November 17, 1908 – The Commercial Club of Chicago offers a new plan for a connection between the north and south side to the Board of Local Improvements. The plan diverges from earlier plans in that it offers “a wider boulevard, 240 feet north of Randolph street, a lower elevation at its highest point, access to the roadway from the buildings along the elevated roadway … and a double street with a double-decked bridge across the river.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, November 17, 1908] The 90-foot wide bridge will be able to run at a right angle to the river, connecting Beaubien Court on the south side of the river to Pine Street on the north. The official statement of the Commercial Club reads, “Congestion in the heart of Chicago could be relieved if certain streets were much widened and improved. It is clear, however, that none of the streets in the district bounded by Van Buren street, Michigan avenue, and the river can ever be appreciably broadened … Michigan avenue, already a wide street, and easily widened still more in Grant park, must then be the great base of street circulation in Chicago, the foundation of a system of encircling and bisecting highways … The conclusion is plain: Michigan avenue is probably destined to carry the heaviest movement of any street in the world. Any boulevard connection in Michigan avenue which fails to recognize the basic importance of Michigan avenue will be a waste of money.” The statement sets the stage for the next big contribution that the Commercial Club will make to city planning, the great Chicago Plan of 1909. “A special investigation made under our direction,” the statement reads, “discloses the fact that the people of Chicago have, during the last twenty-five years, expended no less that $222,000,000 in permanent improvements. It is estimated that not less than 40 per cent of this vast sum has been wasted because specific improvements were made without reference to a comprehensive city plan, and were, therefore, found to be inadequate … This great improvement will come because it is part of a plan which provides a basis of street circulation and which will weld and unify the three detached sides of Chicago; because it improves facilities for commercial traffic and at the same time preserves for the people the uninterrupted use of their greatest and most attractive highway.” Criticism arrives quickly as the Michigan Avenue Improvement Association issues a statement saying in part, “… we shall not regard any elevated structure as less than a monumental and wasteful blunder.” The above photo shows Michigan Avenue as it appeared in 1902.
November 17, 1965 – McCormick Place celebrates its fifth birthday as the building’s general manager, Edward J. Lee, announces that 17,013,515 people have been through the facility since it first opened its doors. Events open to the public account for 41.8 per cent of the attendance while commercial, industrial, trade and professional shows account for 32.3 per cent. The exhibition hall’s Arie Crown Theater did not open until the spring of 1961, but it still drew 2,174,510 people. The largest attendance for any one event in the hall was for the Billy Graham Greater Chicago Crusade in 1962, which drew 44,840 people. Also notable was the first stockholders’ meeting ever held outside of New York City for the American Telephone and Telegraph Company in April of 1961. On that occasion 18,458 stockholders attended the annual event, and each of them was served lunch. It would be only 14 months before two-thirds of the great convention hall on the lake would be destroyed in less than 45 minutes in a devastating fire.