Thursday, March 31, 2016
March 31, 1890 -- The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that "The Accountant," a painting by Rembrandt van Rijn, will remain in Chicago on display at the Art Institute. The treasure comes by way of Chicago oil man P. C. Hanford, who purchased the painting, valued at the time at $60,000. "I did not want to see it go away from Chicago," said Hanford. "I was waiting for some of our rich people to buy it -- one of the men who could spend the money and not feel it. I am not rich, but I love art. I waited till the last moment. We are going to have a World's Fair here and anything that we can get hold of in the way of art we ought to keep here." [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 31, 1890] You won't find the painting at the Art Institute today. Mr. Hanford sold the work on January 31, 1902 for £4,600 or a little over $22,000.
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
March 30, 1945 -- Frank Lloyd Wright addresses the Chicago Chapter of the American Institute of Architects at the Casino Club. He talks at length about "the philosophy of organic architecture" [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 31, 1945] and makes this observation when asked about the future of cities, "Cities are just as dated as static and the radio. Americans just want to live. Cities are not important. The reality of buildings consists of space within -- to live in. The old period of putting the outside in -- is gone." The photo above was taken in 1945, the year of the Casino Club address.
Tuesday, March 29, 2016
March 29, 1917 -- The Chicago City Council receives the design for a city flag, designed by Wallace Rice, and submitted by the Chicago Flag Commission. The commission describes the flag in this way: "Its uppermost stripe, of white, is eight inches broad; the second stripe of blue is nine inches; the central bar, of white is eighteen inches, and the two lower stripes correspond with the uppermost two. Near the staff on the broad white stripe are two six pointed red stars, fourteen inches tall. Viewed locally, the two blue stripes symbolize the Chicago river with its two branches and the three white bars represent the three sides of the city. The red stars stand for the Chicago fire and the World's fair [of 1893], two great influences on the city's history. The six points in the first star stand for transportation, trade, finance, industry, populousness, and healthfulness; those in the second for religion, education, aesthetics, beneficence, justice and civism. Considered nationally the blue stripes stand for the mountain ranges which flank the plain of which Chicago is the center. The central white bar stands for this plain and the two outer white bars for the Atlantic and Pacific coasts." [Chicago Tribune, March 30, 1917]. Two stars have been added to the flag since this first attempt. One corresponds to the establishment of Fort Dearborn in 1807; it was added in 1939. Added in 1933 the final star symbolizes the Century of Progress World's Fair, held on the lakefront in the summers of 1933 and 1934.
Monday, March 28, 2016
March 28, 1943 -- Chicago officially becomes a city with a subway when at 3:18 p.m.a three-car train leaves the elevated tracks south of Arrmitage Avenue and enters the Cloybourn-Diviision-State Street tube, today's Red Line. The train carries newspaper reporters and about 150 employees of the subway department. Operating the train is Charles Blade of 1127 Newport Avenue, an elevated lines motorman for 29 years. Since Blade had never seen the inside of a subway, an electrical engineer, C. J. Beck, stood at his shoulder. Although Chicago's first subway would not officially open for another six months, this trip and another one on April 2, 1943, shown in the photo above, were made just in time for the re-election campaign of Mayor Ed. Kelly, According to the Chicago Daily Tribune, "Women standing in their backyards waved as the train dipped into the ground. Kids lined the railings. A passenger shouted for a bottle of champagne to christen the subway but only a cask of drinking water had been brought along."
Sunday, March 27, 2016
March 27, 1935 -- Officials of the Electro-Motive Company, a subsidiary of General Motors Corporation, break ground for a new plant in McCook, at which diesel-electric locomotives will be produced. H. L. Hamilton, the president of the company, says, 'This new industry created by the railroads' demand for high speeds is as strange to us as it is to Chicago . . . we are planning in such a way that we can add to the plant as we get experience in the new art of building locomotives with diesel-electric power plants." Just west of Chicago, McCook, with a population of under 400, makes a particularly attractive choice for the locomotive manufacturer. First, it is close to the Indiana Harbor Belt line tracks, so getting raw materials in and finished locomotives out will be fairly easy. Secondly, the area has a bed of Niagara limestone just below the surface, an excellent foundation for the heavy fabricating equipment of the new production facility. In 1938 the first road freight is tested on an 83,764 mile, 11-month run. The test shows that the new locomotive can do twice the work of a steam engine at half the cost. With Chicago's ever more stringent ordinances against smoke pollution (the first such legislation went back at least to 1909), the new plant in McCook was profitable from the beginning. It stopped producing locomotives in 1991 when operations were transferred to London, Ontario. Pictured above is demonstrator FT103, the innovation that changed an industry.
