Thursday, September 14, 2017

September 14, 1934 -- Federal Marshals Seize the Florida




September 14, 1934 – United States marshals seize the excursion boat Florida at its dock east of Michigan Avenue, pending a court hearing and settlement of the claims of 21 crew members for $2,000 in back pay. The Florida has a fascinating history, as it turns out.  As far as I have been able to determine the boat is still taking up space at the bottom of the river just east of Goose Island, opposite the north end of the 600 West Chicago, the old Montgomery Ward's warehouse building.  What eventually became the S. S. Florida was originally the City of Mackinac, built in 1882 as a side-wheeled cruise boat on Lake Michigan.  The latter part of its service was spent providing lakefront excursions to the 1933 Century of Progress.  In the mid-1930's it was sold to a scrapper at which time its upper decks were removed, its engines stripped, part of a conversion into a barge.  The Columbia Yacht Club bought the vessel in 1937 to serve as its club house.  On Friday, May 13, 1955 a galley fire caused the ship to sink at its dock.  Members raised the funds and raised the ship, which was used until 1982 when the club acquired the former Canadian ferry, the Abegweit, as its new base of operations.  A trucking magnate, Joe Salon, bought the ship in 1985, renaming it the Showboat Sari-S II, using his daughter's name in its new appellation, and moved it to the river a few blocks north of Ontario Street, before selling it.  The Showboat Sari-S II might be confused with another paddle-wheel steamboat that Salon ran as a restaurant, beginning in 1962.  They are two different vessels.  The last reference to the boat that I can find is in the "Metropolitan" section of the Chicago Tribune on August 28, 1992.  This brief item reports, "The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers has ordered the owner of a 215-foot boat that sank last month in a little-used part of the North Branch of the Chicago River to remove the vessel or face legal action . . . The owner of the vessel was ordered to install markers around the boat until it is removed.  The vessel sank in 16 feet of water on the east side of Goose Island just north of Chicago Avenue, said Lt. Col. David Reed, commander of the Corps District . . . Only the cabin portion is now above water, and the sunken craft obstructs about half of the navigational channel, Reed said."  Looking at a relatively recent Google Earth scan (judging by the look of the cars in the parking lot on the east side of the river), it looks like the hulk is still there. In the space where you might expect it to be found there are still buoys that warn boats using the slip to avoid that section of the river.   I can't find any reference to an attempt to raise the ship.  The last reference to her is that only the pilot house was showing.  My best guess is the whole thing just rotted away and sits submerged with a couple of feet of water covering it.  Kind of a sad story of a once proud vessel that was very much a part of the city's history. The photo above shows the boat when she was the clubhouse for the Columbia Yacht Club.  The second photo shows what I think is the boat today. 


September 14, 1939 – The Chicago Housing Authority is notified that its application for $7,719,000 of Public Works administration funding for the construction of a public housing complex has been approved.  This will be the fifth federal housing project in the city, following the Jane Addams houses, Julia Lathrop homes, Trumbull Park apartments, and the Ida B. Wells project that is under construction at Vincennes Avenue and Pershing Road.  Although the location is not disclosed so as to forestall real estate speculation, it is most likely that the new project will be near the Jane Addams homes and will comprise the Robert Brooks Homes with 835 row houses.  Elizabeth Wood, executive secretary of the Chicago Housing authority, says, “We will definitely be in competition with the lowest slum area houses.  We particularly want to afford accommodations for those families who now live in $15 a month flats.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 15, 1939]  

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