Friday, October 31, 2014

Chicago River Closed -- October 31, 1925

Stuck.  {Chicago Tribune, November 1, 1925}
The wind is straight out of the north today with gusts close to 50 m.p.h.  I just squeaked through Lake Shore Drive at North Avenue a half-hour ago and the waves were beginning to break over the concrete barriers separating the bike path from the highway.  It looks like it’s going to be an interesting afternoon in the Windy City.  I’m scheduled to give a 3:30 Chicago River tour, and I’m R-E-A-L-L-Y looking forward to that!  I wonder what Nick Wollenda is thinking as he contemplates walking across the river on a tightrope 60-some stories above the river . . .

The wind was straight out of the south on this day, October 31, back in 1925 when the lake freighter Calcite went aground in the river between the upraised Dearborn and Clark Street bridges.  The ship, launched in 1912 and measuring 426 feet long and 54 feet wide, carried 6,000 tons of crushed stone.  When it went aground, it blocked the river as well as all of the street traffic on Dearborn and Clark.

It was another demonstration of the capricious nature of the Chicago River, a river that changed its moods with the winds and the tides.  The wind on the day in question resulted in the depth of the river being lower than it had been In years.  Harbor Master James M. Vandenberg said that if the wind did not change, it would be necessary for the Chicago Sanitary District to shut off the current in the river by closing the locks in Lockport in order to raise the depth of the channel enough to re-float the ship.  [Chicago Tribune, November 1, 1925]

Calcite Wheelhouse 
The Calcite continued working for another 36 years after the incident and way finally broken up for scrap in 1961.  You can still see part of the old freighter, though.  The wheelhouse was saved and is now part of the 40 Mile Point Lighthouse, a county park on the Presque Isle Peninsula of Michigan on the western shore of Lake Huron.

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