Wednesday, July 18, 2018

July 18, 1966 -- John Hancock Receives First Steel


July 18, 1966 –The first steel column, 35 feet long, weighing 30 tons, is set in place for the John Hancock building at Michigan Avenue and Delaware Place.  It is anticipated that in the following 16 months, 42,000 tons of steel are to be placed, forming the skeleton of a tower that will reach 1,105 feet above the ground.  As rosy as this day is, things quickly fall apart.  Under the load of a single steel column, one of the 57 caissons on the project slipped downwards approximately an inch in one 24-hour period. The structural engineer for Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, Fazlur Khan, called for a halt to construction so that all of the caissons could be tested.  He was right to do so, as 26 of the 57 caissons were found to be defective. Following the testing, it took four months and 11 million dollars to repair the defective foundation elements.  The tower topped out on May 6, 1968 and was at the time the second-tallest building in the world. It has been awarded the Distinguished Architects Twenty-Five Year Award and has been included in the World Federation of Great Towers. 


July 18, 1889 – The Chicago Daily Tribune surveys the field in the running for the World’s Fair of 1892 (that actually ended up being the World’s Fair of 1893) and concludes that Washington, D. C. is the “only place which is making an earnest effort.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 18, 1889]  That’s good news, according to the paper, because during the summer months that will form the heart of the fair, the nation’s capital “despite its broad avenues and its shade trees, is as hot as the ante-chamber of the infernal regions.”  But the heat isn’t the only problem that the nation’s capital faces in the competition for the fair.  Its railroad facilities are inadequate, and the Tribune proclaims, “Unable to deal with the small attendance at an inauguration how could Washington handle the far greater course at a world’s fair?”  Chicago is the only choice, and the article makes that clear, saying, “Here is a climate which is cool and delicious when in other cities men are dying by the score from sunstroke.  Here all can come for low rates, and be well cared for when they come” The article closes with a quote from the Omaha Bee, “expressing the sentiments of the West.”  Said the Bee, “As the youngest of the great metropolitan cities Chicago typifies more fully and fitly even than New York the vigorous and rapid march of American progress, and she represents more truly the best spirit, character, and aspirations of the American people.  Chicago could provide abundantly for all who would visit the exposition, and she has attractions far exceeding those of the Easter metropolis …There can be no reasonable question that the exposition would be a great financial success if held at Chicago.”  Just look at the photo above.  All of that open space by the cool, cool lake ... ignoring the steam engines, of course.


July 18, 1977 -- The developers of River City outline a proposal that they say will add $110 million to Chicago’s economy.  Robert McGowan, president of Chessie Resources, Inc., the owner of the site on the east side of the Chicago River south of the Loop and a partner in the development plan, predicts that the 11,000 people who will occupy the residential towers at River City will add that amount of money to the city’s downtown stores.  Bertrand Goldberg, the architect of the three 72-story towers projected for the site, says, “The beauty of the project is that no city money will be involved in the construction phase.  Everything – the schools, recreational facilities, sewers, streets, and sidewalks – will be provided with private capital.”  [Chicago Tribune, July 19, 1977]  Goldberg’s plans include three towers, each of which will have three separate sections connected every 18 floors by two-story service areas, containing schools, a day-care center, 24-hour nursing service, a gym, mail room, security center, laundry and convenience stores.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

July 17. 1933 -- Balbo and His Flyers Honored Before Heading to New York City


July 17, 1933 –A parade to honor General Italo Balbo and the aviators who accompanied him from Italy to Chicago begins at the Stevens Hotel on Michigan Avenue at 2:30 p.m. and proceeds north to the bridge across the Chicago River.  The Italians ride in United States Army cars and are escorted by cavalry troops from Camp Whistler on the grounds of the Century of Progress Exposition.  At the bridge the troops “present sabers and leave the flyers to an escort of army officers, who will take them to Fort Sheridan.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 17, 1933] At the fort the flyers review the troops at 3:30 p.m. and watch “an aerial demonstration by Army planes from Selfridge Field, Michigan, exhibition jumping by army riders and a polo game.” The afternoon ends with a reception at the Officer’s Club. This will be the last official act in honor of the Italian airmen.  On the following day, they will fire up their 24 Savola-Marcinetti seaplanes and head on the thousand-mile trip to New York City.  For more on the flight of Balbo and his men you can turn to Connecting the Windy City for this blog entry and this one.


