Monday, October 31, 2016

October 31, 1935 -- Bridges Open and Chicagoans Wait

October 31, 1935 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that the eight bridges between Michigan Avenue and Franklin Street have opened more times in a nine-month period than they have opened in most twelve-month years.  According to Harbormaster William J. Lynch in the first nine months of 1935 the bridges opened 9,320 times between January 1 and September 30 with the average time a bridge stood open a bit less than four minutes.  It is hard to imagine a situation today in which traffic in the center of the city is completely stopped over two dozen times a day as bridges are raised and lowered.  According to Lynch these eight bridges blocked traffic a total of 546 hours – more than 68 eight-hour days – in the first nine months of the year.  If one looks at all sixteen bridges that cross the river on the north and west side of the Loop, the number of openings came to 15,088 with motorists and pedestrians spending a total of 866 hours waiting for the bridges to do their work.  At the south end of the North Branch of the river the little Kinzie Street bridge was opened 2,424 times in the first nine months of the year.  Alderman William A. Rowan, the chairman of the council committee on harbors, wharves and bridges, reacts to the figures, saying, “The question involved is the convenience of millions of individuals as opposed to the convenience of a relatively few owners of vessels.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 31, 1935]  He estimated that over 70 per cent of the openings of the eight bridges on the main stem of the river occurred to accommodate noncommercial vessels.  The above photo shows the main stem of the river in 1930, looking west from State Street, with the four-year-old Wacker Drive on its south side.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

October 30, 1907 -- Big Meeting in Daniel Burnham's Office

October 30, 1907 – Wouldn’t it have been interesting to be serving the coffee on this day as Mayor Fred Busse, First Ward aldermen Michael Kenna and John Coughlin and a committee from the Commercial Club meet in architect Daniel Burnham’s office atop the Railway Exchange Building on Michigan Avenue.  Two days earlier the city council had passed an ordinance directing the commissioner of public works to gather plans for connecting Beaubein Court on the south side of the river with Pine Street on the north.  The meeting in Burnham’s office is one more step in a process of trying to unite the north and south side boulevard systems that has been dragging on for over 15 years.  After the meeting Clyde M. Carr, chairman of the Commercial Club committee, says, “We have acted and will continue to act as a clearing house for ideas on this subject.  We have not given our support to any one plan, but are anxious to push the first worthy plan that the authorities may decide upon as feasible.  What we are striving to keep in mind is the future – something that will give glory to Chicago for a hundred years to come.  We do not want a makeshift or a compromise.”  It will be another 13 years before the lawsuits are settled, the property acquired, and the great bridge leading Michigan Avenue across the river completed.  Daniel Burnham is pictured above in his office atop the Railway Exchange Building.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

October 29, 1902 -- Drainage Board Commits to Bascule Bridges

October 29, 1902 -- The members of the Drainage Board approve the issuance of $1,000,000 worth of bonds with the money from the sale to be used for the construction of bascule bridges  and for the widening of the river.  The bonds will be payable over a 20 year period and will pay four percent interest.  Board members also approve the purchase of the plant and property of the Norton Milling Company at the Madison Street Bridge for $225,000.  The property will be cleared and used to widen the river at this point.  The original asking price is $400,000, but when the sanitary district threatens to acquire it by condemnation the offer is lowered by $175,000.  With this move the city finally begins to deal with the problems that its antiquated center-pier bridges cause, problems that go back years but which gain special emphasis in January of 1901 when the city engineer refuses to take any further responsibility for nine fragile bridges.  The swing bridge at Madison Street, completed in 1893, is pictured above.  Note the narrowness of the draw on either side of the turntable.  Imagine piloting a boat headed toward the bridge in a strong west wind, and you get some idea of how little margin for error there was in navigating the river in the days before the bascule bridges.

Friday, October 28, 2016

October 28, 1928 -- Rockefeller Chapel Is Dedicated

October 28, 1928 -- With the 1927 winner of the Nobel Prize, Professor Arthur Holly Compton, in the lead, a procession of 300 University of Chicago faculty members in their academic robes lead a procession into the university’s new Rockefeller Chapel for its dedication service.  Last in the procession is the Acting President of the university, Frederic Woodward and John D. Rockefeller, Jr., son of the benefactor who made the construction of the chapel possible.  As the procession enters the church a 150-voice choir sings O God Our Help in Ages Past.  During the service of dedication the Reverend Charles W. Gilkey is installed as Dean of the Chapel.  Gilkey concludes his short address by saying of the chapel, “It must not be a stone rolled from the ancient hillside, while the stream of life of this university goes around it.  It must be a channel through which that stream may flow, giving it new life and force.”   Rockefeller, Jr., on behalf of his father, addresses the assemblage, saying, “True religion means an abiding faith in God and our fellow man.  May this chapel help all who cross its threshold to lay hold upon so priceless a possession.  And may there be centered here a religion of activity and service as well as a religion of contemplation and faith.”   For an in-depth at this special day and the generosity that made it possible, please head here.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

October 27, 1971 -- Plans Announced for Harbor Point

October 27, 1971 – The announcement is made that plans are complete for an 800-unit building that will sit on the lakefront border of the Illinois Center development being created over a former railroad freight yard.  The Chicago architectural firm Solomon, Cordwell and Buenz will design the building and the developers will be the Illinois Center Corporation, a subsidiary of Illinois Central Industries, Inc. and Talman Services Corporation, a subsidiary of Talman Federal Savings & Loan Association.  The residential building, today’s Harbor Point, will benefit from a city plan to reroute Lake Shore Drive so that it will curve around the building’s east side, ensuring that the tower will be more easily accessible, allowing it to stand as an architecturally significant statement on the southeast side of the Illinois Center development.  Harbor Point stands next to the lake to the left in this photo.  Note that the old "S" curve still exists as the new road is being constructed, and running east and west along Wacker Drive are strings of freight cars where today's Lake Shore East stands.