Monday, December 10, 2018

December 10, 1872 -- Union Stockyards Gets a Proposal
December 10, 1872 –The heart of the report of the Board of Health, delivered on this day, concerns the businesses of slaughtering and rendering hogs and cattle.  In 1851 the city packed 22,936 hogs; through December 1 of 1872 that number had grown to 999,120 for the year.  The same growth occurred in beef … in 1856 a total of 9,488 head of cattle were slaughtered in the city.  In 1872, through December 1, the number was 185,000.  The report states that there are 92 rendering tanks in operation at the Union Stock Yards, and another 55 scattered throughout the city and that there has been a “steady increase of complaint with regard to the nuisances arising from the business.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 11, 1872]  The report asserts, “These facts must make the necessity of a radical change in the mode of conducting the business apparent to all.” The report suggests that a model rendering plant be built within the confines of the stockyards, so that “before another year has passed … all the slaughtering and rendering [will be] done in the territory west of the Stock Yards.”  The proposal goes on to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, basically, citing the amount of money that could be made by properly managing the business. The value of the offal from cattle, hogs, and sheep as fertilizer could amount to $213,220.  The value of the blood of the animals as fertilizer could be $117,751, and the value of the “tank water” used in the rendering process could be valued at $143,793.  That’s a grand total of $474,764.  At the time of the report only half of the offal and blood was being used with the remainder, including the tank water from the rendering process, “absolute waste,” dumped into the river, “not alone a waste of valuable material that can be utilized, but the cause of great injury to the public health.”  The above illustration gives some idea of the size of the Union Stockyards in the 1870's. 

December 10, 1883 -- The Illinois Supreme Court affirms the decision of the lower court in the case of A. C. Hesing vs. W. L. Scott et al., a suit that seeks to prevent the vacating of LaSalle Street for the purpose of constructing a new headquarters for the Chicago Board of Trade.  Hesing, the plaintiff, asserts that he would “suffer an applicable loss in the reduction of the rents of his property” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 10, 1883] if the street is vacated between Jackson and Van Buren so that the building can be constructed.  The decision of the Supreme Court rules against any injunction to stop the work, stating that the plaintiff “does not allege that it will impose on him a particle of loss, nor that he has or will sustain the slightest injury or inconvenience distinct from the general public.  He has therefore shown no right to the relief sought, and the court below did not err in sustaining the demurrer and dismissing the bill.  The decree of the court below is therefore affirmed.”  On April 29,1885 the seventh headquarters the board of trade has occupied since its formation on April 3, 1848 opens on LaSalle Street.  Designed by W. W. Boyington, the same architect who designed Chicago’s beloved Water Tower, the building lasted into the late 1920’s when it was razed to make way for the Holabird and Root design that stands on LaSalle today, all of this made possible by the decree of the Illinois Supreme Court in 1883.

December 10, 2010 – Following a federal judge’s refusal to close Chicago’s locks as a result of an emergency suit five Great Lakes states have filed out of concern over Asian carp, the Chicago Tribune offers this opinion, “We hope this ruling . . . will persuade our Midwestern neighbors to abandon their money-wasting, finger-pointing lawsuit.  It isn’t helping anything.”  [Chicago Tribune, December 10, 2010]  The paper concedes that the fish do pose a threat although there is little evidence that they have made it close to the lake – or that they even want to head there.  Yet, the editorial states, “The consequences of closing the locks, meanwhile, would be devastating and immediate.  More than $29 billion in goods move through the locks each year on barges.  Tour boats and recreational boaters also pass through on their way to and from the lake . . . Nobody on this side of the locks wants the carp to get into Lake Michigan, either.  Illinois has spent more than $13 million to keep them out, not counting the resources wasted on this ridiculous legal fight.  We’re all in the same boat, neighbors.  Drop that suit.”

