Thursday, May 31, 2012

Logan Statue Re-Dedication on Memorial Day, 2012

On Monday my daughter, Kristen, an honest-to-goodness member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, went down to Grant Park to join in the re-dedication of the General John A. Logan Monument, located at Ninth Street and Michigan Avenue.

She was happy that she went. 

The ceremony on May 28 (KJB, 2012)
Hosted by The Lawrence Pucci Wedgwood Society of Chicago and the Chicago Cultural Mile Association, the Memorial Day ceremony, as Kristen explained to me, was an appropriate tribute to those whose sacrifices served to give us the country we enjoy today and to General Logan, himself.

General John A. Logan was born in southern Illinois in 1826, the son of a Scot-Irish immigrant who moved to Jackson County in 1824.  At the age of 23, the young man volunteered for the Mexican War and upon his return served as the Prosecuting Attorney of the Third Judiciary District.  By 1852 Logan was elected the Illinois House of Representatives, and six years later he was elected to the United States House of Representatives.

When the Civil War began Representative Logan was in his second House term, but he volunteered to serve and in August of 1861 he began to assemble the Thirty-Firsst Illinois Volunteer Infantry.  In the unit's first major battle, the siege of Fort Donnlson, Logan was shot through the left shoulder, had the wound bandaged, returned to the field, where he was then shot through the right thigh. 

Remarks by Ms. Katy Hall, representing
the Daughters of the American Revolution
(KJB, 2012)
In the battle Logan’s regiment lost 303 of its 606 men, but the victory at Fort Donnelson, secured in large part by the efforts of Logan and the Thirty-First, was the first major Union victory in the war.  General Ulysses S. Grant awarded Logan a battlefield promotion to Brigadier General.

Logan went on to fight at Vicksburg where he was promoted to Major General.  At the Battle of Atlanta, after General McPherson was killed, Logan took command of the Army of the Tennessee.  Riding through his scattered soldiers, he urged his troops to reform their lines as he raised the flag and shouted, “McPherson and revenge boys!” The troops rallied, and Atlanta was captured.  []

After the war, Logan returned to the U. S. House of Representatives as a Republican.  As the Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic (with a membership at its height of over 400,000 Civil War veterans), General Logan issued General Order No. 11 in 1868, which established Decoration Day, the origin of our present-day Memorial Day. 

Re-Dedication of the Logan Statue on
Memorial Day (KJB, 2012)
Logan was elected to the United States Senate twice and in 1884 served as James G. Blaine’s vice-presidential running mate on the Republican ticket.  Senator Logan died suddenly on December 26,1886 in Washington, D. C.  His body lay in state in the United States capital, only the seventh person to receive this honor, and his funeral took place in the Senate chambers.

Logan is one of only three people named in the Illinois state song, the other two being Grant and Abraham Lincoln.  In addition to the equestrian statue in Grant Park, Logan Square on the northwest side of Chicago and Logan Boulevard are named after him. (See Connecting the Windy City blogposts on February 5, 2011 and February 11, 2011—Illinois Centennial Monument at Logan Square—Parts I and II)

More on the statue of General Logan in Grant Park coming right up . . .

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

This morning I rode my bike downtown in order to be at my dentist’s office by 8:30.  On a great-to-be-alive morning I pedaled along Lake Michigan and, as I do almost every day, realized anew why this is such a great city.

Yesterday, Memorial Day, was a hot day in Chicago with the temperature reaching into the upper 90’s, something that rarely happens at this time of the year in the Midwest, and as I rode home on the 151 after narrating the last 90-minute river cruise of the day, it was plenty easy to tell that the beaches had attracted folks in record numbers.  And why not?  A Monday off, newly opened beaches, and the kind of scorching temperatures that have brought Chicagoans to the coolness of the lake since the city was chartered . . . it all came together in a city-with-the-big-shoulders way.

Imagine the amount of trash that the crowds that thronged the beaches from Oak Street north to Fullerton Avenue must have generated yesterday.  Watch the 20-somethings making their way to the beach on a hot day, and take note of what they are carrying with them.  All the stuff in those back packs, rolling coolers, and oversized carryalls has to go somewhere.