Saturday, March 26, 2016
March 26, 1867 -- Dwight Heald Perkins is born in Memphis, Tennessee. If a Chicago architect -- if an architect anywhere -- has been more forgotten by history, it is this guy. So skilled that he was asked to serve as an instructor at M.I.T. after only two years as a student, he returned to Chicago in 1888 and went to work with Burnham & Root in February of 1889. After the conclusion of the 1893 fair Daniel Burnham was forced to downsize the office and regretfully part with Perkins. But he gave him the commission to design the Steinway Building, a gesture that says much about both men. It was in Perkins's offices in the Steinway building that Frank Lloyd Wright came to work after parting with Louis Sullivan as did a number of other architects who came to prominence in the following decades. The Chicagoland area would be a far different place today if it were not for Perkins. He co-wrote the 1905 Metropolitan Parks Report, a document that began a campaign for planned open space, set aside from development, a report that preceded the great Chicago Plan of 1909 by four years. It was also in 1905 that he was named Chief Architect for the Chicago Board of Education, a post he occupied for five years. In those five years he designed 40 school buildings. If in an entire career an architect could design one building as beautiful as Carl Schurz High School at Milwaukee and Addison, pictured above, he or she could end that career assured of having made an incalculable contribution.
Friday, March 25, 2016
March 25, 1931 -- Golfers in Chicago get a new course to play on as the new Lincoln Park golf course, begun the preceding April, opens for play. Beginning in 1929 the city trucked in tons of soil, dumping it in the lake to create 71 acres and a new nine-hole golf course. The original intent was to create an 18-hole course, but a lack of funding led to scaling back the project. Two million dollars later, Waveband Golf Course ran from Diversey Boulevard on the south to Montrose Harbor on the north. In 1991 it was renamed for a former commissioner of the the Park District Board, Sydney Marovitz. Note: Most sources list the official opening of the course as June 15, 1932. That was the date on which the English Gothic style clubhouse and clock tower, designed by Edwin H. Clark, pictured below, were dedicated.
Thursday, March 24, 2016
March 24, 1949 -- Satchel Paige, at the age of 43, starts his first game of the 1949 season as the Cleveland Indians, with Lou Boudreau as a player-manager, meet the Chicago Cubs in a spring training game in Los Angeles. After a 1948 season that saw the oldest man ever to play major league baseball in contention for post-season honors, the 1949 season would be a disappointment as Paige would go 4-7 even though he managed a 3.04 earned run average. Bill Veeck would give Paige an unconditional release at the conclusion of the season, but he would play four more years and be named to the American League All-Star team in 1952 and 1953
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
March 22, 1955 -- The federal government awards a $507,765 contract for reconstructing the Congress Street arcade through the Chicago post office in a move that will permit extension of the west side expressway through the building and across the river on a new bridge by the fall of 1956. Pathman Construction Company is the successful bidder. The city will pick up another $600,000 of the project. Since 1952 the federal government has spent another 8 million dollars altering the post office building so that it can accommodate the new expressway, The post office can barely be seen in the center of the photo above as the area east of the building waits for the construction of what today is the Congress Expressway.
Monday, March 21, 2016
March 21, 1867 -- Before a packed Coliseum crowd Professor R. D. Hamilton holds forth, providing instruction in the taming of horses. The venue is so crowded that the doors are ordered closed to prevent the place from being overcrowded. At the end of the lecture a grocer, one Mr. Minogue, brings a bay horse "which proved to be a vicious brute" [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 22, 1867], apparently hoping that the good professor could perform his magic on the beast. Before anything could be accomplished, though, the horse "sprang wildly" into the packed crowd. "A scream of terror rose from every part of the house, and this had the effect of still further maddening the infuriated animal, who struggled and pranced form one circle of seats to another among the thickest of the spectators, till he reached nearly to the roof of the circus." At that point the flooring gave way above a series of lion's cages and horse and spectators disappeared.. Predictably, someone cried, "The lions are loose," and terror reigned. "There were a few women among the audience, and, of course, they all fainted . . . what became of the horse no one knew for a while; but it appears he had succeeded in chasing the buffalo loose . . ." Before long the doors were opened, and the members of the audience were free. Soon after that Professor Hamilton sought out the "irrepressible horse" and "in a brief space of time the wild horse was as tame and peaceful as a lamb." All in a day's work in pre-fire Chicago.
