Tuesday, January 31, 2017

January 31, 1913 -- "Fountain of Time" Approved

January 31, 1913 – The Board of Trustees of the Art Institute commission Lorado Taft to begin work on the sculpture that will be known as “The Fountain of Time.”  The plan is for the sculpture to be erected on the Midway in Hyde Park, with a fountain and “three bridges with groups – ‘The Arts,’ “The Sciences,’ and “Religion’ connected with single figures.”  The report proclaims, “If carried out the Midway with a small lagoon, fountains, bridges and statuary, will be one of the beauty spots of the world.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, February 1, 1911]  The sculpture will be created from “creamy Georgia marble” and will take five years to complete.  It will be paid for using $30,000 from the Ferguson endowment, held in escrow at the Art Institute.  The sculptor explains the plan in this way, “The scheme for the decoration of the Midway embraces the embellishment of the park space one mile in length, connecting Washington and Jackson parks at Sixtieth street, with fountains, bridges, and connecting rows of figures.  There would be a stream of water along this park space, and the principal bridges would be at Ellis, Woodlawn, and Madison avenues.  The Fountain of Time would be at the western terminus.  Whether it will or not rests entirely with the park board.  The Bridge of Arts at Woodlawn avenue, which practically bisects the Midway, would form the center of the whole scheme of beautification, and would be more elaborate than either of the other two bridges, Religion at Ellis avenue or Science at Madison avenue.”  Although the final sculpture is a spectacular addition to the western terminus of the Midway, the grand scheme proposed on this date was considerably scaled back from the grand vision that was introduced to the city on this day in 1913.  Even the “creamy Georgia marble” went, and the 200 figures of the sculpture are made of hollow-cast concrete reinforced with steel.

Also on this date from an earlier blog entry . . .

January 31, 1911 -- The Home Insurance Company building at the corner of La Salle and Adams Streets is sold for $2,150,000. James and Charles Deering purchase the property. Their father, William, had founded the Deering Harvester Company, and the family hit the jackpot when financier J. P. Morgan purchased the firm and merged it with the McCormick Reaper Company and several other farm implement manufacturers to create what we know today as International Harvester. The Home Insurance Building, designed by William LeBaron Jenney and completed in 1884, is considered by many to be the world's first metal-framed skyscraper. It was the tallest building in the world for seven years. It's gone now. It was demolished in 1931 to make way for the magnificent Art Deco skyscraper at 135 South La Salle.

Monday, January 30, 2017

January 30, 1953 -- Final Arguments Heard in Farnsworth House Suit

January 30, 1953 – Final arguments are heard before Master in Chancery Jerome Nelson at the Kendall County circuit court in architect Mies van der Rohe’s mechanic’s lien suit against Dr. Edith B. Farnsworth.  The suit was filed in July of 1951, claiming that Dr. Farnsworth owed the architect $28,173 in unpaid fees for a weekend home he designed for her on the Fox River.  The doctor’s attorneys argue that Farnsworth asked for a home to cost approximately $40,000 and ended up with one that cost $73,872.  They say further that the house has a leaky roof and defects in its mechanical systems and that the travertine floor has buckled.  Attorney Randolph Bohrer asserts that Van der Rohe is not properly qualified as an architect and that exceeding the original cost estimate “is attributable either to gross incompetence or stupidity of the plaintiff,” a man he labels “an ordinary charlatan and an egoist of the Bauhaus school which has committed more frauds upon this country than any other organization.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 31, 1953] 

Also on this date from an earlier blog entry . . .

January 30, 1947 -- Randall H. Cooper, executive secretary of the State Street council, asserts that redevelopment of Chicago's "blighted areas" is a necessity and that the Loop is "faced with more problems than ever before in its history." The continuing flight of families to the suburbs and the resulting loss of tax and business revenue had the merchants feeling blue. They would get bluer. The 1947 photo above was taken at Wells and Madison.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

January 29, 1872 -- Debate over Fire Ordinance Continues

January 29, 1872 – The Chicago Common Council takes up Section 7 of the proposed Fire Ordinance, which reads:  “No wood building or part of building within said city limits shall be raised, enlarged, or repaired, except as herein provided: nor shall any such building, or part of building, be removed from one lot or place to another within the said limits of said city; nor shall any such building be removed from without the city limits to any place within said city; nor shall any wooden building within the limits of said city, which may be damaged less than 50 per cent of its value, be so repaired as to be raised higher than the highest point left standing after such damage shall have occurred, nor so as to occupy a greater space than before the injury thereto.”  This is a strict covenant that attempts to make sure that the disastrous fire of three months earlier does not occur again.  But the council members go straight to work on amending the strictness out of the bill.  One amendment substitutes “fire limits” for “city limits.”  Another amendment proposes that the Board of Public Works may grant permits to move any building from one place to another as long as the move occurs outside the fire limits.  An alderman moves to amend the article with the phrase “provided it shall not be moved on to an improved street.”  An Alderman Gardner “thought the Council might just as well pass no ordinance at all as to pass that amendment.  It defeated the protection of the city, and was its death-knell.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 30, 1872] Another amendment is offered, proposing that “Any person wishing to remove a wooden building, for the purpose of building brick or stone on the same lot, will be allowed to move further away from the centre of the city; also, any person owning a house on a leased lot shall have the same privilege.”  Ultimately, the amendment that carries the night is offered by Alderman Gill.  It considerably weakens the original wording of Section 7, following the words “from one lot or other in the said limits of said city,” in the original with this addition, “except it be removed in a certain direction, to-wit, from the centre of the city toward the city limits.”  That amendment is approved, and the meeting immediately adjourns.  As the city begins to rebuild, the struggle to save the ruined city from itself moves forward.  The above diagram shows that the final ordinance did do much to diminish the prominence of wooden buildings, but it also clearly shows that huge sections of the city are left out of the mandate.

Also on this date from an earlier blog entry . . .

January 29, 1911 -- A new tunnel is opened that carries Washington Boulevard under the Chicago River, the second tunnel at this location. The first one was opened in 1869, but an act of congress in 1904 declared it an "unreasonable obstruction to free navigation," and the Secretary of War ordered its removal. Because the roof of the old tunnel was less than 17 feet below the surface of the river, vessels were constantly grounding themselves on it, obstructing river traffic in a narrow channel that was filled with ships heading to the lumber yards and grain silos to the south. When the river was reversed in 1900, the river had even less depth which prompted the action of congress four years later. The new tunnel lay 27 feet below the surface and extended for 1,520 feet. The tunnel was still used by streetcars in the early 1950's, but the portals were filled in during the 1960's and a tunnel at Washington Street ceased to exist after close to a hundred years of service.