Saturday, November 17, 2018

November 17, 1964 -- Lake Shore Drive Promenade Ordered

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November 17, 1964 – The Superintendent of the Cook County Highway Department, Andrew V. Plummer, issues orders to remove the remainder of the detour around the grade separation at Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue.  In place of the detour a 4,000-foot long promenade will be built.  The work is expected to be completed by the time warm weather arrives in 1965, providing a thousand-foot long sandy beach.  A walkway at the top of the steps leading down to the beach will also be part of the project.  There will also be a paved section along the water line from North Avenue to Oak Street. The lovely lakefront walk east of Lake Shore Drive that we enjoy today is born on this day in 1964. The above photo shows the area in which Michigan Avenue and Lake Shore Drive came together at Oak Street before the L.S.D. was swung farther to the east and the promenade created.


November 17, 1908 – The Commercial Club of Chicago offers a new plan for a connection between the north and south side to the Board of Local Improvements.  The plan diverges from earlier plans in that it offers “a wider boulevard, 240 feet north of Randolph street, a lower elevation at its highest point, access to the roadway from the buildings along the elevated roadway … and a double street with a double-decked bridge across the river.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, November 17, 1908] The 90-foot wide bridge will be able to run at a right angle to the river, connecting Beaubien Court on the south side of the river to Pine Street on the north. The  official statement of the Commercial Club reads, “Congestion in the heart of Chicago could be relieved if certain streets were much widened and improved.  It is clear, however, that none of the streets in the district bounded by Van Buren street, Michigan avenue, and the river can ever be appreciably broadened … Michigan avenue, already a wide street, and easily widened still more in Grant park, must then be the great base of street circulation in Chicago, the foundation of a system of encircling and bisecting highways … The conclusion is plain: Michigan avenue is probably destined to carry the heaviest movement of any street in the world.  Any boulevard connection in Michigan avenue which fails to recognize the basic importance of Michigan avenue will be a waste of money.” The statement sets the stage for the next big contribution that the Commercial Club will make to city planning, the great Chicago Plan of 1909.  “A special investigation made under our direction,” the statement reads, “discloses the fact that the people of Chicago have, during the last twenty-five years, expended no less that $222,000,000 in permanent improvements.  It is estimated that not less than 40 per cent of this vast sum has been wasted because specific improvements were made without reference to a comprehensive city plan, and were, therefore, found to be inadequate … This great improvement will come because it is part of a plan which provides a basis of street circulation and which will weld and unify the three detached sides of Chicago; because it improves facilities for commercial traffic and at the same time preserves for the people the uninterrupted use of their greatest and most attractive highway.”  Criticism arrives quickly as the Michigan Avenue Improvement Association issues a statement saying in part, “… we shall not regard any elevated structure as less than a monumental and wasteful blunder.”  The above photo shows Michigan Avenue as it appeared in 1902.


November 17, 1965 – McCormick Place celebrates its fifth birthday as the building’s general manager, Edward J. Lee, announces that 17,013,515 people have been through the facility since it first opened its doors.  Events open to the public account for 41.8 per cent of the attendance while commercial, industrial, trade and professional shows account for 32.3 per cent.  The exhibition hall’s Arie Crown Theater did not open until the spring of 1961, but it still drew 2,174,510 people. The largest attendance for any one event in the hall was for the Billy Graham Greater Chicago Crusade in 1962, which drew 44,840 people.  Also notable was the first stockholders’ meeting ever held outside of New York City for the American Telephone and Telegraph Company in April of 1961.  On that occasion 18,458 stockholders attended the annual event, and each of them was served lunch.  It would be only 14 months before two-thirds of the great convention hall on the lake would be destroyed in less than 45 minutes in a devastating fire.

