Saturday, January 30, 2016

January 31, 1911 -- Home Insurance Building Sold

January 31, 1911 -- The Home Insurance Company building at the corner of La Salle and Adams Streets is sold for $2,150,000. James and Charles Deering purchase the property. Their father, William, had founded the Deering Harvester Company, and the family hit the jackpot when financier J. P. Morgan purchased the firm and merged it with the McCormick Reaper Company and several other farm implement manufacturers to create what we know today as International Harvester. The Home Insurance Building, designed by William LeBaron Jenney and completed in 1884, is considered by many to be the world's first metal-framed skyscraper. It was the tallest building in the world for seven years. It's gone now. It was demolished in 1931 to make way for the magnificent Art Deco skyscraper at 135 South La Salle.

January 30, 1941 -- State Street Merchants Face Challenges

January 30, 1941 -- Randall H. Cooper, executive secretary of the State Street council, asserts that redevelopment of Chicago's "blighted areas" is a necessity and that the Loop is "faced with more problems than ever before in its history." The continuing flight of families to the suburbs and the resulting loss of tax and business revenue had the merchants feeling blue. They would get bluer. The 1947 photo above was taken at Wells and Madison.

Friday, January 29, 2016

January 29, 1911 -- Washington Boulevard Tunnel Opened

January 29, 1911 -- A new tunnel is opened that carries Washington Boulevard under the Chicago River, the second tunnel at this location. The first one was opened in 1869, but an act of congress in 1904 declared it an "unreasonable obstruction to free navigation," and the Secretary of War ordered its removal. Because the roof of the old tunnel was less than 17 feet below the surface of the river, vessels were constantly grounding themselves on it, obstructing river traffic in a narrow channel that was filled with ships heading to the lumber yards and grain silos to the south. When the river was reversed in 1900, the river had even less depth which prompted the action of congress four years later. The new tunnel lay 27 feet below the surface and extended for 1,520 feet. The tunnel was still used by streetcars in the early 1950's, but the portals were filled in during the 1960's and a tunnel at Washington Street ceased to exist after close to a hundred years of service.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

January 28, 1901 -- Elevator Trouble at the YWCA

January 28, 1901 -- WARNING . . . This one is not for the faint of heart, but it does demonstrate that in the days before O.S.H.A. danger was constantly lurking and peril was always at hand. It happened that Dr. B. L. Reise was administering vaccinations to women at the Young Woman's Christian Association Building on Michigan Avenue. Miss Stella Thomas of Burlington, Iowa, seeing that she would have to wait for some time because of the length of line, headed for her room. There is speculation that the sight of the injections was disquieting to her, and as the elevator approached the fifth floor, Miss Thomas fainted and fell to the floor of the car in such a way that her head extended through the grate of the elevator's door and was caught between the bottom of the elevator car and the lower portion of the fifth floor. Miss Thomas, who had come to Chicago just hree weeks earlier to enter the Sherwood Musical College in the Fine Arts Building, died within minutes. The second building from the middle left (next to the mansion on the corner) in the 1901 photo above is the YWCA building where the accident occurred.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

January 27, 1901 -- Chicago Wolves Just about Gone

January 27, 1901 -- The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that there are only five wolves left within Chicago's limits where once there were thousands. When the great herds of bison on the Great Plains were slaughtered almost to extinction, the wolves that depended on them suffered as well, often turning to the herds of domestic cattle for sustenance. That, of course, only hastened their already tenuous existence as they were hunted ruthlessly with a good gray hide bringing $5 or more. "In America," the paper wrote, "no one renews the game supply and evybody seeks to destroy, blindly, selfishly, unreasoningly . . . There is no other country of equal enlightenment with this which allows its wild game, the property of the whole people, to be stolen for the individual profit of a few." The 1903 photo above shows one of the five wolves in Chicago on display at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

January 26, 1865 -- Ralph Waldo Emerson Lectures on Education in Chicago

January 26, 1865 -- Ralph Waldo Emerson gives a lecture, entitled "Education," at Unity Church, the second of six that he will give in Chicago. The Chicago Daily Tribune described Emerson as "a plain unaffected gentleman, [who] speaks with marked emphasis and with the utmost propriety, without gesture, and looks more like an educated well to do farmer than the highly cultivated scholarly lecturer."