Sunday, December 9, 2018

December 9, 1942 -- Chicago River Taxis Get the Green Light

Bob and Holly Agra (
December 9, 1942 –The City Council refers two ordinances to the Committee on Harbors, Wharves and Bridges for recommendation, those ordinances authorizing two different companies to operate boat passenger traffic on the Chicago River.  The Rodi Boat Service at 2454 South Ashland Avenue will be allowed to operate between the Michigan Avenue bridge and the Union and Chicago and North Western Railroad stations if approval is forthcoming.  With the provision of a bond of $25,000 the company will be allowed to run the service for five years.  The second company will run its service under the same terms.  Its licensee is identified as Arthur Agra. At the time Rodi was a Chris-Craft dealer with locations in Chicago, the Chain of Lakes, Miami, and Ft. Lauderdale. Rodi seems to have gone away … the Ashland Avenue address is now occupied by Chicago Yacht Works.  But the second company is still very much a part of the Chicago scene, as it today is the company run by Agra’s son, Bob, and his wife, Holly, as Chicago’s First Lady cruises, operators of the premier Chicago Architecture tour in cooperation with the Chicago Architecture Center.

December 9, 1889 – The Auditorium Theater opens in a ceremony so grand that both the President and the Vice-President of the United States are in attendance, joining in the “universal praise of the Chicago Enterprise that Carried to Success an Undertaking of Such Vast Magnitude.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 10, 1889] Mayor DeWitt Cregier kicks off the proceedings, but “his intonation sadly recalls a preacher in a country church.”  Then Frederick Grant Gleason reads a poem written by Harriet Monroe.  Both are young, “but who save the young should sing the achievements of our young city.”  The baton comes down, and the “petite plaything of two continents, the warbling [Adelina] Patti … gives comedy to the seriousness of the occasion by lending it the coquetry of her sex.”  Patti chooses “Home, Sweet Home” for the evening and “She didn’t sing it the way your mother used to.  She sang it better.”  In a temporary box to the right of the stage United States President Benjamin Harrison is seated with Ferdinand Peck, “the man who planned and carried out the Auditorium.”  U. S. Vice-President Levi P. Morton also is seated in the box. The real star, though, is the magnificent auditorium.  The paper reports, “How solemnly and sternly rises its strong tower … a reminder of duty and of a people’s destiny.  It looks toward the West – toward the future. It is almost prophetic.”  Perhaps the speech of the night comes from the man most responsible for seeing the magnificent Auditorium to completion.  Ferdinand Peck gets his chance in the speech he gives while introducing the President.  The speech is as modest as the man himself, but it says much about the attitude of the city just 18 years after it faced near destruction in the Great Fire of 1871.  “It is impossible for me to express my feelings tonight,” Peck begins. “this recognition of our work forms a proud moment in my life’s history … This has been done out of a desire to educate and entertain the masses.  This has been done out of the rich man’s largeness and the poor man’s mite, for the benefit of all.  This achievement is the result of a cohesion among public-spirited men, who have stood together for a common cause in a manner that has no parallel in history. Where else on earth could it have been done?  In what other city but Chicago would it have been possible?”  The above photo shows the great Auditorium under construction in 1888.

December 9, 1961 – With plans for the new Equitable Insurance tower in place, the Chicago Tribune provides a full summary of the real estate holdings of the Chicago Tribune Building Corporation and the history of its acquisitions.  The Tribune bought its original piece of property in 1919 when it acquired a full block of real estate east of Michigan Avenue and north of the river.  Immediate construction began on a six-story plant for the editorial and production departments of the paper.  Six years later Tribune Tower was completed, the fourth headquarters building that the paper occupied in its history.  The tower was the culmination of a competition in which 263 architects from 23 countries submitted plans.  In 1934 the W.G.N. studio building was completed just to the north of Tribune Tower, followed by an 11-story building just to the east.  In 1958 the Tribune acquired 40,548 square feet of property directly to the east of Tribune Tower, and a year later the company acquired from the City of Chicago property to the south and east of the tower.  As part of that transaction Hubbard Street between Michigan Avenue and St. Clair was given to the Tribune.  In exchange the firm deeded land to the city necessary to widen East North Water Street to 65 feet and paid for the paving of the new street.  St. Clair Street, between Hubbard and Illinois, was vacated, and in exchange, the Tribune provided land for a new St. Clair Street to the east and paid for the surfacing of the new street, a plan designed to improve traffic in the area.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