By 7:50 this morning as I wheeled along the beach between North Avenue and Fullerton, this is what I saw . . .

Clean!  Tuesday, May 29: 7:50 a.m. The beach at North Avenue (JWB, 2012)
 The entire beach had been cleaned with the tractor that was sifting the sand just finishing up its job. 

A city garbage truck had made it all the way from Oak Street to about a hundred yards past Castaways at North Avenue with just a few more refuse containers to go. 

The folks in the crew who were spearing all of the loose debris along the Lakefront Path had just about reached Fullerton . . . everything from there south to Oak Street was as clean as if Memorial Day Monday had never happened.

How amazing!  Before 8:00 in the morning, the entire lakefront had been swept clean after what might well be one of the biggest beach days of the early summer.

Last weekend as I chatted with tourists who were in town during Chicago’s NATO strike, I must have fielded the same question a dozen times.  In one form or another it went something like this, “Did you guys clean up the city for NATO or is Chicago always this clean?”  How good it felt to be able to answer absolutely honestly that, yes, Chicago makes the extra effort to scrub itself up every day before it goes to work.

Clean!  Tuesday, May 29: 8:20 a.m. Michigan Avenue (JWB, 2012)
This morning, after an uneventful hour in the dentist’s chair, I got on my bike again and rode south to Grant Park, past Buckingham Fountain, down to Roosevelt Road.  Crews were busy planting the flower beds for the new growing season.  The 319 acres of Grant Park, this great gift to the city from generations past was preparing to burst into bloom.

Clean--and Planted! Tuesday, May 29: 10:20 a.m. (JWB, 2012)
And for the second time today I felt the power and beauty of a city that always amazes.  In a pristine park next to a sunlit lake, I looked north toward Randolph Street.  With a train sliding past on the Illinois Central electric line to my right and with the noise of Michigan Avenue traffic to my left, I felt the realness of a city that is, to paraphrase Nelson Algren, the loveliest of lovelies. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Chicago: A Look Back at May 28, 1902

Found on the pages of The Chicago Tribune on May 28 of 1902. . .

The present-day Dearborn Street Bridge, erected in 1963 (
Big trouble in River City on this date in 1902 when the City Engineer declared the Dearborn Street swing bridge across the Chicago River unsafe.  Early in the morning a steamer ran into the bridge abutment, the third boat to strike the bridge in less than a week, and a city diver reported that heavy stones fell out of the abutments beneath the surface of the water every time a team of horses passed over the span.

In and of itself this would not have been a problem.  But the other river bridges were also in trouble.  The State Street bridge was already closed, and now so was the Dearborn Street span.  This sent traffic to the overcrowded Clark Street and Rush Street bridges, with the former “weak in some respects.”

The City Engineer said that if a bulletin were issued, informing citizens about how they could get across the river, it would read:

Rush Street—Usable
State Street—Down
Dearborn Street—Closed to Teams
Clark Street—Good
Wells Street—Just Repaired
Polk Street—Damaged
Twenty-Second Street—Closed to Street Car Travel

On May 27 a steamer struck the Polk Street Bridge, ripping out 20 feet of sidewalk.  After the Wells Street bridge broke down twice in four days, the swing bridge was being operated with the “heaviest machinery ever operated on it.”

Reporting to the Drainage Board, Chicago’s Chief Engineer recommended that the very next bascule bridge erected be the Dearborn Street span.  In his opinion, “The dangerous condition of that bridge rendered it advisable to put in a new one as soon as possible.”

The 1834 Dearborn bridge (
Chicago’s very first movable bridge was constructed at Dearborn street in 1834, three years before the city was chartered.  It was a timber span that provided only a 60-foot opening for ships, a space so tight that the bridge was ordered removed in 1839. []

Records seem to indicate that a second bridge at Dearborn Street was not attempted until the late 1880’s when a deal between Mayor Carter Harrison and Charles Tyson Yerkes moved the old Wells Street bridge east to Dearborn Street when the new Wells Street bridge was constructed. 

