Monday, February 6, 2017

February 6, 1879 -- Forget the Lakefront . . . Get to Work

February 6, 1879 – Thirty-one years after its completion, the Illinois and Michigan canal has fallen far short of its original expectations, and it is clear that the canal must either be dramatically enlarged or a new canal constructed.  There is a scheme afoot that would have the Illinois state legislature file suit for the land between Michigan Avenue and the lake and, once legal jurisdiction is established, sell the land, using the proceeds to complete the necessary improvement of the canal.  In an editorial the Chicago Daily Tribune strongly criticizes the plan.  The editorial states, “With the same fatality which will induce men to abandon work, and look day after day to be made rich by drawing a prize in the lottery, the professed friends of the canal have grasped at the delusive suggestion of recovering the Lake-Front, estimated wildly as worth several millions of dollars; that the State shall sell it, and with the proceeds complete the canal … All of the assumptions of fact leading up to the legal opinion that the Canal Commissioners ‘ceded’ any land illegally to the city are wholly gratuitous, and of course the recitals … that there is an immense property in the City of Chicago belonging to the Canal Fund are all equally fallacious, and the only effect of such extravagant resolutions is to suspend or defeat all further appropriations by the Legislature for the canal.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, February 6, 1879] The editorial basically shouts, “Knock it off” with the legal wrangling and get to work on finding the funding to do the job.  “We suggest,” the editorial concludes, “therefore, that those who so earnestly desire the completion of the canal will not permit themselves to be any further diverted by specious suggestions of the enemies of the canal, but will press directly for such legislation as will preserve the canal from decay and from destruction by its railroad rivals.”  The above photo shows Michigan Avenue and the lakefront in the 1880's just south of what would become the Art Institute.

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

February 6, 1911 -- The Chipperfield legislative commission on submerged lands reports that land estimated to be worth at least $250,000,000 has been "grabbed" from the public by private interests. The report identified 420 individuals, corporations, and private clubs that occupied "made" land -- land that was created by fill or natural causes -- along the coastline of the city and the banks of the Chicago River. The Illinois Central railroad was charged with illegally occupying 400 acres while the Chicago Dock and Canal company was accused of holding 60 acres of poached land. The report was especially harsh on the I. C., asserting "It is a history which reads like a romance, as to how the Illinois Central, starting in with a strip of 200 feet in width from the city limits northward, has continued to grasp and extend until now substantially 400 acres of the most valuable lands in the city of Chicago are in its possession." Pictured below, today's Ogden Slip, loaded with upscale high rises, was one such piece of created land. Abraham Lincoln was paid $350.00 to draft the paperwork that created the Chicago Dock and Canal Company, which built it.  The top picture was taken in 1985.  The photo below it shows how the area continues to evolve.  When Fort Dearborn was erected on the edge of the lake back in 1803 this entire area was under water.

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