Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Kosciusko Statue Rejected -- February 25, 1903

The original Chudzinski Whoopsie (Chicago Tribune, February 26, 1903)
On this date, February 25, in 1903 the Chicago Tribune announced that “the heavy hand of criticism has laid hold of the statue of Kosciusko, the Polish patriot, and yesterday the west park board was informed that the statue would not be a fitting monument to Chicago’s parks.”  [Chicago Tribune, February 25, 1903]

West Parks Commissioner Graham had no idea why the Municipal Art League had turned “thumbs down” on the statue.  “I have no idea what the fault is with the statue,” he said.  “I have not seen the model and, besides, the commissioners are not expected to be experts in art.”

Chicago sculptor Lorado Taft was less than generous in his appraisal of the sculpture by Kasimir Chudzinski, “You cannot begin to criticize it,” he said.  “The whole thing is a weak, cheap effort.  If you start with the horse you will never reach the rider.  It is the effort, apparently, of a man who has made no study of the advancement of art.  It is badly patterned after the snorting charger of fifty years ago.  You entertain such fears that the horse will fall off the pedestal that your eyes do not rise to the man at all.  There isn’t a city in the United States that would allow that stature in its parks.”  [Chicago Tribune, February 26, 1903]

Properly chastened, sculptor Chudzinski went back to work and came up with a new vision of the Polish national hero who fought in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth’s battle with Russia and Prussia before coming to the United States and fighting for the Colonists in the Revolutionary War.  Among other things General George Washington asked Kosciusko to secure and defend West Point against the British. 

A little more heroic, don't you think?  (JWB Photo)
As you can see the second try was far more effective than the first.

On September 12, 1904 a crowd of 50,000 gathered in Humboldt Park as a chorus of one thousand voices sang “Look Down Upon Us from Heaven, Kosciusko” at the statue’s dedication ceremony. 

Mr. M. A. La Buy, president of the Kosciusko Monument association that collected the $30,000 for the statue, spoke, observing that “The Kosciusko Monument association, in handing down the figure of the general to future ages. desires to teach our children and our grandchildren that their patriotism and love for America should soar high above their ambition.  Let us illustrate our beautiful history of the United States by building monuments to its patriots.  As the European oppression, despotism, and tyranny increase day by day, so our love and esteem for our American heroes should increase daily.”  [Chicago Tribune, September 12, 1904]

The plaque on Solidarity Drive (JWB Photo)
Seventy years later violence and arson had risen to epidemic levels in Humboldt Park.  In 1979 the Tribune headlined one article on the community by calling the area a “Community without Dreams.”  It was in that year that the Chicago Park District, aided by the Polish Roman Catholic Union, the Polish Women’s Alliance, and the Polish National Alliance, restored the statue and moved it to its present location on Solidarity Drive, about halfway between Lake Shore Drive and the Shedd Aquarium.

At the dedication ceremony back in 1904 Senator Albert G. Hopkins said, “When [Kosciusko] was born there was not one free government in Europe.  Across the seas the American colonies were fighting for something that Europe had yearned for during centuries.  It was Kosciusko’s chance, and he accepted it.”

And Chicago, fortunately, chose to honor the Polish national hero despite the initial false start.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Chicago Stockyards and Women -- February 22, 1902

In the middle of February, 1902 Adolph Strasser, who had been one of the five men to organize the convention of 1886 that would lead to the formation of the American Federation of Labor, made the mistake of pointing out that women were taking the jobs of men in the making of cigars.  “Women are entering the shops and factories from every side and taking the places of men,” he said.  “They have no conception of the trials they are bringing on their brothers and fathers by their willingness to accept positions of all kinds.”  [Chicago Tribune, February 21, 1902]

Mary McDowell
On February 20 Miss Mary McDowell of the University of Chicago Settlement made her res[pmse in an address before the Woman’s Union Label league at the Masonic Temple building.  She pointed out that on the city’s southwest side women were taking the places of men at the great stockyards of the city.  “They are entering the packing-houses by the score, and with each who enters a man is forced out.  They are doing everything except the killing.  Strange as it may seem, they are wielding the knife, and with great dexterity.”

On the following day he Chicago Tribune verified that assertion.  “Between 5,000 and 6,000 women and girls are on the pay rolls of the various Stock-Yards houses,” the Tribune reported.  “They form 75 percent of the employees of the canning factories.”