Monday, January 25, 2016

January 25, 1925 -- Road Congestion Takes Its Toll in Lincoln Park

January 25, 1925 -- The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that because the roads through Lincoln Park are the only practical way of getting from the Loop to the residential sections of the city north of North Avenue, the park, originally designed for leisurely carriage rides, is dealing with 5,000 cars per hour passing through it. That volume comes at a cost. In 1924 there are 1,420 cars damaged in accidents with 499 people injured. The photo above shows Lake Shore Drive in the 1920's, looking north from Oak Street. At the end of the road is Lincoln Park, where things got really congested at North Avenue.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

January 24, 1913 -- Bubbly Creek Agreement Is Reached

January 24, 1913 -- At a joint meeting of Chicago Sanitary District officials, aldermen, and representatives of the meat packing companies on the southwest side of the city, agreement was reached to discontinue the use of Bubbly Creek as a drain for the sewage of the stockyards. The attorney for the district said, "The policy of the district always has been that the disposal of the industrial waste in the yards is an individual one for industries there. They can't have their waste discharged into Bubbly creek and from there into the Chicago river or into the canal." It was, of course, too little and too late. The damage had already been done. The unfortunate body of water begins at what once was the northern boundary of the massive Union Stockyards just north of Pershing Road about halfway between Ashland and Racine and flowed north into the Chicago River. According to a 2011 article in The Chicago Tribune when scientists studied the waterway in 2004 they found "fibrous material" on the river bottom up to three feet thick. You can define "fibrous material" any way you want, but however you define it, it ain't good. It's still there, and it's still a-bubbling.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

January 23, 1949 -- Joseph Fujikawa Named Best New Talent

January 23, 1949 -- The first place winner in a nation-wide architectural competition for new talent sponsored by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City is Joseph Y. Fujikawa of Chicago. Mr. Fujikawa was born in Los Angeles and began his college career in a five-year program in architecture at the University of Southern California. That was interrupted when World War iI began, and he was interred in a "relocation center" in Colorado. After three months there he managed to get into the Illinois Institute of Technology, at which Mies van der Rohe was the director of the School of Architecture. His time at I.I.T. was also interrupted by an 18-month stint in the Army, and Fujikawa graduated in 1944. His career really began with Mies's first residential building in Chicago at Promontory Point. Perhaps his two most noteworthy designs in Chicago are the Ralph Metcalfe Federal Office Building across Jackson Boulevard from the Federal Center and the former Mercantile Exchange towers at 10 and 30 South Wacker Drive, the north tower of which is pictured above. Fujikawa died in Winnetka on the last day of 2004.

Friday, January 22, 2016

January 22, 1954 -- Illinois Center, A Beginning

January 22, 1954 -- The Chicago City Council Finance Committee votes to allocate $950,000 from motor fuel tax funds for construction of a steel viaduct extending Lake Street eastward across Michigan Avenue to Beaubien Court. At that point the viaduct would turn south to Randolph Street, passing along the west side of the Prudential building, which was under construction. A new viaduct might not sound like a big deal, but that piece of infrastructure, along with Prudential, were the first steps in converting the massive railroad yards, extending from the river south to Randolph and from Michigan Avenue to the lake, into what is today's Illinois Center. The grainy photo above, taken over ten years later, shows a portion of the viaduct, the "L" shaped roadway in the lower left corner of the photo. Randolph Street is the long horizontal roadway at the bottom of the picture with the river winding through the photo's middle. Just below the river, where the second long train shed from the left stands, is the location of today's Hyatt Regency Chicago on Wacker Drive.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

January 21, 1963 -- Final Run for the Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee

January 21, 1963 -- Both the inbound and outbound Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee trains are delayed as they begin their last runs. Engineer William Livings, with 50 people onboard, operated the final train into Roosevelt Station on the electric line that began as a Milwaukee street railroad in 1891. 170 people rode on the six cars of the last train north, the majority of them sailors returning to the Great Lakes Naval base. The line had operated at a deficit for over half of its existence, but the combination of new superhighways and the increase in commuting by car spelled the end for the little electric line. For more on the railroad visit…/chicago-look-back-a…