July 17, 1977 – Paul Gapp, the architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, evaluates the new Apparel Mart at 350 North Orleans Street, observing that once the Joseph P. Kennedy family bought the land where the new building stands on Wolf Point, family members “began a leisurely study of what to do with it.”  Gapp continues, “After all this high-powered cerebration, one might have expected an imposing structure to rise on a precious patch of 7.5 acres.  Instead, we got the Apparel Mart, a disappointing, $56 million architectural performance that succeeds mostly in saving money … The Mart, inside and out, has that hard-edged crowd control look that speaks of hustling retailers racing up in taxis and airline limos; sprinting from showroom to showroom to buy brassieres and bush jackets; having a late dinner, then flopping into bed for a few hours before arising to catch an early plane back to Cleveland, Omaha, or Sarasota, Fla.”  Gapp seems willing to forgive the buildings “windowlessness” because it “does not intrude into an elegant environment, and thus is not as blatantly offensive as [Water Tower Place] the marble monstrosity on North Michigan Avenue.”  In the Skidmore, Owings and Merrill design Gapp sees “a watch-every-nickel structure of little distinction and absolutely no elegance, done by a first-rate firm.”  Gapp ends his assessment with a remarkably accurate prediction, by way of Skidmore architect Bruce Graham, whose assertion that the Apparel Mart buildings are “’background buildings’ that someday may be dwarfed into nothingness.  “The Mart must stand on its own demerits, even if Graham is right when he says that a skyscraper approaching the size of the Standard Oil Building may be built on the very tip of Wolf Point,” writes Gapp.  A 48-story apartment building, Wolf Point West, a bKL architecture design, opened last summer.  A 60-story commercial building is currently just coming up out of the ground.  And the tallest building on Wolf Point will almost completely obscure the Apparel Mart when it rises in the next few years.  The conceptual photo of the completed Wolf Point development project, shown above, seems to validate Graham's belief that the Apparel Mart would one day become a "background building."


July 17, 1881 – The Chicago Daily Tribune prints the report of William H. Genung, the chief tenement house inspector, who provides figures on the work of his department during the preceding week.  The report gives some idea of the size of the problem with which the city is faced as 180 houses are inspected, containing 2,086 rooms, inhabited by 559 families, consisting of 2,550 people.  Small pox will claim the lives of 1,181 people in the last months of this year, and the city is hard at work to eliminate the conditions that foster the disease.  In the Second Ward that today encompasses the east side of the Loop, part of the Gold Coast, and Streeterville, tenement houses such as the one Genung’s department inspected were places in which people lived in cramped circumstances in deplorable sanitary conditions.

Monday, July 16, 2018

July 16, 1866 -- State Street Inferno Takes 40 Homes


July 16, 1866 –For three hours a fire that begins in a haystack at the rear of State Street near Polk Street rages out of control, consuming 40 buildings over three acres of the southern section of the Loop.  Forty families are burned out of their homes as “The resistless fury of the flames for the first two hours was indeed sufficient to strike terror into the hearts of all who lived in the neighborhood.” [Chicago Tribune, July 17, 1866]The fire department cannot immediately respond to the fire because much of the equipment is tied up in another part of the city, and by the time help arrives the flames have spread from the west side of State Street to homes on the east side. In the 30 minutes that it takes for the fire apparatus to begin work, “the flames were spreading from house to house and every moment gaining ground.”  Wabash Avenue is impassable as homeowners are busy moving furniture, bedding and trunks into the street in panic.  They had reason to be afraid as firefighters, realizing that fighting the conflagration on both sides of State Street is fruitless, make a stand in the alley between State and Wabash, hoping to prevent the fire from spreading.  It is “Here, after a desperate struggle their efforts began to tell. The fire was kept in bounds, and the fears of those residents in the vicinity were, in a measure, allayed.” Two firefighters are injured seriously and carried to their homes, and a resident is also injured after falling from the roof of his home.  Preliminary estimates place losses at over $140,000 but “the most distressing part of the calamity is in the great number of poor families who are thus deprived of their homes, who have lost all their furniture, and are thrown into a state of destitution.”  As bad as the day is, it is only a preview of what will befall the city five years later.  The 1858 photo, which looks southwest from Washington and LaSalle Streets, gives some idea of how close together homes were placed as well as how easily a fire could consume a large area, given the right conditions.