Unfortunately, the plan left no provision for bridge approaches, and The Tribune observed in March of 1888, “As a means of crossing the river for anything but a bird or a flying-fish it would be of not nearly so much value as a life-preserver or a plank.  With a wide stretch of dirty water between its abutments and the dock line it would be perched up in the air, entirely inaccessible to even the adventurous small boy.”

1908 Dearborn Street Bridge (
Sometime in 1908 the third Dearborn Street bridge was completed, a Scherzer Rolling Left bascule design.  The Scherzer bridge combined the balanced counterweight of a conventional bascule bridge with a unique rolling lift motion that eliminates most of the friction involved in the process.  It was a huge improvement over the swing bridges that spanned the river because of its compactness and the dependability of its operation.

The existing bridge at Dearborn Street was finished in 1963 and rehabilitated in 2006.  Its main span is 235 feet (71.6 meters) and the width of its roadway is 56 feet (17.1 meters).  On an average day a little more than 15,000 vehicles cross the span. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Chicago, Looking Back: May 24, 1882

Found on the pages of The Chicago Tribune on May 24 of 1882 . . .

Another glimpse into what life must have been like in Chicago in the years just after the fire, this concerning the house of Mr. Frank Alek.  It seems that Mr. Alek contracted with Mr. W. B. R. Stephens to move the house, a common practice, especially at this time of year.

Mr. Stephens got the house as far as the Twenty-sixth street railroad crossing when a Rock Island train came along, struck the house, and “left it looking as though it had entertained a cyclone.”

At this point Mr. Stephens refused to move the house any further until the railroad came up with a settlement to pay for the damages. 

So there the house sat.

Finally, the city brought Mr. Stephens and Mr. Alek before a Justice Wallace on a warrant.  But at the hearing it was determined that there had not been sufficient time between the notification to move the damaged house and the swearing out of the warrant.  The case was dismissed.

Raising of Briggs House Hotel (Wikipedia)
Subsequently, the two men with the wayward house were served with a new warrant and threatened with arrest each day that the building remained where it was.

House movers in Chicago were the best in the country, primarily because of the experience that they gained when, between 1857 and 1877, the city followed a plan hatched by an engineer from Boston, Ellis S. Chesbrough, and raised the street level.  Since the street level in the city at the time was too low to dig sewers that would provide adequate drainage, Chicago raised the grade level of the streets between four and 14 feet.

It was a wild, amazing scheme, but it worked.  In the process, bold men, such as George Pullman, who would become a legend in the city for reasons both admirable and deplorable, acquired invaluable experience in raising and moving structures.  The accounts are nearly unbelievable to us today.

Raising of Lake Street, 1860 (Chicago Historical Society)
In March of 1860 the Chicago Press & Tribune reported, "The entire front of first-class buildings not he north side of Lake Street between LaSalle and Clark Streets is now rising to grade at the rate of about twelve inches per day.  It will be at its full height by tomorrow night, when it will constitute a spectacle not many of our citizens may see again, if ever, a business block covering nearly an acre, and weighing over twenty-five thousand tons resting on six thousand screws, upon which it has made an upward journey of four feet and ten inches."

The six-story Tremont Hotel, occupying nearly an entire city block, was lifted up to the new grade level while it continued to provide rooms to guests.  In 1890 the first Ashland Block, built in 1872, was moved to make way for a second structure with the same name . The original seven-story building was moved from Clark and Randolph streets to the corner of Twelfth Street, now Roosevelt Road, and Michigan Avenue, a distance of nearly two miles.  One small house was moved from Twenty-First Street to Lill Street in Lakeview, a distance of fifty blocks. (Duis, Perry R. Challenging Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1998.)  

That same year, 1890, 1,710 permits were issued for the movement of structures throughout the city.  In that year alone 33,992 linear feet, or 6.4 miles, of building frontage changed locations. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Chicago, Looking Back (May 23, 1872)

Found on the pages of The Chicago Tribune on May 23 of 1872 . . .

Another vignette to demonstrate what Chicago was like just a year after the Great Fire destroyed most of the city.  I quote directly . . .