Friday, November 16, 2018

November 16, 1934 -- Beverly Shores to Get World's Fair Homes


November 16, 1934 – The Robert Bartlett Realty Company of Chicago purchases six model homes that were exhibited at the Century of Progress World’s Fair with plans to take them by barge to Beverly Shores in Indiana.  The six homes scheduled for the move are the Rostone home, the Cypress cottage, the Florida tropical house, the Armeco-Ferra home, and the House of Tomorrow, along with a contemporary rendering of a farmhouse.  A pier, 40 feet in width, will be built extending 200 feet into Lake Michigan at the Indiana development where the homes will be located to permit relocation of the homes.  Robert Bartlett says, “The reason we bought these model homes is that they represent what we find are the most outstanding examples of modern home building, combining beauty and practical value.  We believe they will have a decided influence on home building in metropolitan Chicago.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, November 17, 1934]  According to the Indiana Landmarks website, “In hindsight, perhaps it’s not exactly shocking that Bartlett’s dream of creating a tony lakeside resort community in the middle of the depression failed.” In 1966 the United States National Park Service took over the area, which incorporated Beverly Shores into the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.  This arrangement provided little motivation for occupants of the homes to maintain them.  In the early 2000’s, however, Indiana Landmarks partnered with the National Park Service, leasing the homes form the federal agency and then subleasing them to people who were responsible for restoring them according to a strict contract. Four of the five homes have been restored under this arrangement.  The House of Tomorrow, designed by George Fred Keck, is in the process of receiving the same kind of love and may require over $2 million in restoration. The Florida house is shown above.  An excellent explanation of the five homes, their history, and their rehabilitation can be found here. 



November 16, 1953 – At 6:00 a.m. Dearborn and Clark Streets become one way roadways with Clark used for southbound traffic from Kinzie Street to Harrison with Dearborn handling northbound traffic from Polk to Hubbard Streets.  The city’s commissioner of streets and sanitation, Lloyd M. Johnson, says that the new one-way streets will help increase the flow of traffic through the Loop.  The above photos show Dearborn Street in 1953, looking south from Hubbard and the same street as it appears today.


November 16, 1892 – With 29 miles of the land for the proposed Sanitary and Ship Canal channel from the Chicago River to within a mile of Lockport under contract, the board of the Chicago Sanitary District considers a motion to appoint a board of consulting engineers to find answers to four pressing issues.  They include:  (1) “the disposal of flood waters from all drainage areas which materially mollify or affect the sanitary condition of the district; (2) the supplemental works and measures within the limits of the Sanitary District best adapted to create a sanitary condition of the same, special reference being had to the exclusion of sewage from the lake and the proper sanitation of the North Branch and tributary territory; (3) the supplemental works and inlets necessary to furnish the main drainage channel with a supply of water from the lake sufficient to fill the requirements of the Sanitary District law in view of the present and probably future population of the district and in view of any incidental and commercial features which may contribute to the best interests of the Sanitary District and the City of Chicago; and (4) the works and treatment needed between the lower end of the Section 14 above Lockport and Lake Joliet to properly dispose of the water brought down by the main channel in addition to the flood water, said works being considered with reference to the ultimate necessity of the General Government constructing a navigable channel throughout the reach connecting with the main channel of the sanitary district and to any incidental commercial advantages which the situation presents.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 17, 1892]  In short, the process of reversing the flow of the Chicago River, a project that will consume eight years, has begun.  The above photo shows the great canal under construction four years later in 1906.


Thursday, November 15, 2018

November 15, 1963 -- Grebe Shipbuilding Company Asked to Consider Moving Down the River



