Monday, May 30, 2016
May 30, 1893 – The laying of the cornerstone of the new Memorial Hall on the southwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street takes place under the direction of the Grand Army of the Republic. Both streets are crowded with veterans and ordinary citizens “all anxious to behold the ceremony and listen to the addresses incident upon the formal commencement of the creation of a magnificent structure, which will be a credit to the city and take high rank among the costly edifices already so numerous in Chicago.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 31, 1893] The plot of ground, known as Dearborn Park, was originally part of the southern boundary of Fort Dearborn, part of the “public ground” that extended east to the lake and south to Madison Street. It required a coming together of the Directors of the Chicago Public Library and the Grand Army of the Republic and their joint effort to get a bill through Congress that would allow construction on the land. It took persistence . . . the legislation only passed after three attempts over the course of ten years to get the deal done. In a simple ceremony the flag is run to the top of the flag pole, a band plays the Star Spangled Banner and dozens of artifacts are placed in a copper box that will lie below the cornerstone. Then General E. A. Blodgett, the Commander of the Illinois Grand Army of the Republic, closes the ceremony, saying, “In the name of the soldiers and sailors who have saved our nation we thank you for the honor. We rejoice that our city thus proclaims to the world that patriotic self-sacrifice is not to be forgotten. We trust that our beloved land may never again be deluged in blood. Yet we remember that the perils of peace are scarcely less than the perils of war. The demands for loyalty are as great upon the sons as they were upon the sires. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” The Memorial Hall with its great dome occupies the northern half of what is today the Chicago Cultural Center. The photo above
shows the site at the time with Randolph Street on the right and Washington Boulevard on the left.