December 8, 1938 -- Steeterville Is Officially Named
December 8, 1938 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that four hotels on the near north side have come together to call the area south of Oak Street and east of Michigan Avenue “Streeterville,” memorializing the name of George “Cap” Streeter, who, between 1886 and 1921, laid claim to close to 200 acres of Lake Michigan shoreline north of the river, proclaiming it the “Deestrict of Lake Michigan.”  The manager of the De Witt Hotel at 244 East Pearson Street, R. B. Phillips, is the originator of the idea, and The Drake, the Lake Shore Drive, and the Seneca Hotels agree to cooperate.   Each guest at the hotels will receive “blue and green stickers showing a map of the designated area.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 8, 1938]  The photo above shows the Captain and "Ma" Streeter some two decades earlier.

December 8, 1979 – Mayor Richard J. Daley cuts the ribbon and officially opens the $15 million extension of Wacker Drive between Michigan Avenue and Lake Shore Drive.  “This project will help people move in the central city with greater rapidity,” the mayor says before he cuts the ribbon.  The 1,800-foot elevated roadway crosses land that was formerly occupied by an 83-acre Illinois Central Gulf Railroad yard.  It is the hope of city officials that the connection between Wacker Drive and Lake Shore Drive will facilitate the development of the Illinois Center project, which is underway.  It is just one part of a huge project that will see the straightening of the “S-Curve” of Lake Shore Drive as it approaches the river from the south and the construction of a bridge that will allow the extension of Columbus Drive across the river to the north.  The Wacker Drive extension was constructed with $6.4 million from the Illinois Central Gulf and $8.6 million in federal and state funds.  The photo above shows the first part of the extension, finished just past the first section of the new Hyatt Hotel, in 1975.  Note the Harbor Point tower under construction in the distance.

December 8, 1961 – The third largest insurance company in the nation, the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States, announces plans for the construction of a 35-story office building on a lot located between the Chicago River and Tribune Tower.  James F. Oates, Jr., the president of the company, says that the building will be “one of the most striking and beautiful in America.”  Oates continues, “These are trying days, and many citizens, including business men, are concerned over the future of America and the world.  We are not without concern, but we believe with our full heart that the way to conduct our life in these times is to show our faith in America.  That is why we are going ahead with this building – to show our faith.”  Equitable will occupy about 20 percent of the building’s 600,000 square feet, and the tower will be set back 175 feet east of Michigan Avenue.  Mayor Richard J. Daley says that the deal between the Tribune Company and Equitable “demonstrates anew the faith of men of the economic field in the future of this great city of Chicago.” [Chicago Tribune, December 8, 1961] The architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill will design the International Style tower with Alfred Shaw acting as a consultant on the project.  The building stands behind J. Seward Johnson's "God Bless America" in the 2009 photo that I took of what is today 401 North Michigan Avenue.  There is a lot less plaza today as the Apple Store now carries the plaza down to the level of the river.

Friday, December 7, 2018

December 7, 1892 -- Lake Michigan Crib Begins Operations
December 7, 1892 –Water is let into the shaft of the new four-mile tunnel at 11:00 a.m.  There is no ceremony; a heavy gale buffets the city, and the lake is a mass of angry waves.  Still the new fresh water tunnel and lake crib are a remarkable achievement … “One of the most difficult engineering enterprises ever accomplished in America.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 8, 1892]  The well in the center of the crib, located about 3.3 miles due east of Monroe Harbor, is 75 feet in diameter with a cast-iron shaft, ten feet in diameter, that goes down to a depth of 76 feet.  Designed by architect D. H. Hayes, the crib’s construction began in 1887 and is connected to two pumping stations on shore.  The whole operation is designed to supply the city with 75 million gallons of water each day.  The cost of the project is $1,526,143.68.  That’s equivalent to about $40 million today.  This will be the second crib that the city builds, this one augmenting an 1865 crib and tunnel that were only two miles offshore, too close to the shore to escape the waves of sewage water that the river disgorged each day into the lake. Today the Four-Mile Crib is inactive and is slated for demolition.

December 7, 1879 – Faced with a river that keeps plugging itself up with a pesky sand bar at what should be its mouth, the Chicago Tribune expounds on a three-part plan to remedy the problem.  The paper first spells out the specifics of the problem.  “In consequence of the drift of sand from the north along the shore and across the mouth of the river,” the article states, “the channel does not run directly out into the lake, but trends to the south, turning around the end of the south pier, passing to Randolph street, thence bending off to the east, forming in its course a channel something like the shape of the letter S, reversed.”  [Chicago Tribune, December 7, 1879] The problem grew over time, and the channel became shallower and more difficult “for a schooner to follow such a curvature either in going out or coming in, and when the wind is brisk, it is impossible, without running aground.”  To remedy the situation the paper recommends three related actions.  First, the south pier should be extended into the lake as far as the north pier.  Second, a steam dredge should be put at work full-time to keep a channel of 14 feet that spans the area impacted by the sandbar.  Finally, the paper suggests applying to Congress for the authority to levy a tonnage tax or a toll on all vessels entering or departing with the collected money used to make necessary improvements to the river and harbor.  The logic of the plan is pretty obvious as the Tribune states, “Nature always makes a river with two banks, and the channel will be found somewhere between hem; but man, in extending the Chicago river into the lake, constructed it with one bank.  The north pier was projected some distance into the lake, but the south pier was cut short; hence, the river has but one bank beyond the end of the south pier, and as a consequence, the channel, being no longer confined between two banks, spreads and shallows out to the south.”  Extending the south pier would not only prevent the formation of the sandbar, but would also provide a straight entrance from the lake into the channel, eliminating the circuitous route that began nearly a half-mile to the south at Randolph Street. The above map shows the entrance to the river toward the bottom edge that was necessitated by the sandbar toward the top of the map.

December 7, 2006 – “It’s financial suicide,” says Donald Trump of the updated design for Santiago Calatrava’s 2,500-unit Spire in Lakeshore East on this date.  Responding to the criticism, James Loewenberg of Magellan Development LLC says, “It’s a great project if they can pull off the numbers.” [Chicago Tribune, Decmber 8, 2006]  One of Magellan’s own buildings near Millennium Park has units selling for $350 to $650 a square foot.  The Spire at this point has sold 1,300 units for at least $1,000 a square foot.  The new design for the Spire will maintain the 2,000-foot height, but it will take the building to 160 stories rather than the 115 originally projected with seven levels of underground parking.  Gail Lissner, vice-president of Appraisal Research Counselors, looks at the project’s future by saying, “This could be a very long sellout unless they find other buyers nationally and internationally.  Clearly, the Chicago market would have a great deal of difficulty absorbing them.”  With a half-dozen high-end condominium projects currently under construction, the road will be a difficult one for the tall tower at the river’s mouth.  Loewenberg says, “It will be a struggle, and only those with the best location and product will survive.”  The Spire had a great location and an exceptional product, but really bad timing.  As the real estate market collapsed in 2007, the project died as the economy cratered.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

December 6, 1978 -- Henry Moore Comes to Town
December 6, 1978 –Henry Moore visits Rolling Meadows to approve the location for “Large Two Forms,” a work he completed in 1969, one of four casts of the work.  The sculpture, 17 feet 6 inches at its highest point, will be located atop a specially constructed mound at Gould Center, the corporate headquarters of Gould, Inc., an electronics firm that no longer exists.  To make way for the sculpture a sculpture by Pablo Picasso and Carl Nesjar, known as “the Bather,” was moved.  Moore says, “I am very happy.  You can see the piece against one of the best background you can have for sculpture – the sky.”  [Chicago Tribune, December 7, 1978]  He adds that he had “nothing to do” with the move of the Picasso.  When Gould, Inc. was purchased by Nippon Mining Co. Ltd. Of Tokyo in August of 1989, the corporate headquarters moved to Eastlake, Ohio. Both the Picasso piece and “Large Two Forms” were bought by a private developer.  I am not completely sure of this, but it appears that the large sculpture is today displayed in Bonn.

December 6, 1953 – The Chicago Daily Tribune runs the fourth in a series of articles discussing the “origin, history and significance of some of Chicago’s principal thorofares.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 6, 1953], and some interesting tidbits turn up.  Wells Street, for example, was named after Billy Wells who was raised by the Miami Indians and died in the 1812 massacre near Fort Dearborn.  It became such a tawdry byway that the section of Wells south of the river was changed to Fifth Avenue in 1870, the name it carried until 1918 when the name was changed back to Wells Street.  The first jail in Chicago was on LaSalle Street on the southeast corner of Randolph Street.  The last bear that was shot within the corporate limits of the city was killed at the corner of LaSalle and Adams on October 6, 1834.  LaSalle Street also had the city’s first bank, the Illinois State Bank, which was chartered on December 5, 1835.  At the corner of LaSalle Street and Washington Boulevard the first courthouse was built in 1837.  Just before the Chicago fire in 1871 the first tunnel beneath the river was finished on LaSalle, a bore that could carry “50,000 vehicles and 1,000,000 pedestrians” each day.  The tunnel served as the only passage between the north and south sections of the city for three months after the fire destroyed all of the bridges downtown.  Clark Street may possibly be the oldest street in the city, the result of an old trail from the south.  “Clark Street,” the Tribune repored, “early became known as a street of contrasts, alternating fine residences and substantial businesses with shanties and dives, and that character seems to cling to it.”  Chicago’s first newspaper, the Chicago Democrat, was published at the corner of Clark Street and Water Street.  It was in a cigar store on South Clark Street that Bathhouse John Coughlin and Hinky Dink Kenna held forth, the place “where they swapped handouts to the impoverished for votes.”  At the turn of the century a section of Halsted Street was populated by Italian immigrants, “crowded into lodging houses which advertised rates of ’20 cents a day, bath and two meals included.’”  Clark Street angles off to the west just north of North Avenue, eventually connecting with Ridge Road and the Green Bay trail, making it a street that from the beginning of the city’s history leads into the city from the south and north.  Any connection on Clark Street between the south and the north sections of the city has long since disappeared, but for a long time the street followed Rush Street to Chicago Avenue where it turned to the northwest for about a mile to the junction with North Avenue.  The above sketch shows the city, looking south, in 1888.

December 6, 1892 – In the wake of the United States Supreme Court deciding for the State of Illinois and Chicago in its suit against the Illinois Central Railroad over the right to submerged lands, the Chicago Daily Tribune tempers elation with a warning:  “This decision does not give the Lake-Front to the city for Aldermen to speculate with and enrich themselves.  It is given to the city for ‘public uses’ . . . The land south of Monroe street, including that which may be reclaimed from the water between the government dock line and the shore, should be converted into a beautiful park.  There should be no building there except the Art Institute which is now erecting . . . Boodle Aldermen must keep their hands off.  They must not be allowed to make private profit out of this property of the people, the use of which they have been deprived of for nearly a quarter of a century, but which has been saved to them.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 6, 1892]  The above photo shows the Lake-Front park two years later, a year after the Art Institute was completed.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

December 5, 1944 -- World War II Veteran Comes Home at the Age of 15

December 5, 1944 – Private Raymond Wallace returns to his grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Cotton, residing at 1429 Madison Street.  The 15-year-old is believed to be the youngest soldier to serve on the front in France, where he was wounded in the battle for St. Lo at the age of 14. Wallace graduated from Skinner elementary school in June of 1943, added four years to his age and presented himself to the draft board at Western Avenue and Madison Street.  Shortly after the D-Day invasion at Normandy he landed in France with the 315thInfantry of the 79thInfantry division.  On July 3 he was wounded in the right thigh as the attack on St. Lo commenced.  He said, “I never heard the Jerry shell coming, but I felt a sharp pain and the blood spread out around my leg.  I rolled over into a shell hole where two dead Germans were lying.  After an hour the medics came.  There was a worse case further up, so I told them to take it first – a buddy of mine whose back was smashed.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 5, 1944]  Wallace celebrated his fifteenth birthday in an English hospital.  Upon his discharge from service at Ft. Sheridan, he plans to go back to school “for a couple of years and then maybe I’ll try the navy when I get to be 17.”