“An exciting and novel runaway occurred yesterday morning, on East Washington street.  A pair of spirited horses attached to a pie wagon, taking fright at some object on the sidewalk near Clark street, started with the speed of a quarter horse east on Washington street.  The driver jumped from the wagon, shouting at the top of his voice to a small boy inside to stop them.  The youngster pulled at the lines with all his might but to no purpose.  A short distance east of Clark street the wagon collided with another, wrenching off a wheel, throwing the boy out, and scattering pies all round.  The team continued on with the wreck, leaving an occasional pie at irregular intervals, when, at Wabash avenue, the wagon overturned and became a complete wreck, and the horses continued on until their appetites for speed were fully satisfied.  The boy was very badly shocked from his fall.  The driver, who followed the runaways on foot, when he saw the collision, remarked to a man on the sidewalk, ‘Well, that settles it,’ and passed into a neighboring saloon to quaff a pint of cooling beer.’”

Pies all around.  Nice of the driver to let the kid take the reins.

The dash east on Washington Street would have begun opposite the construction site for the new courthouse building and ended opposite the construction site for Levi Leiter’s and Marshall Field’s new store between State and Wabash.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Chicago: A Look Back (May 22, 1862)

Found on the pages of The Chicago Tribune on May 22 of 1862 . . .

The following blurb on Page 4 of the 1862 Tribune effectively characterizes the personality of the city nine years before the Great Fire of 1871 leveled it:

“Since the presentment of the ordinance before the last meeting of the Council, relative to cows, these animals have taken to grazing in the Court House Square.  In addition to the milky mothers, all the dogs of the South Division also make it their rendezvous.  We suggest that they be mildly prevailed upon to skedaddle, unless, as is probably the case, they are Democratic candidates for office, in which case they are bound to remain.”

Courthouse Square as it looked in 1862
Courthouse Square stood where today the Richard J. Daley center stands, bounded by Washington and Randolph Streets to the south and north, and by Clark and Dearborn Streets to the west and east.

Written between 1875 and 1878 newspaper reporter Frederick Francis Cook’s Bygone Days in Chicago describes the square.

“. . . The Court House in those days brooked no rivals.  With its aspiring cupola, it so dominated the town that none could help looking up to it as something superior and apart–being, in fact, the only really tall object in sight, except when ‘Long John’ (John Wentworth, two-term mayor of Chicago in the late 1850’s and 1860’s) took an airing.  If you wanted a hack you went to the Court House Square for it; and it was nearly the same if you were looking for a policeman, for several could generally be found hanging about there to prevent rival hackmen from murdering each other, or a combination of the pestiferous crew from doing a stranger to death, both being not infrequent happenings.”

The Courthouse in flames, October 8, 1871
“In a way, also the Court House was everybody’s monitor and guide.  It told you when to rise, when to eat your dinner, when to knock off work, when to jubilate, when to mourn, and , above all, it helped you to locate fires; for the clang of its great bell could be heard in almost every part of the town.”

“In 1862 the Court House Square was surrounded by an oddly assorted architectural hodgepodge, typical of the various stages of the city’s development, from the primitive ‘frame’ of the thirties, to the new, six-storied marble Sherman House, at this time the finest building in the city, as well as one of the best appointed hotels in the country.”

The designer of the original 1853 Courthouse was John M. Van Osdel, who was born in Baltimore in 1811 and moved to Chicago in 1836.  (The Page Brothers Building at 177-191 north of the Chicago Theater, although significantly altered is a remaining Van Osdel design).  The original Courthouse grew in stages over the years.  Shortly after the building was erected the city added five feet of fill to the square on which the building sat, partly burying the lower most level.  A third floor, along with a cupola, was added with an observation post 120 feet in the air that was accessed by way of a spiral staircase.  This was the fire watchman’s post in the great tinderbox of a city.

The Courthouse Bell, fallen into the basement during the fire.
By the time of the Chicago Fire in 1871 a clock had been added along with a 10,849-pound bronze bell that continued to ring for five hours in the early stages of the fire until it finally fell through the burning building. 

Thanks to the well-researched website The Great Chicago Fire and The Web of Memory for the detail.