Sunday, March 20, 2016
March 20, 1948 -- Marshall Field and Co. opens its restaurant in the passenger terminal building of Chicago Airport, now Midway International Airport. On the evening before the opening Mayor Martin Kennelly is the guest of honor in the new dining room, named the Cloud Room, a 3,600 square foot dining salon that overlooks the landing field of the new airport. Field's paid $90,000 to build out the second floor of the restaurant and $260,000 to equip it. The company agrees to pay the city $2,596 or five percent of its gross business and 40 percent of its net profit.
Saturday, March 19, 2016
March 19, 1928 -- The Morrison Hotel, the first building outside of New York to rise more than 40 stories, is selected by Mayor William Hale Thompson's Radio Commission as the building on which the "Lindbergh Light" will be placed. The hotel agrees to pay for the cost of the 200 foot tower on which the light will sit and assume the responsibility for its maintenance. In 1927 Mr. Elmer G. Sperry,President of the Sperry Gyroscope Company, offered the beacon, which will be seen for 250 miles, providing that Chicago find a way to mount and maintain it. GREAT NEWS! But it didn't work out. A competition began between two great beacons, one proposed for the Roanoke Building on La Salle Street and Mr. Sperry's Lindbergh Light. In the end a stationary beam was placed on the brand new La Salle-Wacker Building and the Lindbergh Light ended up at the top of the Palmolive Building, completed in 1929. It turns out that Elmer Sperry never saw his controversial beacon. He died two months before it cast its first beam into the Chicago night. The hotel was demolished in 1965 to make way for the new First National Bank of Chicago building, now Chase, at Clark and Madison.
Friday, March 18, 2016
March 18, 1895 -- Twenty paintings by Claude Monet are placed on display at the Art Institute of Chicago. They are described by The Chicago Daily Tribune as "much more rational than those of his followers and imitators. They form an interesting showing of the rapid noting of illusive appearances in nature upon which the fame of the painter rests." Monet had been painting since 1856 and had completed his "Grain Stacks" series, a kind of visual manifesto for Impressionism in 1890. He had painted his series of Rouen Cathedral in 1892 through 1894. It would be interesting to know what 20 paintings went on display in the new building that the Art Institute had occupied for two years.
Thursday, March 17, 2016
March 17, 1921 -- Dr. Frank W. Gunsaulus dies at his home at 2919 Prairie Avenue at the age of 66. J. Ogden Armour, who gave generously to fund the Armour Institute, over which Dr. Gunsaulus presided for its first 27 years, said of the man, "His life was one of achievement; his success lay in helping others to help themselves . . . No one associated, as I have been all my life, with such a lovable character could be other than bowed down with grief at his untimely passing." Gunsaulus came to Chicago in 1887 as a Methodist minister and quickly became a civic leader of the first degree. His sermons and lectures constantly reminded the members of the city's elite of their responsibility toward the poor and uneducated. His philosophy led directly to the establishment of the Armour Institute of Technology, a trade school for the practical arts and sciences, endowed by Phillip Armour and nurtured by his son. He was the author of 15 books and was a key figure in pushing Chicago as the site of the 1893 World's Fair, His commitment to art and culture prompted railroad equipment tycoon William Miner to donate $50,000 to the Art Institute for new galleries on condition that that addition be named for Dr. Gunsaulus. Gunsaulus Hall, of course, spans the railroad tracks, as it connects the original institute to the eastern campus on Columbus Drive.
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
March 16, 1937 -- Workmen begin driving 1,600 piles that will form a coffer dam a third of a mile east of the outer drive bridge. Ultimately 32,000 tons of concrete will rest on the piles, serving as support for the steel gates that will lie at the east west end of the lock intended to control the flow of water from Lake Michigan into the Chicago River. The work comes as a result of a 1930 U. S. Supreme Court decision that ordered installation of such a lock with a deadline of December 31, 1938. Today an estimated 50,000 vessels and 900,000 passengers go through the lock each year. It is one of two entrances to the Illinois Waterway system from the Great Lakes. The other is the Thomas J. O'Brien lock on the Calumet River.
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
March 15, 1954 -- The Chicago Sanitary District announces that it will build a four-story office building on the site of the former Cyrus Hall McCormick mansion on the northeast corner of Rush and Erie Streets. The property, for which the district pays $212,000, is the site of an 1870's mansion that the "reaper king," Cyrus Hall McCormick built and which was later occupied by his son, Harold McCormick, who served as the head of International Harvester until his death.