December 5, 1937 – “From a muddy, narrow, unkempt and little used dead-end street to one of the world’s most famous thoroughfares is the remarkable metamorphosis brought about in less than two decades by the erection of an eight million dollar bridge over the Chicago river.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 5, 1937] Thus begins the Chicago Daily Tribune’s feature on the changes sparked by the Michigan Avenue bridge in the 17 years since it opened.  When the bridge opened on May 14, 1920, Chicago, for the first time, saw the north side and the south side of the city connected by means of a wide thoroughfare and a dependable way across the river. Two tall buildings at opposite ends of North Michigan Avenue were completed the same year that the bridge opened – the Drake Hotel to the north and the Wrigley building next to the river.  A year later the Tribune printing plant was completed, along with the Lake Shore Trust and Savings Bank building.  In 1923 the London Guarantee and Accident building, today’s London House Hotel, opened.  A year after that the second half of the Wrigley Building was completed, along with the Allerton Hotel and the Central Life building, followed in 1925 by Tribune Tower, the Michigan-Ohio building, the 900 North Michigan building, the Tobey Furniture building and the Women’s Athletic Club.  In 1926 The Lake Michigan Building and the 840 North Michigan building were completed, followed in late 1927 by 333 North Michigan Avenue.  Ten structures rose skyward in 1928 – the Palmolive building, the Drake Towers, the Women’s Athletic Club, the Farwell building, the 700 North Michigan Avenue building, the 733 North Michigan avenue building, the Medinah Athletic club, the McGraw-Hill building, the Decorative Arts building, and the Carbide and Carbon building.  Three more buildings were completed in 1929, the year that the world economic boom came to an end – the Michigan Square building, 430 North Michigan avenue, and 669 North Michigan.  Many of these buildings are gone today, but a substantial number are still with us, proclaiming that, in the decade that followed the opening of the bridge at Michigan Avenue and the widening of muddy Pine Street on the north side of the river, thirty-three substantial buildings, costing approximately $70,000,000 were constructed.  The article ends with a quote from architect Ernest Graham, who observed, “The Michigan avenue bridge was going to cost about $800,000, according to preliminary estimates; actually it cost eight million, and it’s been worth more than eighty million dollars to the public of Chicago.”  The above photo shows the opening of the bridge in May of 1920.

December 5, 1892 – There are four stars on the flag of Chicago, each star corresponding to a key event in the city’s history.  If there were to be a fifth star – astonishingly, it was not assigned to the 2016 World Series victory of the Cubs – it might very well be given to a case decided in the United States Supreme Court, the results of which were published on this date in 1892.  The case pitted the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago against the Illinois Central Railroad in an effort to “obtain a judicial determination of the title of certain lands on the east or Lake-Front of the City of Chicago, situated between the Chicago River and Sixteenth street, which have been reclaimed from the waters of the lake and are occupied by the tracks, depots, warehouses, piers, and other structures used by the railroad company in its business, and also of the title claimed by the company to the submerged lands constituting the bed of the lake, lying east of the tracks, within the corporate limits of the city for a distance of a mile, and between the south line of the south pier near Chicago River extended eastwardly, and a line extended in the same direction from the south line of Lot 21, near the company’s round-house and machine shops.”  In a lengthy explanation the court found that the city was not deprived of its riparian rights by a previous decision to allow the Illinois Central to construct tracks and a breakwater along the lakefront between Randolph Street and Park Row.  The court said, “With this reservation of the right of the railroad company to use the tracts on ground reclaimed by it and the continuance of the breakwater, the city possesses the same right of riparian ownership, and is at full liberty to exercise it, which it never did.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 6, 1892]  Writing for the majority, Justice Stephen J. Field stated, “It is the settled law of this country that the ownership of and dominion and sovereignty over lands covered by the waters, within the limits of the several states, belong to the respective states within which they are found, with the consequent right to use or dispose of any portion thereof, when that can be done without substantial impairment of the interest of the public in the waters, and subject always to the paramount right of congress to control that navigation so far as may be necessary for the regulation of commerce with foreign nations and among the states.”  The case has tremendous implications for the future of the city’s lakefront, which up to this point, had been expanded through landfill with parcels from north to south being claimed by property owners claiming that because they owned land adjoining the lake, they also owned the riparian rights and therefore could expand their property as far as they desired.  In short, the city would look far different today if the case in 1892 had turned in a different direction.  The photo above shows the lakefront just north of today's Art Institute probably in 1891 or early 1892.  The portion of the lake that we can see, which is west of today's Columbus Drive, is part of the property included in the suit before the Supreme Court.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

