Thursday, July 20, 2017

July 20, 1881 -- Board of Trade Purchase La Salle Street Property

July 20, 1881 – The Directors of the Board of Trade receive assurances that an ordinance vacating a portion of LaSalle Street between Jackson Boulevard and Van Buren Street will be valid and, based upon this information, vote to purchase the property at this location for $10,000.  The next step will be to organize a Building Association since Illinois law prohibits the Board from erecting a building exceeding $100,000 in valuation.  It is anticipated that the new building will cost at least $800,000, but the matter of the building itself is left for another day.  The Chicago Daily Tribune summarizes the results of the meeting in this way, “The Board of Trade purchases the property for $10,000.  This it leases to a Building Association for a term of fifty or one hundred years at a fixed rental.  The Building Association erects the edifice, and leases to the Board of Trade what my be required at a certain rental, yet to be determined upon.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 21, 1881] This would be a decision that would produce a huge impact on this area. According to Homer Hoyt in his One Hundred Years of Land Values in Chicago, "From 1881 to 1883 the value of land on Jackson, Van Buren, Wells, and LaSalle streets near the Board of Trade advanced from $200 and $400 a front foot to from $1,500 to $2,000 a front foot .. the total increase in the value of land and buildings within half a mile from the Board of Trade from 1881 to 1885 was estimated by current observers at from $20,000,000 to $40,000,000."  The first Board of Trade building to stand on this site is pictured above.  Barely visible above the front entrance at the base of the tower are the two statues of Agriculture and Industry that still stand in the plaza outside the present day Board of Trade building.

July 20, 1913 – The Chicago Daily Tribune’s art critic, Harriet Moore, writes an opinion piece in which she supports the City Club in its campaign against billboards.  Her argument begins with a single question, one she asked at a previous hearing in which a City Council committee was listening to testimony from both advocates and opponents of the signs, “Is it your opinion that beauty has neither health value nor financial value in a modern metropolis?”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 20, 1913]  She then answers the question with three separate responses:  that beauty is a health producer (“Hideous objects and harsh sounds, assaulting eyes and ears in a manner not to be escaped, destroy the harmony of life by introducing discords, and reduce the joy of life by insulting the senses with ugliness.”); that beauty is a commercial asset in any community (“Without beauty a city is merely a place to make money in and get away from.”); and, beauty is a great investment (“Why does the whole world flock to Italy, spending there millions every year?  Because, a few centuries ago a few hundred artists builded and carved and painted beautifully.”)  Moore concludes, “Chicago has the opportunity to become one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  The lake, the long stretch of park which is to border it, Michigan avenue widened to the river and adequately connected with the Lake Shore drive, the widened Twelfth street, the new railway terminals, the enlarged business district—these and other conditions and projects will create a beautiful metropolis.  Along with these large plans for civic beauty should go eternal vigilance against all kinds of defacement and in favor of all kinds of minor improvements.  The fight against billboards is an important detail of the general campaign.”

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