November 15, 1953 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that the city’s commissioner of public works, Virgil E. Gunlock, has asked the Henry C. Grebe shipbuilding company to “consider” [Chicago Daily Tribune, November 15, 1953] moving its yards in his continuing effort to replace bascule bridges on the North Branch of the river with fixed bridges.  The city estimates that moving the company south of the Cortland Street bridge would save $1,650,000 in a program to replace old bridges at Fullerton Avenue and Diversey Parkway with fixed bridges.  Gunlock says, ‘The economy of the fixed bridges might more than offset the cost of moving the Grebe firm.  However the question of compensation from the city to cover the cost of the suggested moving will not be considered until we find out if the company can and would be willing to move.”  In 1952 the Diversey bridge opened 123 times while the Fullerton Avenue bridge was raised 116.  Raising the height of new fixed bridges by five feet – from the 16 feet allowance of the bascule bridges to 21-foot fixed bridges – would allow “most boats which now navigate the river to continue,” according to Gunlock.  According to shipbuildinghistory.com the Henry C. Grebe and Company was the successor to Great Lakes Boat Building, a firm that started in Milwaukee in 1915 and moved to Chicago in 1921.  It occupied over eight acres of land on the North Branch of the Chicago River at Washtenaw Avenue, a site almost directly across from Riverview Park.  Grebe built “large custom yachts for the wealthy of Chicago and across the country.” [blackhawkacbs.com], including three high-speed boats of 46’, 65’ and 94’ for P. K. Wrigley.  The firm stayed put as the city continued to replace bascule bridges on the North Branch with fixed bridges.  Grebe built its last boat in 1970 but continued to service boats at the site until 1970, a site that is now occupied by the Belmont River Club townhomes.  The top photo shows the site as it looked when Henry C. Grebe occupied the land.  The photo below that shows the site as it appears today.


November 15, 1953 – Dedication of the $1 million Edgewood Junior High School is held in Highland Park. Although the school has been open since September, this is the first chance that the public has had to view the facility which was for a number of years the subject of considerable debate in the North Shore community.  A referendum for the school was first approved in 1948, but the Voters League protested the construction of the school at the time, asserting that the student population of School District 108 was not growing as quickly as had been anticipated.  A second referendum was approved in October, 1951 and construction finally kicked off in July of 1952.  With an enrollment of 487 students it is expected that the new school will meet the needs of the expanding Sherwood Forest section as well as other developments in the southern section of the town for the next five years.


November 15, 1931 – Chicago Airport, today’s Midway International Airport, opens in ceremonies held in front of the new $100,000 passenger terminal at Sixty-Second Street and Cicero Avenue.  The head of the Illinois Aeronautics Commission, Reed G. Landis, presents Mayor Anton Cermak with the state’s first state airport license.  Also on hand are M. C. Meigs, the chairman of the Chicago Aero Commission and Walter Wright, the city’s superintendent of parks and aviation, the man who led the construction of the $774,000 airport.  The highlight of the event is the demonstration of in-flight radio as Pilot S. J. Nelson of United Airlines flies over the airport and broadcasts a message that can be heard over the terminal’s public address system.  At the conclusion of the ceremony Mayor Cermak takes his four grandchildren on a plane ride, courtesy of Century Air Lines.