December 4, 2014 -- Fort Sheridan Long-Range Plan Stirs Controversy
December 4, 2014 –The Chicago Tribune reports on a developing controversy surrounding the draft plan of the Lake County Forest Preserve’s Planning, Building and Zoning Committee to return the grasslands at Fort Sheridan to woodlands.  The chairwoman of the planning committee, Bonnie Thomson Carter, a District 5 Lake County Board member, says, “The draft plan suggests returning the preserve to what it looked like historically 100 years ago.  That part of the plan is based on the prehistoric use of the land, the natural resources and the vision of the forest preserve.” [Chicago Tribune, December 4, 2014] Not everyone is happy.  Sonny Cohen, a Highland Park resident, who campaigned for a preserve in the area where the former army base’s airstrip and rifle range once was located, says, “The preserve – with grasslands – has evolved as this incredible place.  Wildlife has discovered it, and it has become a habitat for some very rare species.”  Others say that planting trees in the grassland will interfere with the monitoring of hawks, a watch that was begun in 2012.  Vic Berardi, a Gurnee resident and founder of the hawk watch at Illinois Beach State Park, says, “This could become the most important hawk migration sites in America.  But it has to be accessible if it’s used for educational purposes.”  Still others fault the lack of convenient parking in the new plan, which would restore the old parking area to a natural setting. In late fall of 2016 the Lake County Forest Preserve’s Board of Commissioners unanimously approves a master plan that entails $3.8 million in improvements, including 1.6 miles of mowed trails, 2.8 miles of asphalt trails, five boardwalks, three observation areas, a dozen interpretive exhibits and the restoration of 73 acres of woodland and savanna, returning these areas to habitats resembling those prior to settlement of the area.   

December 4, 1977 – Dr. Edith Brooks Farnsworth, aged 71, dies at her villa near Florence, Italy, a long distance from Passavant Memorial Hospital in Chicago where she spent 27 years on the staff.  Farnsworth, of course, was the client who commissioned Mies van der Rohe to design a house for her in Kendall County on land which she had purchased from Colonel Robert McCormick, the editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune.  Recognized throughout the world today as a gem of mid-century modern residential architecture, the project, finished in 1959, led to years of legal wrangling between Farnsworth and her architect.  Farnsworth was a graduate of the University of Chicago, from which she graduated with a degree in literature, going on to get a degree in medicine in 1939 from the Northwestern University Medical School. Farnsworth’s ashes were returned to Chicago, and she is buried at Graceland Cemetery, where her headstone is within sight of the grave of Mies van der Rohe. For more on the legal battle that raged between the two from 1951 to 1956, you can turn to this entry in Connecting the Windy City.  Information on the resolution of the suit can be found here.

December 4, 1902 – Fourteen men lose their lives in a fire at the Lincoln Hotel at 176 Madison Street, a converted business block that the city’s fire marshal calls the worst firetrap he has seen.  The building went up in 1873, just two years after the Great Fire, and despite its proximity to that tragic event, it was built with wooden partitions, a single wooden staircase, and windows less than a foot in width.  Six months before the fire two electric elevators were installed as the building was being converted into a hotel.  The shafts of those elevators, enclosed within wooden casings, formed flues that provided a draft for the fire once it began.  One of the newly installed elevators blocked all but 20 inches of the main stairway, stairs that should have been over twice as wide.  There was only one fire escape in the four-story building, and that was reached by way of a partitioned six-foot by eight-foot hotel room that contained two beds.  When the lights went out and the elevators failed early on in the catastrophe the residents found themselves in darkness and smoke, some with no way to escape.  The night clerk discovered the fire at 5:40 a.m. and alerted as many guests as he could.  125 people began frantically trying to find a way out of the burning building, some by jumping out of narrow windows to the roofs of lower business buildings to the east and west.  Firefighters initially could not make their way up the one stairway and were forced to fight the fire from a defensive position, trying to save those trapped in the building by placing ladders against the west side of the building.   Following the tragedy was a condemnation of the city’s inspection process with a special focus placed on Chief Building Inspector Kiolbassa, of whom Fireproof Magazine said, “At his door lies the record of more torture and death brought to suffering, helplessness, as the direct result of his incompetency, than has ever before been charged to a public officer in the history of civic government.”  [Fireproof Magazine, Volume 1; No. 5., p. 45.]