Monday, March 14, 2016
March 14, 1981-- 19 people died and 14 others, including two policemen, are injured in an extra-alarm fire at the Royal Beach Hotel at 5523 North Kenmore Avenue in the city's Edgewater neighborhood. Inoperable smoke detectors and doors that were not rated as fireproof led to the large loss of life in a fire that apparently began in the building's laundry room which also doubled as a storeroom and spread rapidly from that location up an rear stairway, trapping victims in their rooms. The fire began at some time before 3:00 a.m., and when electricity failed residents, many of whom were patients in local drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs, were left to find a way out through thick black smoke. The search for bodies began after the fire was struck at about 5:30 a.m. Said one firefighter, "Every time I opened a door, I found another body. We were to be relieved at 8 a.m., but at 7:30 I had to get out of there. I couldn't stand it anymore." [Chicago Tribune, March 15, 1981]
Sunday, March 13, 2016
March 13, 1969 -- The Standard Oil Company of Indiana selects the Perkins & Will Partnership and Edward Durell Stone as the architectural firms for its planned headquarters building at Randolph Street and Stetson Drive. The new building will replace the company's offices at South Michigan Avenue and East Ninth Street. When completed in 1974 the new headquarters will be the tallest building in the city, the fourth tallest in the world, and the tallest building in the world to be completely clad in marble. Each of those 43,000 panels of Carrara marble will subsequently cost over $1,800 to replace.
Saturday, March 12, 2016
March 12, 1849 -- A year after the Illinois and Michigan Canal joined the Chicago River to the Illinois River, an event occurred that must have caused some questioning of the wisdom of that engineering feat. It had been a snowy winter, followed by a rapid thaw and three days of rain. The interior of Illinois was waterlogged, and the rivers and streams were over their banks. At about 10:00 a.m. a massive ice dam on the south branch of the Chicago River gives way with results that are devastating. There are at least 90 vessels of various sizes on the river, and most are swept from their moorings and pushed toward the lake. As the mass of ice, water, and entangled ships swept along, a small boy is crushed to death at the Randolph Street bridge. A little girl meets death as a ship's mast falls into a group of onlookers. Late in the afternoon a man is spotted waving a handkerchief form a canal boat about ten miles offshore, but there are no undamaged boats to send to his rescue. 40 vessels are completely wrecked, a dozen float free on the lake, the lock at Bridgeport is totally destroyed, and not a single bridge is left spanning the river. Three weeks later cholera breaks out and before the year is out, 678 Chicagoans will die from the disease.
Friday, March 11, 2016
March 11, 1969 -- Close to 700 people, including the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago, John Cardinal Cody, come together at the Highland Park Country Club to celebrate the one-hundredth anniversary of the town's founding. Lieutenant General Vernon Mock, the Fifth Army Commander, is also a guest of honor. When the members of the Stupey family arrived from Germany and in 1847 built the log cabin pictured above, they could not have imagined the North Shore town of over 30,000 souls that exists today.
Thursday, March 10, 2016
March 10, 1913 -- The South Shore Country Club closes its membership, announcing that new members will only be accepted in the event of a death or resignation. This leaves the club, founded in 1905, with 1,027 members and 200 perpetual members. Club members also vote unanimously to improve the facility, designed by Benjamin Henry Marshall and Charles Eli Fox, recommending a $500,000 bond issue to pay for an updated facility, which was completed in 1916 in a Mediterranean Modern style. This is the building that is today the South Shore Cultural Center, the exterior of which served as the site of the Palace Hotel Ballroom in the 1980 Blues Brothers movie.
Wednesday, March 9, 2016
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
March 8, 1952 -- Students of the Navy Pier branch of the University of Illinois start a mile-long petition for a state-operated four-year college in Chicago at a dance and rally at the pier. M. L. Berenbaum, president of the parents' organization at the pier, signs the petition after Representative Paul Randolph, who promises legislation to establish a four-year branch of the state university. Berenbaum says that nine out of ten students at the pier live at home and work part time in Chicago and that many of those cannot afford to leave the city to continue their education after they complete the two-year course of study at the pier.
Monday, March 7, 2016
March 7, 1972 -- Eleven persons are hurt when a 150-foot metal scaffold falls from the top of the Old Stock Exchange Building at 30 North La Salle Street, carrying bricks and pieces of wood with it. Two cars are buried as debris are scattered over a 200-foot stretch of La Salle Street between Madison and Washington. Fire Commissioner Robert Quinn blames the falling debris on strong wind gusts that caught part of the tarpaulin at the top of the building and blew the scaffolding and bricks off the east wall, which had been demolished to the ninth floor. "It was a miracle that the whole wall didn't go down," Quinn said. "That tarpaulin acted just like a sail in the wind." The building's demolition, which came after a protracted battle to make it a city landmark, removed what was arguably the greatest achievement of architect Louis Sullivan. Its death cry on this day in March of 1972 was heard, and a new attitude toward preservation was born and is alive and well today. The photo above shows the building not long after the accident occurred.
