a thing of beauty and joy forever’ for the people of Chicago” [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 24, 1893] are begun.  With a proposal pending in the City Council to lease a portion of the lakefront from Madison to Randolph Streets to a company for the production of firework displays, the group is alarmed that once such a foothold has been established, “it might be hard to dispossess them.” The opinion is unanimous that “the cupidity or corruption of city fathers and others who were periodically trying to use those blocks, originally dedicated to the public for private purposes, should be at once and forever thwarted.”  The paper reports that Montgomery Ward speaks strongly against “the tendency of the Chicago of today to be indifferent to the needs and beauties of the Chicago of the future …This is the age of commercial activity, but there should be something in life besides this ceaseless grasping for the dollar … The authorities of all other great cities in the world, and especially those of Europe, are tearing down marble blocks and widening thoroughfares to create breathing places and pleasure grounds for the people, while our city authorities are always trying to convert one of the most beautiful locations for a people’s park into a dumping ground for garbage or a speculative site for builders and railroads.”  The merchants at the meeting decide to enclose the area between Michigan Avenue and the Illinois Central tracks, from Madison to Randolph Streets, with “a handsome ornamental fence.”  At the foot of Washington Street will be a large gateway with other entrances at the north and south corners of the area off Michigan Avenue.  “Inside the grounds,” they agree, “will be laid out a delightful way for promenades, flower gardens, fountains, and statues, with plenty of seats for the people.”  The members of the group propose to make the improvements at their own expense.  The attractive scene in the above photo looks toward Michigan Avenue and the lake from Randolph Street in 1893.  The present Chicago Cultural Center stands on the empty lot.

January 23, 1952 – The Chicago Cubs announce that the organization will be raising the price of box seats at Wrigley Field to $2.50, a 50-cent increase, for the 1952 season.  The White Sox decide to keep the price of their box seat tickets at $2.00.  The Cubs soften the blow with the announcement that grandstand seat prices will remain unchanged at $1.25 and the price of bleacher seats will also be held at 60 cents.  The Chicago Daily Tribune offers a look at how these prices compare to other major league ball clubs, citing these numbers:  National League—Boston, $3.60; Brooklyn, $3.00; New York, $3.00; Pittsburgh, $2.75; Philadelphia, $2.50; St. Louis, $2.25; Cincinnati, $2.25.  American League—New York, $3.00; Detroit, $2.50; Philadelphia, $2.50; Boston, $2.40; St. Louis, $2.25; Cleveland, Washington and Chicago, $2.00.  The Cubs cite the increased cost of operating the club along with construction work in the box seat section designed to “make the park the most beautiful in big league baseball” [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 24, 1952] as contributing factors in the increase.  The above photo shows the box seats at Wrigley during the 1953 campaign, at the end of which the Cubs were 40 games out of first place.  Weren't selling a whole lot of those upper grandstand tickets, apparently.

January 23, 1949 -- The first place winner in a nation-wide architectural competition for new talent sponsored by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City is Joseph Y. Fujikawa of Chicago. Mr. Fujikawa was born in Los Angeles and began his college career in a five-year program in architecture at the University of Southern California. That was interrupted when World War iI began, and he was interred in a "relocation center" in Colorado. After three months there he managed to get into the Illinois Institute of Technology, at which Mies van der Rohe was the director of the School of Architecture. His time at I.I.T. was also interrupted by an 18-month stint in the Army, and Fujikawa graduated in 1944. His career really began with Mies's first residential building in Chicago at Promontory Point. Perhaps his two most noteworthy designs in Chicago are the Ralph Metcalfe Federal Office Building across Jackson Boulevard from the Federal Center and the former Mercantile Exchange towers at 10 and 30 South Wacker Drive, the north tower of which is pictured above. Fujikawa died in Winnetka on the last day of 2004.