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

January 20, 1909 -- Crib Fire off Seventy-First Street

January 20, 1909 -- Over 50 laborers perish in the intermediate crib of the George W. Jackson tunnel building company, 1.5 miles from the Chicago shore at Seventy-First Street as it is engulfed in fire. There were only a few windows in the structure, which served as a base in the tunnel building effort to supply the south side of the city with fresh water. Men fought one another to jump into the freezing lake waters in order to escape the flames. Survivors said some men even jumped down the 180-foot shaft connecting the crib with the tunnel under construction. Some made for shore; one man with one eye dangling from its socket was rescued clinging to an aerial tramway connecting the crib to shore. The tug T. T. Mumford, tied up at Sixty-Eighth Street, made for the scene as quickly as it could in the ice-coverted lake, arriving to find naked men, awoken from their sleep, clinging to ice floes and shouting for help from the water. The tug managed to pick up over 40 survivors, dropping the less grievously injured off at the Sixty-Eighth Street crib before continuing to shore with the most severe cases. In the meantime fireboats had arrived to find the crib totally ablaze. As the day wore on it was clear the death toll would be high. Not a single body that was recovered was identifiable. 45 victims were buried in Mount Greenwood Cemetery.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

January 19, 2010 -- The Carp Are Coming . . . or Not

January 19, 2010 -- Researchers report that for the first time DNA of Asian carp has been found in Lake Michigan. The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies quickly moved to allay fears about the invasive species spawning on the balconies of River North high rises, saying that there was still no evidence that live carp had entered the lake. Army Corps Major General John Peabody said, "The fact is that we don't know where the fish are. DNA tells us there is a presence in those areas and we've got to begin looking at whether we are getting false positives or negatives so we know what we're dealing with." Hours before the announcement the U. S. Supreme Court refused to address the carp issue, rejecting Michigan's request for an injunction that would force Illinois to stop any sources of water that might flow into Lake Michigan.

Monday, January 18, 2016

January 18, 1945 -- Agreement is Reached on Midway Airport Terminal

January 18, 1945 -- Agreement is reached between Chicago and airline officials in a plan to build a new terminal building at the city airport, today's Midway International Airport. Scaled way back from what once was proposed as an elaborate $1,750,000 terminal, the new proposal called for a building about 1,400 feet long, costing $470,000. The airlines agreed to bear the cost of the new building, along with loading areas, taxiways, and parking places, getting the city to repay the investment by remitting the cost of landing fees over a period of 10 years. The city architect, Paul Gerhardt, Jr., would design the building. Each of the 8 airlines using the airport agreed to rent space at $2 a foot, and a share of the cost of construction would be assessed each air line based on the ratio of its scheduled flights.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

January 17, 1903 -- George "Cap" Streeter Convicted of Manslaughter

January 17, 1903 -- Judge Arthur Chetlain sentences George Wellington "Cap" Streeter to an indeterminate term in the penitentiary at Joliet for manslaughter for the killing of John S. Kirk on February 11, 1902 in the "District of Lake Michigan." The dead man had been a watchman for Henry W. Cooper, whom lakefront property owners had engaged to protect their interests on the north side of the river near Oak Street. "Cap" Streeter was not personally connected to the scene where the killing occurred; he was held responsible because testimony indicated that he had told the occupants of the district that if anyone "came fooling' around" to shoot him. After being found guilty in December 3, 1892, Streeter said, ""They found us guilty but it only goes to show that when a lot of millionaires get together and got the help of the state the liberty of a man ain't safe. This whole thing is a scheme." The captain and his missus pictured above.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

January 16, 1945 -- General Clark Hotel Fire

January 16, 1945 -- In one of the worst fires to hit Chicago in a quarter-century 14 people are killed and 8 injured in a fire at the General Clark Hotel, 217 N. Clark Street. The night manager of the hotel said that 76 people were registered when the fire started just after midnight. It was brought under control three hours later, after 3 people had jumped into firemen's nets and a dozen others were rescued by ladders.

