Thursday, July 27, 2017

July 27, 1890 -- Shoreline History Review

July 27, 1890 – With all of the news today focusing on the effects of global warming and rising seas, it is interesting to look back on a feature in the Chicago Daily Tribune 127 years ago, an article that dealt with the changing nature of the city’s shoreline and how the forces of erosion and addition affected the Chicago River over the years.  Originally the “little block-house fort” at Fort Dearborn on what is now the southwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive stood where the Chicago River bent “more than 90° and finally emptied into the lake at or south of Madison Street.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 27, 1890] The sharp bend to the south was formed because the mouth of the river was blocked by a sandbar that prevented all but barges and flat-bottomed boats from entering. In 1835 the United States government cut a channel through the sandbar on a line with the channel to the west, building piers on the north and south sides of the new channel at the same time.  The pier on the north side drastically changed the natural flow of sand along the lake shore that resulted from the erosion of lakeside bluffs on the north shore.  As a result, the shore between the new mouth of the river and the area around today’s Chicago Avenue expanded so that by 1872 a new shoreline that extended 1,500 feet into the lake had accumulated just north of the river gradually diminishing to about 500 feet at Chicago Avenue.  In the preceding years the Illinois Central Railroad and various private property owners had been busy filling in the lake for freight yards opposite the ends of South Water, Lake and Randolph Streets.  In 1871 this process was increased as “debris from hundreds of acres of burnt buildings had to be disposed of, and in addition a place of deposit had to be found for hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of earth dug from the cellars of the new buildings which were being built.”  With the article the paper prints a map, showing the difference in the shoreline  over three-and-a-half miles between 1839 and 1890.  Between Indiana Avenue and Randolph street, the shoreline had been extended nearly a half-mile into the lake..  The newly created land between North Avenue and the river had increased by 180 acres.  The amount of ground added to the city between Monroe Street and today’s Congress Avenue was about 32 acres.  Awaiting adjudication was the issue of entitlement to this newly made land.  It would be years of court cases, suits and counter-suits before the issue would be resolved.  Still pertinent today is the conclusion of the article, “Lake Michigan is the one grand topographical feature of the city, distinguishing it from other cities, tempering its climate, and causing the health-giving breezes which remove atmospheric impurities … We need the water more than we need the land … The filling of the lake for park purposes may be a necessity of the present public exigency, but not a foot more should be allowed to be converted to private or corporate uses.”

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.

No comments: