Thursday, June 30, 2016

June 30, 1950 -- The Lake Front Airport Gets a Name

June 30, 1950 – The formal dedication of Merrill C. Meigs field takes place on the lakefront.  Although the airport has been open since December 10, 1948, it carried no name.  Speaking from prepared notes, Meigs, who had served as the head of the city’s Aero Commission, said, “When my name was brought up last year before the city council, there were objections that no airport should be named for a living person.  I was honored at the original suggestion but felt that the sacrifice involved—in order to qualify—was too great a price, even for that glory.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 1, 1950]   Special guests were drawn from 30 states—the Flying Farmers of Prairieland and the National Flying Farmers.  It is estimated that 890 of their planes, carrying 2,047 persons, landed at Chicago area airports. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

June 29, 1891 -- Reining in the Cattle Fattener

June 29, 1891 – Chicago’s Health Department files six suits against the establishment of Benzo and Pieper, a livestock fattening concern located at the intersection of Addison Street and the north branch of the river.  Benzo and Pieper, situated on nine acres, is typical of many such enterprises located all along the river.  The Chicago Daily Tribune describes the grounds, “In a long, low shambling shed there are now kept eighty head of steers, though as many as 250 are at times fattened in this one building . . . rows of fattening bullocks, standing ankle deep in filth, bloated through overeating until they can hardly stand, and chained to one spot for five months without being able to take exercise.”  One thing that made this particular company noteworthy was that it held a contract for removing the garbage from “all the principal hotels” in the city with six teamed wagons collecting refuse from the alleys of those establishments.  In front of the cattle shed described earlier stood a building with nine tanks, each holding 45 barrels.  Again from the Tribune’s copy, “The garbage wagons drive alongside these tanks and empty their contents into them.  Water from the river is pumped into the tanks until the mass reaches the required consistency when fires are started underneath and the swill is kept boiling for some ten hours . . . And this is the stuff which goes to put flesh on the lean bones of scraggy steers . .    The article points out the incredible fattening qualities of this concoction by describing one of those scraggy steers, “ . . . so fat, in fact, that its legs could not support its body for any length of time, and in consequence it lay down nearly the whole time, this proving no interference to its eating, as the troughs are so low that they can be reached by the cattle without getting up.”  Such a bull would gain 100 pounds a month during the time it was confined.  August Benzo, one of the owners, “a good-natured German who owns a saloon at Clybourn place and Elston avenue” says that he will fight the cases in court.  The photo above shows the same area as it appears today.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

June 28, 1864 -- The Union Stockyards are Born

June 28, 1864 – The members of the Chicago Packers’ Association agree on four resolutions at a meeting in the Tremont House.  They are as follows:

Resolved, That it is the sense of this association that the various stock yards of this city should be consolidated into one.

Resolved, That said yards should be conducted by a joint stock company, the stock of which should be accessible to all.

Resolved, That the said yards to meet the requirements of the different interests concerned ought to be located near the city limits of the South Division.

Resolved, That a committee of three be appointed to confer with the committee of the Common Council in relation to the sanitary condition of the Chicago river, and that such joint committee examine each and every slaughter, rendering and packing establishment and their relation to the condition of the river.

In this same year of 1864 the Union Stockyards opened on 320 acres of swampland just southwest of the city, land that was purchased for $100,000.  Within five years the area would be incorporated into the city.  On July 20, 1974 the enterprise closed, 110 years after the four resolutions were adopted in the Tremont House on the southeast corner of Lake and Dearborn.

Monday, June 27, 2016

June 27, 1965 -- The RIver Beautiful within a Decade

June 27, 1965 – Ira Bach, the Chicago Plan Commissioner, predicts that the Chicago River in the downtown area will be transformed into “one of the world’s most beautiful waterways in the next 10 years.”  [Chicago Tribune, June 28, 1965]  He only missed the mark by forty years.  “The new Pioneer Court dedicated . . . by the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States and the Tribune company, is the latest exquisite example of how the river bank can be beautified by an unusual development,” Bach said.  “With other major riverbank construction programs on the planning boards, other plazas and landscaped open spaces can be expected to be created along the river in the next decade.”  By the end of this year Bach’s prediction will, for the most part, have come true as the 100 million dollar Riverwalk opens the entire south side of the river from Lake Michigan to Lake Street.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

June 26, 1862 -- Windmills Might End the "Intolerable Stench"

June 26, 1862 – The Chicago Tribune begins yet another editorial about the Chicago River in this way, “It is conceded by all men that something must be done immediately to improve the sanitary condition of the Chicago River.  The good name of our city, the lives of thousands of our citizens, and, its commerce, growth and prosperity imperatively demand immediate and energetic action . . . In its present condition, a week of hot weather will render a block or two on each side of the river uninhabitable.  And, besides what is to become of our vast shipping interest—the men who navigate our tugs and attend to the bridges, and virtually are forced to live during the season amid the intolerable pestilence-breeding stench of the river, and the crews of our propellers, canal boats, and vessels that are obliged to live upon the river from one to three days at a time?  A week of hot weather will drive them from the river, and no man is so stupid as not to know that Chicago is nothing without her commerce.”  The paper has solutions.  Pumps at Bridgeport “can clear it out and, aired by the process and mingled with the water of the DesPlaines it will pass South without inconvenience or offence to any body.”  But the North Branch, with virtually no current, is a different story, and the Tribune has a solution for that as well:  “Place one or half a dozen pumps, if necessary, driven by wind mills on the Lake shore, at or near the north end of the old cemetery, and let the water be discharged in a ditch running due west into the North Branch.  Let the pumps be of the largest size, and such are now used upon our railroads.”   How different North Avenue would be today if instead of its popular beach and nautical-themed boathouse it was the site of a half-dozen windmills, churning away in the Windy City, pumping lake water west to the river.