Friday, January 15, 2016

January 15, 1954 -- City Purchases the Reid-Murdoch Building

January 15, 1954 -- The Chicago city council authorizes the purchase of the Reid-Murdoch building at 325 N. State Street in order to consolidate traffic courts and the police traffic division. The matter had been pending since November 3 when voters authorized a 4 million dollar bond issue for acquiring the building and remodeling it. More on the history of the Reid-Murdoch building can be found here:…/reid-murdoch-buildi… and here:…/reid-murdoch-buildi…

Thursday, January 14, 2016

January 14, 1927 -- Chicago Makes a Case for Continued Lake Diversion

January 14, 1927 -- The report of George M. Wisner's testimony before Charles Evans Hughes, Special Master of the United States Supreme Court, is printed. Eisner, the consulting engineer for the Chicago sanitary district, attempted to answer the demands of Wisconsin and five other Great Lakes states seeking an injunction that stopped water diversion from Lake Michigan into the Chicago River. Eisner recounted what life in Chicago was like before the river was flushed with lake water. He said, "The Chicago river was a pest hole of typhoid and intestinal disease germs . . . It was a big septic tank festering on the bottom and sending upwards dangerous poisonous gases. The crust of filth sometimes became so thick that a chicken could walk across the river. At other times the crust caught fire." To avoid a return to those days, Wisner asserted that a maximum of 10,000 cubic feet of lake water per second was needed to cleanse the river. Chicago lost the battle when the Supreme Court decreed on April 21, 1930 that the diversion of lake water be gradually reduced to a 1,500 cubic feet per second rate by December 31, 1938. The photo above pictures the river as it looked about the time Wisner offered his testimony.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

January 13, 1941 -- I. I. T. Development Program Begins

January 13, 1941 -- In a meeting of 100 civic and industrial leaders at the Chicago Club, the inauguration of a $3 million development program by the Illinois Institute of Technology is announced. With an enrollment of 7,000 students, the largest engineering school in the country had been formed just six months earlier with the merger of Lewis Institute of Arts and Sciences with the Armour Institute. At the gathering Wilfred Sykes of Inland Steel made it clear that the city's continuing development depended on its having a great engineering school, saying, "Over 20,000 engineers are employed in the Chicago industrial area. The increase in the rate of employment of engineers in Chicago exceeds that of any other city in the United States, and the number of engineers in Chicago in comparison to the total number of industrial workers exceeds that of any other city."

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

January 12, 1924 -- Field Museum Completed

January 12, 1924 -- D. C. Davies, director of the Field Museum of Natural History for ten years, announces that the museum's new building has been completed. The original four million dollar gift of Marshall Field had, with interest, grown to $6,300,000 which was somewhat less than the cost of the seven million dollar building south of Grant Park. The shortage was made up with donations from some of the wealthiest members of Chicago society -- Captain Marshall Field, Stanley Field, N. W. Harris, James Simpson, and Edward E. Ayer. The architectural firm that designed the beaux arts building on the lakefront, Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, also made a contribution. More than a quarter-century after it was first proposed, after years of political wrangling over its location, the museum was finally complete.

Monday, January 11, 2016

January 11, 1901 -- Ft. Sheridan Ends Liquor Sales

January 11, 1901 -- Colonel Mott Hooten (you HAVE to love the name), the commanding officer at Fort Sheridan, speaking of recent congressional action ordering all canteens on military bases closed, says: "The abolishment of the canteen will . . . open the way for the post trader again, I fear, and the repetition of an experience of the most unsatisfactory character." The profits of the post canteen, which served beer, had equipped a gymnasium, furnished a library, and provided billiard tables and athletic equipment for soldiers at the fort with the added benefit of keeping everyone using the canteen under the watchful eyes of military authorities. In the adjoining town of Highwood, eight saloonkeepers rejoiced at the news while the town's citizens waited nervously for what was to come. One resident, the wife of a retired officer, said, "Soldiers will drink, whether there is liquor sold at a garrison or not. If they can't get beer at the post they will walk miles to buy whisky if necessary."

