Monday, May 5, 2014

Chicago in the Week of May 5 - 11, 1902

Events of the Week of May 5-11 in 1902

May 5:  The tug Leslie is crippled and the schooner Jeanette smashed through on the port bow after a collision with the steamer J. W. Westcott at the Washington Street Bridge.

These days it’s just a bunch of tour boats mixed in with some pleasure boaters with enough kayakers to keep everyone on egg  but back in the early 1900’s time was money, and there was plenty of money to be made on the river.  In a duel that had been heating up since their entrance to the harbor, the Westcott attempted to cut off the Leslie at the Washington Street bridge.  Bad move.  “The Westcott stuck the piles protecting the bridge’s center pier, snapping several of them and sheering across the channel and against the tug.”  [Chicago Tribune, May 6, 1902]  The Jeanette, which was being towed by the Leslie, crashed into the stern of its tug, crushing its stern and breaking its rudder, forcing the crew to seek safety on shore, while the Westcott continued unscathed.  The Jeanette “was badly damaged below the water line.”

Approach to the Washington Street Bridge (Chicago Daily News Archive)
May 5:  An agreement is reached between the Illinois Central Railroad and the city for opening up beaches between Twelfth and Fifty-Sixth Street.

The prospect of bathing beaches for South Side residents looked far more positive as a result of the trip that Illinois Central Railroad officials took between Twelfth and Fifty-First Street on this date.  The party started out from the Illinois Central offices, taking a train to Twenty-Sixth Street.  From there the group walked to Forty-Seventh Street, a trek that prompted the decision to focus attention on the section of lakefront from Forty-Seventh to Fiftieth Street.  The best choice for a bathing beach was at Thirty-Ninth Street, where today there is still an awesome view of downtown Chicago.

39th Street and the Lake without railroad tracks today
(Bronzeville & Hyde Park Real Estate Blog-Chicago)
May 6:  Mayor Carter Harrison offers an opinion that the north end of Michigan Avenue should be lined with small shops.

“There would be millions for any company of men who would gradually buy the property abutting on that part of Michigan avenue, and construct buildings suitable for small stores on the street floor and office or light manufacturing on the upper floors,” Mayor Carter H. Harrison declares.  His comments stemmed from an admission that the city was unable to repair the asphalt path that led from the post office on (the site of today’s Federal Center between Adams and Jackson on the north and south and Dearborn and Clark on the east and west) to the Rush Street Bridge, the “only automobile and bicycle path connecting the South Side park and boulevard system with the Lake Shore drive and Lincoln Park.  “I am sorry to see that path go,” said the Mayor.  “it’s hard to be broke.” [Chicago Tribune, May 7, 1902]

Mayor Carter H. Harrison (Wikipedia)
May 6:  Heirs of the Friedman estate file suit to prevent all further work on the clubhouse of the Chicago Yacht Club.

A bill of complaint is presented before Judge Kohlsaat in an effort to gain an injunction that will compel the officials of the Chicago Yacht Club to remove its three-story frame building, nearing completion, at the foot of Monroe Street.  The suit alleges “that the defendant yacht club has attempted to evade the law by driving piles outside the breakwater, the contention being that this action of the club in effect is as subversive of the law that the Lake Front Park shall be forever free from buildings as if the structure were placed within the harbor.”  [Chicago Tribune, May 6, 1902] The other contention of the suit was that the clubhouse established a precedent and that once it was completed “there would be nothing to prevent other clubs or private individuals from erecting other buildings to the north and south of it, thus shutting off the view of the lake which was guaranteed to the property-owners of the lakefront.”  Attorney H. R. Platt stated, “The view is an absolute right which under the law of the State belongs to the property-owners.”

Looks like the thing got built (
May 7:  The funeral of Potter Palmer takes place.

“With simple ceremonies the remains of Potter Palmer were laid to rest at noon.”  [Chicago Tribune, May 8, 1902]  Outside of the Palmer mansion at 100 Lake Shore Drive (today it’s 1350 where there are a couple of tall residential towers) the street was packed with people.  “None was refused entrance [to the mansion] who could show that he had come through motives other than curiosity.”  The Reverend James S. Stone, Rector of St. James’ Episcopal Church, read the service with a passage taken from the Fifteenth Chapter of Corinthians.  There was no sermon.  Everyone who was in the Potter home was allowed to file past the casket, and the ceremony was finished in less than an hour.  The procession then proceeded north to Graceland Cemetery where attendance was limited to immediate friends and close family.  The honorary pallbearers included:  Marshall Field, Robert T. Lincoln, Carter H. Harrison, J. Ogden Armour. Frank O. Lowden. H. G. Selfridge, James H. Eckels, Cyrus H. McCormick, Watson F. Blair and Otto Gresham.

The resting place of Potter Palmer in Graceland Cemetery (JWB Photo)

May 9:  After the steamer Yakima blocks the south branch for two days the Drainage Board orders every center pier bridge on that branch to be replaced with a bascule bridge.

When the Yakima managed to ground itself at the busiest section of the Chicago River, tempers fired and accusations flew.  The steamer was freed three separate times and managed to ground itself again with each release.  City officials ordered that the lock gates at Lockport be completely closed to provide more depth to the river to facilitate the operation  A Chicago and Northwestern locomotive was even provided to yank on the ship “but its efforts failed, its huge drivers whirling on the track when full steam was used . . .”  [Chicago Tribune, May  10, 1902]  The whole thing had been a fiasco with dozens of elevated trains stranded, traffic on the river at a standstill, and “150 persons . . . imprisoned in the middle of the river.”  It was the straw that broke the river camel’s back, and the Engineering Committee of the Drainage Board ordered that every center pier bridge in the South Branch of the Chicago River was to be replaced by a bascule bridge.  The Chief of Engineers was ordered “to make surveys and prepare plans for bascule bridges at every point on the South Branch for which provision has not already been made, and the Law department was directed to begin condemnation proceedings to acquire the land necessary for the bridges and by-passes.”

The Wells Street swing bridge (Chicago Daily News Archive)

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