Sunday, March 6, 2016
March 6, 1884 -- The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad Company has filed suit in United States Circuit Court, seeking to prevent the Chicago & Evanston Railroad from entering the city by building a bridge over the north branch of the river. The C and NW claims that building such a bridge will require the crossing of C & NW tracks at grade, significantly impacting that railroad's entry into the city at Wells Street. The numbers the railroad cites as part of the suit are significant, especially when one looks at the lonely upraised bridge at Kinzie Street today. he C & NW used the bridge, according to the suit, an average of once every four minutes each day, and carried 111 passenger trains, 15,000 passengers, and 750 freight cars with an average tonnage of 7,200 tons. The upraised bridge and weed-covered tracks, pictured above, on the north side of Fulton House are the only reminders today of this whirlwind of steam, smoke, and clatter.
Saturday, March 5, 2016
March 5, 1862 -- The Chicago Daily Tribune editorializes about the nearly intolerable condition of the Chicago River, observing that "A walk across Rush street, Madison street or Polk street bridges will work conviction of the trouble upon the happy possessor of the obtusest of noses." The paper finds that between Fullerton and Chicago Avenues over 4,000 head of cattle are being "stall-fattened," and that "The entire drainage of these sheds . . . pours directly into the river." In the three miles from Bridgeport to Madison Street the paper found "no less than seventeen packing houses . . . the aggregate number of animals slaughtered on or near the river's banks whose blood swells the crimson tide, is not less than five thousand per day." In conclusion, the editorial states, "There have been, since October last, poured into the river the blood and entrails of more than eighty thousand head of fat cattle and of four hundred thousand hogs, besides the sewage and the winter's refuse of a hundred and twenty thousand well fed people. Let us not wonder, when this conduit of corruption is leaking out its contents into the lake, that when the wind is right, the water is abominable. Rather let us account it a mercy that it is no worse."
Friday, March 4, 2016
March 4, 1953 -- Demolition begins on the mansion once occupied by Harold and Edith Rockefeller McCormick, a once-grand residence at the corner of Oak Street and Bellevue Place. Edith McCormick was the fourth daughter of John D. Rockefeller, who in 1895 married Henry Fowler McCormick, the son of the mechanical reaper magnate, Cyrus McCormick. She divorced him in 1926 and spent much of her last years in the 41-room mansion on Lake Shore Drive until she died in 1932. She is buried in Graceland Cemetery. The photos above show the mansion as it was and the residential tower that replaced it -- what is now One Thousand Plaza.
Thursday, March 3, 2016
March 3, 1926 -- Three men die, leaving behind three widows and four young daughters, as an Illinois Central passenger train runs against a red signal and collides with a Michigan Central fast freight. M. C. Tobin, the engineer of the I. C. train, is blamed for the wreck. A. E. Cliff, senior vice-president of the I. C., says, "The route through the interlocking plant [at 67th Street] was set 'proceed' for the Michigan Central train and at 'stop' for the Illinois Central suburban train. The interlocking plant was in proper working order, as confirmed by complete inspection and test following the accident." The family of Thomas A Groggier, the train's fireman who died in the crash, is pictured above.
Wednesday, March 2, 2016
March 2, 1900 -- Just two months after the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, the massive project that was to solve all of the city's sewage problems is opened, marine insurance men and the managers of the city's tug boat lines make a trip up the river, concluding that unless something radical is done the river will not be navigable if any current is running in it. One participant observed, "With a current I do not see how traffic of big boats can be carried on at all. The boats will be driven away from Chicago. It is not a discrimination against marine men, for they have plenty to do elsewhere, but it will injure shipping interests." As if to prove the point the schooner Armenia grounded itself on the Washington Street tunnel that afternoon.
Tuesday, March 1, 2016
March 1, 1872 -- The stockholders of the former Chicago White Stockings Baseball Club meet at Brewster's Hat Store on State Street near Twentieth Street to hear a report on how the earnings from the previous year will be divided among the players. The books for the club were lost in the Great Fire of 1871, which also brought about the demise of the club as the city struggled to rebuild. The White Stockings played their first professional game on April 29, 1870, beating the Louisville Unions, 47-1. Their name played off the popularity of the first successful professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings. The White Stockings were in contention throughout that 1871 season, and in September were tied for first with the Philadelphia Athletics. Then in October the fire destroyed the team's ballpark, clubhouse and uniforms. In borrowed uniforms the team finished the season just two games out of first place. A new White Stockings team with no connection to the first one was formed in 1874, and that team was the progenitor of today's Chicago Cubs.