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

November 14, 18677 -- Levi and Leiter Lose Another Store to Flames



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November 14, 1877 – For the third time in its history the great department store of Levi Leiter and Marshall Field burns to the ground. The Chicago Daily Tribune reports on the following day, “The destruction of such an amount of property could not but be regarded as a dire calamity at such a time as this, and so, as the news flew round, people left their firesides, their theatres, their billiard-tables, and everything, to crowd to the scene of action.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, November 15, 1877] In a pouring rain with every fire engine in the city at work, “It seemed as if the entire city had come down-town to witness the terrible scene.”  The first alarm is turned in at 8:04 p.m. after someone sees fire in the fifth story of the building at the corner of State and Washington Streets. Flames are found in a four-foot space at the top of the building that surrounds the central skylight between the north and south elevator shafts.  It does not take long for the fire to spread to the grease on the elevator wheels and pulleys and from there into the elevator shafts themselves, moving downward, floor by floor.  Sixteen minutes after the alarm is turned in, a 2-11 alarm is sounded, but the streams of water from the fire hoses cannot reach the top floor of the building.  Fire fighters are forced to run hoses directly into the interior of the great store, which at its center has an atrium, 40 feet by 90 feet, that extends all the way to the roof.  Hoses are dragged up to the third and fourth floors and from those points of attack “the brave firemen played upon the heat and fury of the fire until either stricken down by falling plaster and rafters, suffocated by the smoke, or driven from their positions by the heat.”  It isn’t until 3:00 a.m. that the fire is finally brought under control, and two fire fighters die in the effort to extinguish the blaze.  By November 18 men are put to work, bracing the fourth floor which looked “as though it might come down at any time like a huge avalanche, and bury in its downward flight any who might be so unfortunate as to be within reach of even its shadow.”  The insurance companies enlist over 200 men in salvage work, and on the sidewalks of State and Washington Streets there began a massive “fortification, made of cords upon cords of cottons, flannels, silks, white goods, mattresses, dress goods, parasols, kid gloves and umbrellas.”  In places the pile reaches six feet high and over 15 feet wide.  The huge mass of goods is carted two blocks to the northern part of the Exposition building on Michigan Avenue, where insurance adjusters estimate that from $175,000 to $200,000 worth of goods might be saved. Two years later Field and Leiter open their fourth store in the same location, and in 1881 Marshall Field buys out Levi Leiter and renames the firm Marshall Field and Company.  The top photo shows the 1868 store that burned in the Great Fire of 1871.  The middle photo shows the store that burned in 1877.  The last photo shows the store that opened in 1879.


November 14, 1964 – The Chicago Tribune reports that the city’s first “skyscraper condominium,” [Chicago Tribune, November 14, 1964] at 339 Barry Avenue is nearly 50 percent sold out.  Jack Hoffman, the president of F & S Construction Company, the developer of the property, says, “Thirty condo homes of the 67 in the building have been sold to date, with families moving in at the rate of two a week.”  The $2.5 million reinforced concrete building’s 26 stories overlook Lincoln Park and Lake Michigan and features units from less than $25,000 for a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment on the third floor to $58,000 for a four-bedroom three-bath unit on the twenty-fifth floor.  Hoffman says, “We find that about half of the owners are fairly young families who previously rented but who now want to build an equity through ownership while the other half are former home owners who want ownership without the bother of keeping up a house.”  That twenty-fifth floor today?  A three-bedroom unit on the floor sold on April 13, 2017 for $715,000.


November 14, 1978 – Architect Harry Weese introduces his $90 million plan for Wolf Point Landings, a development that will fill “a strategic gap in the development of the city.”  [Chicago Tribune, November 15, 1978]  The center of the project will be the renovation of the North American Cold Storage Building with the addition of two new residential structures on a six-acre site just to the north with amenities that include a 40-boat marina, a riverside boardwalk, and a public park.  The plans call for 776 owner-owned residential units in the three buildings with a total of 1,771,000 square feet of living space.  Projected prices for units in the renovated cold storage building are expected to run from $55,000 to $110,000 with a completion date of 1980.  Completion of the two towers, Kinzie Terrace and Wolf Tower, is expected sometime during 1981.  Weese says of the project, “Wolf Point Landings is designed to fill a void, a place where you can walk to work and enjoy the environment.”  Fulton House, as it is known today, is shown in the above photo as it looked in 1976 when it was the North American Cold Storage Warehouse. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018


November 13, 1913 – Unlucky thirteen, maybe … John T. Burke, an undertaker, leads four associates of the late George E. Mendun to the high bridge in Lincoln Park.  Mendun, a bartender when he was still breathing, leaves instructions that he be cremated and “his ashes be dropped from the high bridge in Lincoln park on a moonlit night.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, November 14, 1913] Thomas Creighton, to whom Mendun left his worldly goods, leads the party to the bridge, but as the five men are about to throw the ashes from the bridge, the police pull up.  The party is taken to the Halsted Street station where the police “hunt the law books to see what charge they would prosecute the men on.”  It turns out that there is nothing in the municipal code that would prohibit the act, so the bar tender’s friends return to the bridge for a final fling.  The High Bridge in Lincoln Park, also known as Suicide Bridge, is shown above.  The bridge was taken down in 1919.


