Sunday, July 31, 2016

July 31, 1922 -- Massive Explosion on the South Side



July 31, 1922:  The city is thrown into turmoil as a storage tank of the Peoples Gas Light and Coke Company collapses and explodes at West Twenty-Fifth and Throop Streets, injuring a hundred people, severely burning the majority of them.  Since the location sits on the bank of the Chicago River with a neighborhood close by, most of the injured are teamsters, pedestrians, or children playing in the area.  The tank, which was 180 feet high and 180 feet in diameter, contained 4,000,000 cubic feet of illuminating gas.  The tank collapses at about 12:30 in the afternoon with the Chicago Daily Tribune describing the scene in this way, “Wild scenes followed immediately.  Men, women, and children attacked by the weird flames ran screaming.  Some threw themselves flat on the ground.  Others flung their clothing over their faces and hands in frantic efforts to escape the fire.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 1, 1922]  The chief engineer for the company, J. H. Eustace, says that there was no explosion, adding, “In fifty years of experience in gas manufacturing I have never heard of anything like this . . . In some way the crown of the tank was ruptured, and gas, escaping in great quantities, ignited.  What caused the rupture is a mystery; and what would ignite escaping gas from the top of a holder high in the air is equally a mystery.”

Saturday, July 30, 2016

July 30, 1967 -- Picasso Reactions Mixed as Dedication Draws Near



July 30, 1967:  As the dedication ceremonies draw near for Chicago’s Picasso statue, the Chicago Tribune prints comments about the artist’s gift from a variety of sources.  William E. Hartmann, an architect for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the man most responsible for bringing the sculpture to Chicago, says, “Chicago Picasso has an excellent sound.  The two words have the same number of syllables, and they represent an affinity for two strong spirits.  Bud Holland, an art gallery owner, states, “I refuse to comment on a work I haven’t seen, but even if I hate it, I’m going to love it.  I think the idea of a major work by someone of Picasso’s stature standing in such a public position is so exciting that it’s going to raise the level of public sculpture not only in Chicago but in the entire nation.”   James Brown, IV, a trustee of one of the group’s underwriting the cost of the Picasso, says, “There will come a time when we can’t imagine anything else being in the plaza except the Chicago Picasso because it is so appropriate to the site and backdrop.”   Alderman John J. Hoellen, pretty clearly not a big fan, says, “The statue represents the power of city hall, stark, ugly, overpowering, frightening . . . They could take this monster to Lincoln park, where it would be in close proximity to the Chicago zoo.  Incidentally, the rib cage on the thing offers a very fine roosting place for pigeons.”

Friday, July 29, 2016

July 29, 1936 -- The Sinking of the Material Service



July 29, 1936:  The motor ship Material Service sinks early in the morning a mile north of the lighthouse at Eighty-Sixth Street as she is caught in an open-water gale for which she was not designed.  Although seven members of the crew are rescued, Captain C. D. Brown and 15 other crewmembers die.  First Mate John M. Johnson says upon his rescue, “We were going along as usual when suddenly the vessel listed to port.  Then it came back on an even keel, but immediately began to sink.  We had the usual complement of lifeboats, but the sinking was so sudden that there was no chance to launch them.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 29, 1936]  The ship was hauling gravel from Lockport to Chicago, had left the mouth of the Chicago River around midnight and had headed south for a dock in the Calumet Harbor area when disaster strikes.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

July 28, 1970 -- Mayor Richard J. Daley Ends Grant Park Concerts



July 28, 1970:  The day after a Grant Park riot occurred when a crowd of 35,000 to 50,000 waiting for a concert by Sly and the Family Stone reacted violently as the concert is delayed and ultimately cancelled, Mayor Richard J. Daley orders that all rock concerts planned by the Chicago Park District Board be cancelled.  The mayor calls the fighting “A riot, a brawl, and mob action.”  [Chicago Tribune, July 29, 1970]  He continues, “There were a lot of liquor and wine bottles thrown at the policemen.  I believe the young people who attend these concerts should assume some responsibility for policing themselves.”  At least 162 persons are injured in the turmoil and hundreds of windows are broken all along Michigan Avenue opposite Grant Park as well as on some side streets between Michigan and State Streets.  Damage to police vehicles is estimated at $10,000 with one car destroyed by fire.  As the mayor reacts, three men and two women are arrested near the Grant Park band shell after a report that the performance venue will be set on fire.  Police search the truck belonging to Mike Patrick of Brommel, Pennsylvania and find a five-gallon can of gasoline and one-fourth pound of marijuana, almost never a good combination.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

July 27, 1919 -- Blaze on the North Branch


July 27, 1919:  Sparks from the smoke stack of the lake freighter Senator start a fire that destroys the coal sheds of the Peoples Gaslight and Coke Company on the east side of the north branch of the Chicago River at Hobbie Street.  The freighter had run aground as it moved past Goose Island, and the tug Racine was assisting it.  The sparks from the ships set the roof of the coal sheds on fire, which then spread to two buildings at 1145 Larabee Street, prompting a 4-11 alarm, another day at work on the North Branch.  The Senator didn't catch a whole lot of breaks.  On October 31, 1929 she was rammed amidships by the steamer Marquette and went to the bottom, taking seven crew members and a load of 241 brand new Nash Ramblers with her.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

July 26, 1902 -- People's Gas Gets Ready to Build



July 26, 1902 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that the People’s Gaslight and Coke Company has purchased a building and leasehold interest of the property at the northwest corner of Adams Street and Michigan Avenue for $200,000 from the Lake Hotel Company.  This will be the site of the company’s new headquarters, a 21-story building designed by Daniel Burnham and Company, finished in 1911.  Although People’s Gas moved out in 1995, the building still makes a statement across the street from the Art Institute of Chicago with each of the columns at its base made out of a solid piece of granite that is 26 feet tall, four-and-a-half feet in diameter, weighing 30 tons.  The photo above shows the new skyscraper going up in April of 1910.  The building was built in two sections with a hollowed-out middle, the north section being completed first.