July 16, 1859 – A reporter for the Chicago Press and Tribune takes a walk “in the eastern extremity of the city, within the North Division, in search of a breeze …”  [Chicago Daily Press and Tribune, July 16 1859] During his walk up Pine Street as far as Huron the reporter sees “very many splendid residences in rapid course of erection, and which when finished, with the beautiful houses and grounds of that vicinity, will make it one of the most splendid and interesting neighborhoods of the city.”  At the corner of Pine and Ontario Streets, a block of ten residences are being constructed, “similar to the great marble block on Michigan avenue.” At the corner of Pine and Huron Streets are two residences that Solomon Sturgis is building, each four stories in height with a basement.  Word is that Cyrus H. McCormick intends to begin a “first class dwelling” on Rush Street, between Erie and Huron and that work on a sewer on Huron Street from Rush to Cass Streets has been started.   All of the beautiful homes will, of course, be lost in another dozen years when the great fire of 1871 destroys the entire north side of the city.  There is no more Pine Street these days … the street on which the rich were busily building their beautiful homes back in 1859 is today’s Magnificent Mile on North Michigan Avenue.  The above etching shows Pine Street looking north toward the water tower from Huron Street not long after the tower was completed in 1869.  The photo below shows the same view today.


July 16, 1894 – In the midst of the Pullman strike Light Battery F, Second Artillery, is proceeding down Grand Boulevard, today’s Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, escorted by a cavalry escort, when disaster strikes.  The Chicago Daily Tribune reports the following day,  “ . . . going at a gentle trot over a smooth boulevard a shell somewhere in one of the ammunition chests exploded, the detonation set off all the cartridges and all the rest of the shrapnel shells—a storm of powder and leaden balls and scraps of iron sufficient to stop the charge of a brigade of cavalry.  There was first the booming, deafening crash of the powder; it smashed every bit of glass in the neighborhood, jarred the whole southern side of the city, tore the caisson that had held it into bits of twisted iron and splinters of oak, crushed the life out of the four horses attached to it and to the gun following.  Two cannoneers had been sitting on the ammunition chest that exploded first.  Their comrades found the fragments of them, one to the right, one to the left, 150 yards away.  They did not look as if they had ever been men.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 17, 1894]  The men had left camp that morning for a 25-mile ride along the city’s boulevards to exercise the horses, learn more of the streets of the south side of the city and to convey the image that in the midst of the labor crisis the troops were there to maintain order.  Joseph Gaylor, Edward Doyle, and Jeremiah Donovan are buried at Fort Sheridan, where their graves can still be found today. Relatives claim the body of Private Fred Stoltz, and his remains are sent home to Sago, Michigan.  The photo above shows Grand Boulevard about a half-dozen years after the tragic event.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

July 15, 1925 -- Outer Drive and Twenty-Third Street Viaduct Opened


July 15, 1925 –A fireworks display in Grant Park caps a celebration that sees thousands of flower-decked automobiles and trucks pass through Grant Park to the Monroe Street viaduct to Michigan Avenue and then south to the new Twenty-Third Street viaduct, where a ribbon is cut and the new Outer Drive is officially opened. Good feelings run high as officials rhapsodize about the future of the city that night at a banquet at the Congress Hotel attended by more than 1,000 people.  South Park Board President Edward J. Kelly is optimistic that the new link bridge over the Chicago River, connecting the south and north drives, will be started in the coming year.  Illinois Central Railroad President Charles H. Markham predicts that the electrification of the railroad along the lakefront should be finished within the year, six months ahead of schedule. Chicago Mayor William Deever touts a new project to straighten the South Branch of the river so that streets may be extended into the southern portion of the Loop. Illinois Senator Charles S. Deneen continues the optimism, saying, “It is a hopeful sign when we realize that all our problems that we are discussing are problems of construction. We can’t have too many boulevards. They are crowded the moment they are opened. The Lincoln park system, too, is doing a great work in reclaiming land from the lake. Eventually this filling will be carried out to Evanston, perhaps, even to Waukegan.  There must be traffic routes for the travel that will follow.” [Chicago Tribune, July 16, 1925] The above photo shows the Outer Drive looking south from Thirty-Ninth Street in May, 1930.


July 15, 1916 – The $4,000,000 Municipal Pier is dedicated with between 50,000 and 100,000 people in attendance and a thousand automobiles parked between the long freight sheds on the pier.  The Chicago Daily Tribune reports, “In spite of the heat thousands walked to the pier and walked the full length of it, through the freight sheds, to the launch landing.  Launches and steamers took limit loads of passengers on moonlight trips.  The most popular spots with the younger couples proved to be the two towers.  A continual procession climbed up the dozen or more flights of the spiral stairs, as well, to the utmost balcony.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 16, 1916]  There were no formal dedication ceremonies.