November 13, 1998 – Members of the North Halsted Area Street Merchants Association, gay community leaders and city dignitaries come together to celebrate the completion of a project to create an identity for the street through a series of rainbow motif street pylons.  Mayor Richard M. Daley tells a crowd of about 200 people, “This has been a labor of love. I knew from the beginning it was about fairness – fairness to the community.  I am thanking you for what you (the lesbian and gay community) have done for North Halsted Street for many, many years.” [Chicago Tribune, November 15, 1998] After he speaks, the mayor plants a small bush in a concrete planter decorated with shrubs, flowers and a 25-foot-high iron trellis that carries the Roscoe Street name, one of 20 such installations that provide signage for the area.


November 13, 1948 – Nine trucks leave the South Chicago works of the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company, carrying “monsters of steel and copper” [Chicago Tribune, November 14, 1948] to the University of Chicago, where the components of the school’s synchro-cyclotorn will be assembled at Fifty-Sixth Street and Ellis Avenue.  The shipment tips the scales at 300 tons with each of the 14 magnet coils, wound at the New York naval shipyard, measuring 20 feet in diameter.  The stainless steel vacuum chamber is 18 by 17.5 feet with a depth of 26 inches.  The atom smasher came together amazingly fast . . . it was only January 13 that the university placed an order with the Bethlehem Steel Company for the 4,140,000-pound magnet that would form the heart of the machine.  Above, the cyclotron structure awaits its component parts as 1948 comes to a close.

Monday, November 12, 2018

November 12, 1962 -- Wacker Drive Repair Project Announced


November 12, 1962 –The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that a portion of Wacker Drive near Dearborn Street will become a “suspension bridge” [Chicago Daily Tribune, November 12, 1962]for a few weeks as a result of problems encountered during the construction of the new Dearborn Street bridge, problems that caused Wacker drive to sink seven inches. The drive was propped up with huge timbers while the bridge was being built, but with the superstructure of the bridge nearly complete, it is now time to return Wacker to its correct alignment on new permanent supports.  A big problem presents itself, though – how to raise the street while foundation pilings are prepared.  The innovative approach consists of stationing two cranes on the sidewalk east and west of the bridge, dropping cables from the cranes through holes in the roadway, and attaching them to huge I-beam “collars” around two sunken piers that support the road.  The cranes will then lift the road up to the correct height while the bases of the damaged piers are excavated and new caissons prepared for each pier.  The city’s bridge engineer, Stephen J. Michuda, says that the project should cost about $300,000.  During the project the lower level of Wacker Drive will be closed to westbound traffic.  The construction of the Dearborn Street bridge has caused big problems.  The old bridge was removed in 1959, and the construction of the new bridge has been repeatedly delayed, principally because of problems in sinking caissons to support the structure.  The above photo shows the foundation in work for the bridge on either side of the river in the foreground, adjacent to Marina City as it is midway through its rise.  


November 12, 1943 – Plans for the construction of a $2,000,000 bridge over the north branch of the Chicago River at Grand Avenue with a viaduct extending from Orleans to Des Plaines are submitted to the city council subcommittee on motor fuel tax.  Oscar E. Hewitt, the Commissioner of Public Works, says that as part of the project a viaduct will span the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul and Chicago and North Western railroad tracks with a roadway that is 56 feet wide, a plan that will relieve congestion on the approach to the present Grand Avenue bridge, which has a roadway width of only 19 feet.  Hewitt concedes that construction will not begin until after the war is concluded.  It was a good plan, but as is the case with many good plans, it never happened.  The bridge, finished in 1913, still carries traffic and pedestrians across the river.  Volume on the bridge was greatly diminished when the Ohio Street expressway feeder ramp and bascule bridge, a few blocks to the north, was completed n 1961.


