Monday, November 20, 2017

November 20, 1907 -- South Parks Commission Announces Big Plans for Michigan Avenue

November 20, 1907 – The president of the South Parks Commission, Henry G. Foreman, proposes a set of plans that will move the city closer to becoming the “Paris of America.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, November 21, 1907] The huge plan involves widening Michigan Avenue north of Twelfth Street to seventy feet with a space for plants and flowers and trees 16 feet wide on the east side of the street.  “Huge vases or urns filled with brilliant flowers or green vines places at intervals along the curb – that is the dream of Mr. Foreman which has a good chance of becoming a quick reality ...” reports the paper.  Jackson Boulevard would also be improved with additional lighting, floral displays, and the removal of canopies and signs on the street. Foreman says, “These boulevards downtown should be boulevards in something beside the name.  I feel sure that a small expenditure for improvements of such character as I have suggested would transform Michigan avenue and Jackson boulevard from their present appearance of ordinary city streets, and the change would be most welcome to all the people.”  The grainy photo above from the Chicago Daily News archives, taken in 1908, looks north from Washington Boulevard and shows that Michigan Avenue could probably have stood some improvement at the time.

November 20, 1942 – Fire Commissioner Michael J. Corrigan blames the lack of water hydrants for complicating the extinguishing of a massive fire at the 82-acre Chrysler B-29 engine plant under construction on a site bordered by Cicero Avenue and Pulaski Road on the east and west and Seventy-First and Seventy-Seventh Streets on the north and south.  The power plant for the facility is destroyed before the flames can be brought under control in a 3-11 alarm fire that forces fire fighters to run hose lines for more than a mile along Cicero Avenue.  Ground was broken for the massive plant in June of 1942 with construction following designs by architect Albert Khan, plans that used half the steel that conventional plants of similar types had used.  By March of 1943, despite the fire, “16 buildings at the complex had come on line.  The complex ultimately used 4.3 million bricks, housed over 6,000 machine tools, had 23 cafeterias for thousands of employees, was able to handle 10 million gallons of water a day . . . Over 16,000 were employed in building the plant; and 1,200 Chrysler personnel were involved in planning and layout of the manufacturing.”  [] Today as you pass by the headquarters for Tootsie Roll Industries and the Ford City shopping mall on Cicero Avenue, you are looking at a site that once turned out 18,413 engines for 3,628 B-29 airplanes.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

November 19, 1929 -- University of Chicago Inaugurates Dr. Robert Hutchins

November 19, 1929 – The formal inauguration of Dr. Robert Maynard Hutchins as the fifth president of the University of Chicago is held.  Noting the ceremony a Chicago Daily Tribune editorial states, “Chicago has reason to be proud of the great institution which bears its name and speaks for its highest aspiration before the world, an institution which we hope will be profoundly American though of world wide influence, a congregation of scholars, a mother of leaders in all fields of learning and honorable activity. And in this faith Chicago welcomes the new president upon the threshold of what we hope and believe will be a great accomplishment.”  The selection of Hutchins was wise. Despite his age – he was barely 30-years-old when he assumed the office – he gave 64 public addresses in his first year at the University and appeared regularly on the radio and on the pages of popular magazines, raising his profile along with that of the University.  During his tenure Hutchins re-organized the graduate departments into four academic divisions of the biological sciences, humanities, physical sciences, and social sciences, establishing a separate College for each division and unifying all undergraduate work under one dean.  In 1939 he gained the support of the University trustees and eliminated varsity football. Under his leadership the University prospered, moving steadily forward during the 1930’s on money from generous donors during the previous decades and on funds from the Rockefeller Foundation.  World War II saw millions of dollars in government contracts come to the University; in fact, the old football field is the site in which the Manhattan Project developed the atomic bomb.  A staunch defender of academic freedom and proponent of world peace, Hutchins resigned in 1951 to become an associate director of the newly-formed Ford Foundation.’

November 19, 1978 – The Chicago Tribune reports on the “waterfront dream” of architect Harry Weese as he explains the vision for Wolf Point Landings that he has had in his mind for over 15 years.  “I first saw it back then and realized it would be a marvelous site for a new town of as many as 30,000 people,” says Weese.  [Chicago Tribune, November 19, 1978]  Back in the early 1960’s Weese bought a piece of river front land at Kinzie and Canal streets for about $12,000.  It was not a great source of comfort to him.  “I had always wanted a stretch of waterfront property.  I wanted to park my boat there, but I was afraid of vandals,” he said.  Times change, though, and in the preceding week new plans were announced for a huge residential project of two new condominium buildings, a 22-story residential building between Lake Street and Grand Avenue and the renovation of the North American Cold Storage building on Canal Street, a project that will create 122 residential units.  Weese was rhapsodic about the project, especially the view, saying, “We have very nice diagonal views of Water Tower Place and the entire Loop area to the south.  And to the west, we’re wide open.  We’ll see great sunsets, and a marvelous view of O”Hare Field.”  The view is considerably different these days.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

November 18, 1911 -- Poetry Magazine Is Launched

Harriet Monroe
November 18, 1911 – Harriet Monroe announces that she has garnered thirty pledges of $250.00, seed money for a new publication dedicated exclusively to poetry.  The magazine will allow young and unknown poets a forum that is largely non-existent in periodicals of the time.  Monroe says, “The average magazine editor’s conception of good verse is verse that will fill out a page.  No editor is looking for long poetry.  He wants something light and convenient.  Consequently, a Milton might be living in Chicago today and be unable to find an outlet for his verse… In other words, the modern English speaking world says ‘Shut up!’ to its poets, a condition so unnatural, so destructive to new inspiration, that I believe it can be only temporary and absurd.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, November 19, 1911] Monroe nurtured the magazine from the start, reaching out to poet Ezra Pound at the outset … it was Pound who forwarded the unpublished T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” to Monroe, and Poetry was the first magazine in which the poem was published.  Monroe died in 1936 of a stroke, but under the leadership of the editors that followed the magazine continued its excellence until in 2002 Ruth Lilly made a bequest of more than 100 million dollars to the magazine and its foundation.  One of the offshoots of the bequest is the amazing Poetry Center, designed by John Ronan at 61 West Superior Street, a building that contains a 30,000-volume poetry library, an exhibition gallery, a performance space for public events, and offices for the foundation and the magazine.

November 18, 1863 – As a result of a collision that has destroyed the Rush Street Bridge, all traffic across the river, north and south, is directed across the bridge at Clark Street.  Chaos.  According to the Chicago Tribune, “Yesterday afternoon, the bridge was open for a few minutes, to allow a number of vessels to pass, and the omnibuses, drays, hacks family carriages, farmers’ wagons, etc, collected until the street was completely filled at the bridge, and extending into Lake street some distance, and for fully two squares south on Clark street.  Teams became restless, wagons got tangled and wedged in, drivers swore and scolded, each claiming the right of way, etc.”  The paper uses the commotion to editorialize in favor of quickly filling subscriptions to build a new bridge at State Street, following up on the city’s offer to provide half of the cost of the bridge if businesses and companies would supply the other half, an amount of about $14,000.  The completed State Street Bridge is shown in the 1868 photo above.