Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Look Back at Chicago: May 17, 1921

Found on the pages of The Chicago Tribune . . . this was taking place in Chicago on May 17, 1921 . . .

South Branch straightening (Chicago Historical Society)
A big story in the May 17 Trib was a $270,000,000 proposal to change the face of downtown.  On this date 45 city officials inspected the improvements, some of which had already begun. 

The paper stated, “After interviews with railroad officials and other concerning the Union station project, the lake shore development plan, the straightening of the south branch of the river, and the ‘uncorking of the loop bottle’ by relocating south side railroad terminals,  he consensus among the sightseers was that a settlement of the building trades lockout and a reduction in money rates will result in the biggest public improvement boom in the city’s history.”

The chairman of the Committee on Railroads, Alderman Cermak, along with William F. Lipps of the Railway Terminal Commission, met in the morning to look at an artist’s rendering of what the proposed $10,000,000 “head house” at Union Station would look like.

Union Staion as originally proposed (Chicago Tribune)
“The plans under contemplation call for a sixteen story office building over the station proper,” J. D’Esposito, the chief engineer for the project said.  “The foundations are being laid to accommodate a skyscraper, though it may not be built at once.”

The group, joined by Michael J. Faherty of the Board of Local Improvements and Charles H. Wacker, the Chairman of the Chicago Plan Commission, then toured the lakeshore as far south as Gary, Indiana. 

“When the union station is completed,” Mr. Faherty said as the trip ended, “there will be a rapid development of factories and warehouses southwest of it.  As Clinton, Desplaines, and Jefferson streets are only forty feet wide from Harrison street to Roosevelt road, congestion is sure to result.  The problem of widening these streets to at least eighty feet must be met within the next few years.”

Union Station as it looked in 1925 (Google Images)
The planning for the new Union Station began in 1913 with the original plans drawn by Daniel Burnham’s firm.  The architect died a year earlier, and the plans were finished by Graham, Anderson, Probst and White.  The project took up more than nine city blocks and took more than a decade to finish.  Finally, on May 16, 1925 the great station opened with a significantly shorter office tower than was originally proposed.  

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