In a trip through the packing plant of Libby, McNeill & Libby females were found who were more than willing to respond to the brouhaha.  “Jennie Laughan said, “Like my work?  Sure I do.  The pay beats that of my sister down on State street all hollow.  Why, I was off two days of last week and still made $9.  Don’t think for a minute that I am going to give up this job to any man.  Cutting him out?  Sure I am, but what’s the dif’?  I would like to tell Miss McDowell a few things.   [Chicago Tribune, February 22, 1902]

In Laughan’s family her father made $15.00 a week, her brother $12.00, her sister $6.00 and young Jennie made $10.00, almost a quarter of the family’s income.  “Suppose my sister and me were to live at home and not make a cent?  We would be loose in the pocket $16 a week, and that goes a big ways,” she said.  “My father’s in the yards, and so is my brother.  I ain’t cut them out of no job.”

Women at Libby, McNeill & Libby trimming sausage meat, 1902
Chicago Tribune Photo
The Treasurer of the Libby, McNeill & Libby, Edward Tilden, was effusive in his praise for the girls and women working for the company.  “Such work is better done by girls than by men, and we always have had them do it.  We are proud of our plant and proud of our girls.  They are all contented and draw good wages.  They dress well and have money, and you will not be able to find one that agrees with Miss McDowell.”

The source of disagreement with Miss McDowell’s remarks came about as a reaction against her assertion that before long women and girls would be working jobs that were actually involved with the slaughter of the animals themselves.

An official at Swift’s vehemently denied the assertion.  “Nonsense!  This is a packing-house and we employ girls.  We have them handle our sewing machines.  They pack butterine and they are in the sausage department.  They draw good wages and do well.  One has but to see the slaughter pen to realize that Miss McDowell is wrong.  Even the killing of chickens will never be in the hands of women.”

The source of disagreement with Miss McDowell’s remarks was a reaction against her assertion that before long women and girls would be working jobs that were actually involved with the slaughter of the animals themselves.

Stockyard Workers in 1918
Chicago Daily News Photo Archives
n official at Swift’s vehemently denied the assertion.  “Nonsense!  This is a packing-house and we employ girls.  We have them handle our sewing machines.  They pack butterine and they are in the sausage department.  They draw good wages and do well.  One has but to see the slaughter pen to realize that Miss McDowell is wrong.  Even the killing of chickens will never be in the hands of women.”

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Garrick, Birth and Death -- February 21, 1950

The Schiller Theater in 1895 -- Note the Masonic
Temple Building in background (Ryerson-Burnham Archives)
On September 29, 1892 a grand new theater opened in Chicago, a playhouse dedicated exclusively to German drama and opera.  It was called the Schiller, the masterpiece of architects Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan, with an auditorium that seated 1,300 people and an accompanying office tower.  The Chicago Tribune described the new playhouse as “the Auditorium on a small scale, but even more striking in magnificence of decorative detail.”  [Chicago Tribune, September 30, 1892] 

As Mendelssohn’s Fest Song to the Artists faded away on that evening, influential German newspaperman A. C. Heising rose to give an address in which he stressed the importance of the new theater to Chicagoans of German origin. 

During that address Heising stated, “According to all human calculation this structure will outlast us all.  We owe thanks to the precautions taken by the builders, Messrs. Adler & Sullivan, that it cannot be shaken in its foundation, even should danger arise from either right or left.  The foundation is strong, and mighty stone walls supported by steel posts and beams from the building which must resist the ravages of the strongest elements, no post nor column hems the view nor disturbs those moments in which we often wish to forget that we are in a confined or space or inclosure.”

Over half a century later it seemed as if Heising’s words were prophetic.  In fact on this day, February 21, in 1950 The Tribune ran an editorial in which it praised the decision of the Balaban & Katz corporation, an entity that owned over 50 theaters in Chicago, to remodel and enlarge the theater, which had been called the Garrick since the turn of the century.

“There is a moral in this,” wrote the paper.  “and it reads as follows: When you build a building, it pays to hire a good architect.  The architect of the Garrick was Louis Sullivan.  It was not his best job by long odds, but it has been good enough to survive for nearly 60 years and apparently it is going to stand for a long time to come.”

Well . . . that depends on how one defines “a long time to come.”

On its way out in 1961 (UrbanRemainsChicago)
The grand old theater was razed in 1961 and replaced with an eight-story parking garage.  As the process unfolded a 15-year-old sophomore at Notre Dame High School, Robert M. O’Connell, wrote a letter to The Tribune decrying the destruction of the Garrick.