July 15, 1934 – On a perfect summer day with an Italian-American program as the day’s highlight, 112,000 paid fair-goers attend the Century of Progress World’s Fair on the lakefront.  The highlight of the day is the unveiling of a marble column from the ancient Italian city of Ostia, a gift of Italian Premier Benito Mussolini to commemorate the visit of General Italo Balbo’s flight to Chicago a year earlier.  Balbo makes a speech via short wave radio to 3,000 persons at the Italian Pavilion, the speech being preceded by a parade of 150 Italian societies dressed in national costumes.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

July 14, 1928 -- Palmolive Building Gets Added Height


July 14, 1928 –Announcement is made that the plan for the new Palmolive building, under construction at the southeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Walton Street, will be amended to include 37 stories rather than the 15 stories that were originally proposed.  The architects for the project, Holabird and Root, had specified foundations for a taller structure, but the Palmolive-Peet Company and Colgate Company had decided on a more modest structure at the outset, changing the plan as the project begins to the taller building.  The tower promises to be a sensation, “of modern architecture” with “no exterior fire escapes to mar the architectural effect”.  The tower will be clad in Bedford limestone on all sides “with interesting light effects through the placing of flood lights on the various setbacks.”  The new building opened in 1929 with six series of set-backs on all four sides.


July 14, 1877 – Beginning at the offices of the West Park Commissioners at the corner of Washington Boulevard and Halsted Street, a line of carriages, led by the Great Western Light Guard Band, starts out at 2:00 p.m. for the formal opening of Humboldt Park.  Upon reaching the park, “the procession rolled solemnly along for a considerable time, much to the admiration of the assembled ladies and small boys, the latter tearing through the grounds barefooted after the brass band.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 15, 1877]  Coverage of the dedication is favorable although the park is still “in its infancy and cannot be expected to show off as well as some of its older neighbors.”  According to the Chicago Park District’s history of the park, the park is named for Baron Freidrich Heinrich Alexander Von Humboldt, a German scientist and explorer.  The original design for the park was the work of William LeBaron Jenney, and the 219- acre park was designed as a part of a unified whole using a system of boulevards to join three great parks, Humboldt, Garfield and Douglas.   Humboldt Park grew slowly, but as it grew Jenney’s original plan was followed only in the park’s northeastern section. 


July 14, 1918 – Four persons are killed and 28 injured when a North Shore Electric railroad train strikes a truck carrying a Chicago picnic party at the north entrance to Fort Sheridan.  The General Manager of the North Shore line blames the driver of the truck for failing to obey the warning signals at the railroad crossing, saying, “There is a clear view of the track for more than a mile at the point of the accident.  The motorman was sounding his whistle and the wig-wag danger signal was in operation.  The motorman slowed down to ten miles an hour as he approached the crossing because he had a regular stop to make.  The truck was hit by the coach and toppled into the ditch.  I am told the deaths and injuries were not caused by the actual collision, but in the fall into the ditch.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 15, 1918]

Friday, July 13, 2018

July 13, 1966 -- Eight Nurses Killed on City's South Side


July 13, 1966 –After spending the day drinking in taverns near his rooming house on the south side of the city, Richard Speck breaks into an apartment building near South Chicago Community Hospital.  Overnight he rounds up nine nurses, and, one-by-one, takes them to another room where he kills eight.  Only one of the nurses, Corazon Amurao, survives after hiding all night under a bed, emerging on the following morning to find the bloody scene. The nation is shocked by the horrendous crime, what some call the first mass murder of the twentieth century. Speck is caught after attempting suicide by cutting his wrists in a flop house three days later and is sentenced to death in a 1967 trial, a sentence that is later reduced to life in prison. The accused mass murderer dies in 1991.  The above photo shows Corazon Amurao, the long survivor of that unspeakable night, leaving the courthouse in Peoria, Illinois on April 6, 1967. 


July 13, 1903 – The Committee on Streets and Alleys recommends passage of an ordinance that turns over control of the city’s portion of Grant Park to the South Park Board.  The land involved is that part of the park west of the Illinois Central right-of-way and north of Jackson Boulevard.  The ordinance also reserves the rights of the Art Institute as well as the trustees of the Crerar Library in their desire to build in the area. Thrown into the mix is the possibility of locating a new city hall in the area.  The area in question is shown in the photo of the park shown below, a photo taken in 1911.