November 12, 1932 -- The president of the Chicago Historical Society, Charles B. Pike, dedicates the society’s new building in a ceremony that is “long on dignity but short on oratory.” [Chicago Tribune, November 13, 1932]  Pike says, “We stand here today at the portals of a building expressive of its purpose, ready to open it to the public.  We are looking through the trees of Lincoln park to the waters of Lake Michigan and St. Gauden’s statue of the Great Emancipator . . . Lincoln belongs to the ages.  So also do Columbus and Washington.  Housed in this building are relics of all of them, and many others who influenced the shaping of America’s destinies.”  First in the door is Miss Rhea Zugenbuehler of Maywood who pays a quarter to enter.  Anyone who shows up on Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays will be admitted for free.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

November 11, 1971 -- Loop Fallout Shelters Chosen

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November 11, 1962 –The public information officer of the Chicago District of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Thomas Hicks, says that signs have been posted in 13 Loop buildings that have been designated as fallout shelters.  The buildings include:

• The Chicago Public Library 
• 177 West Lake Street 
• 236 West Lake Street 
• 13 West Wacker Drive 
• 174 Randolph Street 
• 316 West Randolph Street 
• 314 West Washington Street 
• 310 North Michigan Avenue 
• 162 North Franklin Street 
• 160 North Franklin Street 
• 30 North Wells Street 
• 190 North Wells Street 
• 417 South Dearborn Street. 

The buildings will provide enough space for 6,200 people with “basement and upper floor shelter space to reduce radiation effects within the shelter to one-one hundredth of that outside,” according to Hicks. [Chicago Daily Tribune, November 12, 1971] These buildings are the first of 495 Loop buildings and 2,500 buildings in the city that have been selected as fallout shelters. Loop shelters will provide space for 2.3 million people while 4.7 million people could be handled in shelters in the rest of the city.  It is expected that the posting of signs on the shelters will be completed within four months.


November 11, 2005 – Wabash Plaza, the site of one of the nation’s largest Vietnam Veterans memorials outside Washington, D. C., is dedicated.  Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamen writes that the plaza, designed by Chicago architects Carol Ross Barney and John Fried of Ross Barney + Jankowski and assembled using $4.3 million in state and federal funds, “is not only more visible than its predecessor.  It is more stirring, infusing what might have been a mindlessly cheery waterfront park with the potent themes of tragedy and reconciliation.” [Chicago Tribune, November 6, 2005] Kamen sees the memorial as a beginning of a changing future for the river.  “The plaza forms the first link in a chain of waterfront parks and public spaces that may someday stretch along the south bank of the Chicago River,” he writes.  “Mayor Richard M. Daley’s big idea is to turn the riverfront, now a concrete no-man’s-land, into a kind of second lakefront.  He envisions an entire Riverwalk from Michigan Avenue to Lake Street … while hardly faultless, Wabash Plaza makes the right strides toward reaching that heroic end.”  The new memorial replaces a former Vietnam memorial located on Wacker Drive that was dedicated on November 11, 1982.


November 11, 1973 – Chicago Tribune architecture critic Paul Gapp reports on five projects contained in the proposed $15 billion Chicago 21 plan.  The first priority is to alter the Cabrini-Green public housing project and its surrounding area radically enough so that it will “serve as a pilot program for public housing thruout [sic] the city.”   [Chicago Tribune, November 11, 1973]  The second major project involves the construction of a Franklin Street “connector,” running just east of the Chicago River, connecting the Dan Ryan Expressway with the central business district.  Another major focus is the construction of a central area subway, something that would allow the destruction of the Loop elevated system.  Also in the plan is a proposal to create a vast new residential area for 120,000 people just south of the Loop on an unused railroad yard.  Finally, the plan urges the creation of new residential developments in other areas of the city with a special consideration given to residential conversions of downtown office buildings.  The above photo shows Cabrini Green as it existed at the time.  Drive north or south on Halsted or east and west on Division today, and you will see a far different scene.