Wednesday, August 23, 2017

August 23, 1985 -- Navy Pier -- a Forgotten Gem

August 23, 1985 – Under the headline “Tattered Navy Pier Finds Dance Card Empty,” the Chicago Tribune describes the sorry condition of the municipal pier at the end of Illinois Street and Grand Avenue, finished in 1916 for $4 million.  According to the paper, “…the unique 3,000-foot pier has deteriorated to the point that its sewer system has been plugged up and its roofs are sieves.  The upper walkways are too dangerous, and the floors of lower storage rooms can barely support their own weight.”  The pier has no adequate fire protection system, so that any event held there must keep a fire engine standing by.  With one exception, a major event has not been held at the pier since the inauguration of Mayor Harold Washington two years earlier.  Joe Wilson of the Department of Public Works says, “I don’t think $60 million would give you much more than the basic structure, but it depends on what you want.”  Wilson says that an average of 20 people visit the pier on weekdays and about 75 on weekends.” The above photo shows the east end of the pier in the 1980's.

August 23, 1914 – Henry Korthagen, an unemployed painter, pays the 25-cent admission to the observatory of the Masonic Temple Building on State Street, crawls through a window to the northwest corner of the building and then jumps.  His body strikes the crowded sidewalk on State Street at noon on a Saturday.  A dentist on the twelfth floor of the building, Dr. A. Jay Blakie, sees the body fly past his window, with a black derby hat following 20 feet behind.  “From my position above,” Blakie says, “the sidewalk looked like the surface of water after a stone has been thrown in.  A circle of humanity just eddied back from the crumpled object in the middle of it.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 24, 1914]  Korthagen had visited the Painters and Decorators District Council at 300 West Madison Street earlier, seeking to pay back dues and gain reinstatement to the union.  Those at the union headquarters describe him as cheerful at the time.  The observatory at the Masonic Temple is pictured above, all the way up there at the top of the building.

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