“The Greeks fought for tradition at Thermopylae,” he wrote.  “The men of 1776 rebelled for the right to possess, and build on tradition.  And we in Chicagoland replace heritage, custom, and tradition with parking lots.”   [Chicago Tribune, March 5, 1961]

That summed it up pretty well, and the Garrick’s death and the outcry that it provoked forced the citizens of Chicago and its overseers to develop a new attitude toward the heritage that the city’s older buildings represented.  One could say that the preservation effort in Chicago began on Randolph Street in 1961. 

We lost a great cultural palace designed by one of Chicago’s greatest and most influential architects.  But the city gained a conscience.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Chicago Peristyle Turned into Road Fill -- February 20, 1953

The Contemporary Wrigley Square Peristyle
Chicagoans speeding along Lake Shore Drive at Foster Avenue might be surprised to know that beneath the roadway lie the ruins of a signature piece of Chicago’s lakefront, designed by the same guy who co-wrote the Chicago Plan of 1909, drew the plans for the bridge across the river on Michigan Avenue, and gave the city the plans for the unbelievable Buckingham Fountain.

It was on this day, February 20, of 1953 that the Speedway Wrecking Company took 55 minutes to demolish the Edward H. Bennett-designed peristyle at Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street to make room for construction of the Grant Park garage.  The debris was trucked north and used as fill for the north section of Lake Shore Drive.

Back in the Day
The peristyle that Bennett designed was in keeping with Daniel Burnham’s concept of the lakefront park as Chicago’s grand garden, designed in the classical tradition.  Unfortunately, the 1917 design was executed in concrete, so enduring steamy summers and icy winters while standing on the edge of a railroad freight yard was more than the monument could stand, and by 1953 it was beyond saving.

When the plans for Millennium Park were drawn up in the late 1990’s, the brilliant idea of replacing the peristyle became part of the plan.  David Dillon and Michael Patrick Sullivan of OWP&P used the original drawings from the Chicago Park District’s archive to re-envision the monument.  The 24 columns that make up today’s peristyle are the same height as the original peristyle’s columns.  The diameter of the monument was reduced slightly, from 100 to 80 feet, in order to accommodate an accessible ramp that runs behind the structure.  Constructed of Indiana limestone, it should stand the test of time.
The Peristyle Under Construction in 1916
The William Wrigley, Jr. Foundation contributed the five million dollars it took to recreate the peristyle.  The pedestal on which it stands holds the names of 115 financial donors who made contributions of at least one million dollars toward the completion of Millennium Park.   

There are two unique features of the modern peristyle that many passers-by overlook.  The brass spout of the fountain in front of the monument was cast from a mold of a terra cotta finial that stands atop the Wrigley Building three blocks to the north.  And if you follow the outermost columns up to the top of the colonnade, you can find Chicago’s ubiquitous “Y” symbol in the corners.

How About that Sneaky "Y" Symbol?  (JWB Photo)
Curiously enough the northwest corner of Michigan and Randolph, the loation of the original peristyle and the site where that monument was rebuilt, was the place where the team that would eventually become the Chicago Cubs first played baseball.

The team has yet to be rebuilt.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

O'Hare Field Rocket Fired at Girls' School -- February 19, 1954

I know a lot of schools are closed up tight today because of the cold weather, but back in 1954 on this date, February 19, everything was wide-open.  Back when annihilation of the human race, except for the Danes, Swedes and Norwegians, was on everyone’s mind, one Des Plaines school, St. Patrick’s Academy, was the scene of what was perhaps one of the biggest “oopsies” in Chicago history.

It sure could have been a lot worse.

Here is what the lead paragraph in the Chicago Tribune story said, “A loaded combat rocket from an F86-D jet airplane parked at O’Hare field was discharged accidentally yesterday afternoon, soared a mile and a half, and crashed into the foundation of St. Patrick’s academy in Touhy av. between Mannheim rd. and Lee st., Des Plaines.  Windows were shattered but no one was injured.

Can you imagine?

Des Plaines Police Chief John Wigham and Sgt. Amasa Kennicott
look at damage foundation of St. Patrick's Academy (Chicago Tribune Photo)
Poor Lieutenant Frederick Ludesking was the public information officer on duty at O’Hare that day.  He speculated that the rocket could have been accidentally launched by static electricity or “stray voltage from a radar transmitter.”

No one was near the plane when the rocket ignited.  It shot across the field, hit a concrete ramp, and ricocheted upward.  Ordinarily, said the lieutenant, “the rocket would have buried itself in the ground within the limits of the field.”

Instead, though, the three- to four-foot long projectile exploded on contact when it reached the foundation of St. Patrick’s.  The acting director of the school, Sister Gabrielle, said the explosion sounded “like an atom bomb.”

Every window on the first three floors of the east side of the school was shattered, and the blast, which blew a hole two feet wide and a foot deep at the base of the building’s foundation, even broke an inside door leading to the school’s cafeteria.

There were 400 souls inside the school at 2:30 p.m. when the rocket exploded.  Fortunately, no classroom on the first two floors of the building’s east side was occupied.  “The girls were excited by the explosion,” said Sister Gabrielle, “but they calmed down quickly, and everybody finished the remaining class period of the day.”

Now THAT is a well-disciplined student body.  

Oh dear, oh dear . . . yes, yes, yes, young ladies, a rocket just exploded on the east side of the building, blowing out all of the windows, but let’s just finish this last period, shall we?  Quick, quick, now girls.  Education awaits!

The path of the rocket from O'Hare to St. Patrick's
Chicago Tribune Photo
Lieutenant Ludesking, in public relations for a reason, directed everyone to look at the bright side.  The rocket used against the school was for use against other aircraft and was only 2.75 inches in diameter.  “Air to ground rockets, on the other hand,” he observed, “are five inches in diameter and carry a much larger warhead.”

Well, thank goodness.

In October of 1873 the great educator Horace Mann said, “Education is our only political safety. Outside of this ark all is deluge.”  Perhaps those good girls who went back into their classrooms and finished the day back in 1954 found this to be the most important lesson of their school careers.  

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Montgomery Ward & the Lakefront: The Battle Continues -- February 18, 1903

The Field Museum of Natural History -- south of Grant Park
JWB Photo
At the conclusion of a meeting of the South Park Board of Chicago on this date, February 18, in 1903 the news was that the city was to receive a ”mammoth lake front museum” through a gift of ten million dollars from Marshall Field – with just one big “if.”

In order to secure the donation Field required that an act be passed “giving control of all the Lake Front park to the South park commissioners.”  [Chicago Tribune, February 19, 1903]

The wheels were already turning as the south park board and “citizens interested in the improvement of the lake front park” were pressuring the legislature to pass an act that transferred the portion of the park north of the Art Institute, a tract of land that was under state control, to the park commissioners and “to vest all the park rights with the park commissioners and to remove the obstacles which property owners at present may put in the way of buildings on the lake front – such obstacles as Montgomery Ward has set up in the past.”

H. N. Higinbotham, Marshall Field’s representative in the affair, stated, “What we want is a centralization of control in the park board . . . There are no obstacles which cannot be removed, an when they have been removed it will be time for consideration of a museum plan.  Then, if Mr. Field wants to build a museum, it will be possible.”

The plan was to fill in the lake east of the Illinois Central tracks, followed by the construction of a building that would “eclipse anything of the kind ever undertaken in the city.”

Aaron Montgomery Ward
A day later the obstacle to the ambitious plan presented itself in the form of Aaron Montgomery Ward.  His attorney, George P. Merrick, stated, “This much coveted strip of land is reserved for park purposes for all time to come.  It is for the people, and will be kept free from buildings.  Signatures of a majority of the abutting property owners will not open the way for the erection of buildings.  Every owner must consent before a building can be constructed lawfully on any part of the street.  Mr. Ward is not actuated by any other motive than to preserve the tract of land as a public park.”  [Chicago Tribune, February 20, 1903]

in the preceding June the Illinois Supreme Court, in Bliss vs. Ward, affirmed the 1839 plat for this area of Chicago, part of the Fort Dearborn addition, which read “Public ground forever to remain vacant of buildings.”  Litigation concerning that section of the city, known as Lake Park in 1903, much of which was under water when the 1839 plat was drawn, would last another six years until it was finally determined that the museum could not legally be built on this section of lakefront property.

Grant Park in 1910, a year after its future was secure
Ward would only live on another four years after that decision, having worked in one way or another to preserve the city’s central lakefront for the better part of two decades.  When in 1909 the case was finally decided and the fight to save the lakefront park had been won, Ward declared, “Had I known in 1890 how long it would take me to preserve a park for the people against their will, I doubt if I would have undertaken it. I think there is not another man in Chicago who would have spent the money I have spent in this fight with the certainty that even gratitude would be denied as interest. I fought for the poor people of Chicago, not the millionaires... Perhaps I may yet see the public appreciate my efforts.”

We appreciate those efforts today, Mr. Ward.