Sunday, January 10, 2016

January 10, 1951 -- Nathaniel Owings Resigns from Plan Commission

January 10, 1951 -- Claiming that he had "important architect-engineer projects involving the national defense" and, with a year still remaining in his tenure as the chairman of Chicago's Plan Commission, Nathaniel A. Owings submits his letter of resignation. The decision came 48 hours before a city council committee was to deliberate over a resolution demanding that the principal in Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill be forced to step down because of contracts the firm had obtained for the design of the 100-acre, 1,870-unit public housing site that came to be known as Lake Meadows.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

January 9, 1978 -- Harry Caray Gets a New Deal

January 9, 1978 -- Harry Caray agrees to return to his post as the radio and television announcer for an eighth season with the Chicago White Sox after threatening to take a hike unless he was given a substantial pay raise. The Chicago Tribune quoted Caray as saying, "Let's face it -- until last season the Sox were a depressed product. They were in deep financial trouble. I went along without any raise primarily because of Bill Veeck. I was committed to helping him turn the club into a success. Now I think I should start making some money . . . If Brickhouse is making 150 grand, why should I make so much less?"

Friday, January 8, 2016

January 8, 1980 -- Sherman House Hotel Rides into the Sunset

January 8, 1980 - It is reported that the Illinois Appellate Court in Chicago has upheld the city's acquisition of the Sherman House Hotel under eminent domain rights. Citing the argument that only eight percent of the building's commercial space was being utilized, the court found that the city's intent "to rid the Loop of a blighted area" was valid. The city had previously agreed to pay the Teamsters' Union Pension Fund $11.2 million for the property. Chicago subsequently gave the block on which the hotel stood to the state on which the James Thompson Center was competed five years later. For a history of the Sherman House see…/down-they-forgot-as…

Thursday, January 7, 2016

January 7, 1929 -- Lake Shore Drive Bridge Gets Closer

January 7, 1929 -- With the application for the necessary construction permits pending in the war department, the U. S. Senate and the House of Representatives pass identical bills granting consent to the Lincoln and South Park Boards to build an outer drive link bridge at the mouth of the Chicago RIver. It would be close to a decade before the Lake Shore Drive bridge would be completed, but the process had begun. Look just to the left of the west end of Navy Pier in the photo below and you can see what the shoreline at the mouth of the river looked like before the Roosevelt Bridge was completed in 1938.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

January 6, 1972 -- Losing Millions over Public Housing

January 6, 1972 -- George Vavoulis, the regional commissioner for the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, tells Mayor Richard Daley that Chicago will lose $20 million in federal urban renewal funds because of the city's failure to provide more low-income-housing. This sum came on top of $26 million that had been frozen three months earlier because the City Council had failed to approve enough public housing sites in white neighborhoods.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

January 5, 1910-- Montgomery Ward: The Last Battle Begins

January 5, 1910 -- Basing its action on an Illinois legislative act of 1903 that gave park boards the right to condemn easements as a matter of public necessity, the South Park Board decides to file a petition to condemn the easement of A. Montgomery Ward and permit the erection of the $8,000,000 Field Museum at the foot of Congress Street along with the Crear Library. This would be the last battle in the long fight between Ward and the city. Grant Park would survive unsullied; Ward would be dead less than three years later. The photo below shows the land over which the battle was being waged at the time.

Monday, January 4, 2016

January 4, 1913 -- Change Is Coming

January 4, 1913 -- Two big events that would have major consequences in the way Chicago moved through the twentieth century. First, U. S. Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson approves the double-deck bridge on Michigan Avenue that would furnish a boulevard link between the north and south sides of the city. (See Photo for what the area looked like in 1915, five years before the bridge was completed.) AND Circuit Court Judge Lockwood Honoré enters an order confirming agreements that would give the city the riparian property between 53rd Street and 55th Street, leaving only two small tracts between Grant Park and Jackson Park to which the public had no clear title. Ride along this route on a bright, sunny summer's day and think about how huge this was.