July 13, 1980 – Paul Gapp, the architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, opens a piece on the State Street mall with these words, “The State Street mall is an esthetic failure, and that comes as a particularly harsh disappointment in a city that has produced so many triumphs of urban design in this century.”  The article lists a number of weaknesses in the mall, summarizing the experiment that began in 1979 as “a collection of neutral, ambiguous design elements that are mostly boring, ugly, or both.”  Gapp points to the protective shelters built above the entrances to the State Street subway “destroying any feeling of openness, and blocking formerly unimpeded views.”  He sees the hexagonal asphalt blocks used for paving the pedestrian areas as “unspeakably depressing,” and the bus shelters as “absurd . . . with no walls to soften the bite of winter winds and ward off wind-blown rain.”  The only seating is “on the narrow, often earth-soiled rims of tree planters . . . because city officials have long rejected comfortable downtown benches on the theory that they attract unsavory loafers.”  Ending the article, Gapp writes, “Constraints notwithstanding, we could have had a handsome mall on State Street.  Instead, we have a civic embarrassment.” [Chicago Tribune, July 13, 1980]   

Thursday, July 12, 2018

July 12, 1933 -- Supreme Court Hears Sanitary District Defense


July 12, 1933 –The Attorneys General for Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin appear before the United States Supreme Court, opposing a hearing requested by Illinois in cases pertaining to the Chicago Sanitary District.  The four Midwestern states that border the Great Lakes system object to a petition for a rehearing of a case in which a ruling went against Illinois involving “the right of Illinois, as a sovereign state, to divert water from Lake Michigan.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 12, 1933] The court rules that Illinois can divert water from Lake Michigan through the Chicago River at the rate of 1,500 cubic feet per second after 1938 in addition to 1,700 cubic feet per second for domestic purposes.  The four states claim that the amount diverted will be excessive, and “that Chicago has refused to meter the water diverted for domestic and industrial purposes.” Ultimately, the Supreme Court’s original 1930 ruling will stand, and by 1938 Chicago will have built three major sewage treatment plants along with a lock that separated Lake Michigan from the Chicago River.  The Chicago River lock, finished in 1938, is shown above.


July 12, 1955 – The architect of the city’s Bureau of Engineering, M. J. Glicken, says that a sculpture of “a woman with other ornamentation” [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 13, 1955] is being readied for placement on a city parking garage at Wacker Drive and State Street.  The bronze sculpture, which is 12 feet high and 14 feet wide and weighs three tons, is the work of sculptor Milton Horn, whom Mayor Richard J. Daley personally asked to create the monumental work that would show Chicago’s important place in the country and the world.  Controversial from the beginning, the sculpture was taken to the city’s bridge repair shops at Thirty-First Street and Sacramento Avenue when the garage was torn down in 1983.  Ignored for nearly 15 years it was restored for ten times the amount that the original commission brought Horn.  Today the sculpture hangs from the northwest portal of the Columbus Drive Bridge.  More about the sculpture and its creator can be found in Connecting the Windy City here.


July 12, 1970 – The Chicago Tribune reports on a challenge against the Public Building Commission of the city, involving the right to reproduce the image of the Picasso sculpture.  In its suit, filed before Federal Judge Alexander J. Napoli, The Letter Edged in Black Press, maintains that Pablo Picasso gave the work of art to the people of Chicago, not to the building commission.  The suit uses statements of Mayor Richard J. Daley and architect William H. Hartmann at the dedication ceremonies for the sculpture in 1967, in which both men talked of the artist’s gift “to the people of Chicago,” to support its assertion. The building commission responds that much was done to secure the rights for reproduction, including “securing from Chicago a written deed of gift which gave them the right to secure a copyright, affixing the copyright notice to the rear of the sculpture’s metal base, registering and securing a copyright claim, and notifying the public of its licensing policies.”  [Chicago Tribune, July 12, 1970]  The commission further maintains that the deed of gift which Picasso signed, giving the commission the right to reproduce the sculpture is the same as a copyright.  Incidentally, the official website of the CIty of Chicago proclaims to this day that "Picasso gave the sculpture as a gift to the people of Chicago."  The photo above was taken when the sculpture was dedicated on August 15, 1967.