Monday, December 3, 2018

December 3, 1985 -- NBC Announces New Office Tower
December 3, 1985 –The National Broadcasting Company announces that it has signed a lease for space in the first office tower to be constructed in the Cityfront Center project, a move that is valued at more than $100 million.  The 34-story tower will be a joint venture of the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States and Tishman-Speyer Properties.  NBC will move more than 600 employees from the Merchandise Mart and other locations around the Loop to the new building, which is scheduled to begin construction in the summer of 1985.  Richard Lobo, the vice-president and general manager of NBC’s local affiliate WMAQ-TV, says, “Though we’ve been served well by the Merchandise Mart for the last 50 years, here we’ll have better access to roads … and be close to the city’s two major newspapers and our own competitors.” [Chicago Tribune, December 4, 1985]  Plans for the building, drawn up by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, show a “stepped-back tower clad in granite or a granite-composite material, with a column of windows rising the height of the building to a tapered, lighted pinnacle."  An interesting development occurred just a week before the announcement with the dissolution of a partnership between Equitable and the Chicago Dock and Canal Trust to develop the 50 acres of Cityfront Center north of the Chicago River between Lake Michigan and Michigan Avenue.  Equitable retained 11 acres west of Columbus Drive, and Chicago Dock took the rest of the site.  Potentially four million square feet of commercial space and 1,800 hotel rooms could eventually be sited on the 11 acres that Equitable retained.  The Chicago Dock portion of the site could see nearly 6,000 apartments, 2,200 hotel rooms and six million square feet of offices and retail space.  One could say that the development of Streeterville, the area north of the river and east of Michigan Avenue begins on this date.

December 3, 1922 – John Mead Howells, the winner of the $100,000 competition for the Chicago Tribune’s new building on Michigan Avenue, is honored at a dinner at which he gives the keynote address.  Expressing his appreciation for the commission, Howells says, “When an architect has thought and studied and practiced a special subject for eighteen years, he feels that nothing so fine can come to him as an opportunity to give that subject its best expression.”  That subject, for Howells and his collaborator, Raymond Hood, has been the tall office building, a frustrating subject in most cases, the architect says, because of the location in a city such buildings must usually occupy.  “Unfortunately, almost all our efforts at design must be lost,” Howells says, “for the reason that most office buildings have a joint property line on each side, over which the building cannot project and this leaves the front an isolated strip of design with no relation to the other sides of the building.  It is like a decorated window shade pulled down from a roll twenty stories above the street.”  The only time a perfect skyscraper can be built, Howells says, is when an architect is given a site that allows all four sides of the building owned by the same owner.  “How many such opportunities are there in the world,” he asks.  “You can count them on your fingers.”  The new building in Chicago presents such an opportunity.  Howell goes on to talk about the plan for the Tribune building.  The intent is not to design a building that “looked Gothic … but it is meant to be a design expressing to the limit our American steel cage construction, and nothing else … I believe that the type of design chosen by The Tribune expresses not only the American office building but the actual steel cage, with its vertical steel columns from top to bottom and its interpolated steel beams.  When you have done this you have produced something Gothic in line, because the Gothic architecture was also one of structural expression.”  Closing his remarks, Howells says, “In the present design Mr. Hood and I have tried to set aside any itching for the original for fear of the fantastic, and we have striven only for a straight solution of that most worth while in American problems – the American skyscraper.”

December 3, 1948 – Pizzeria Uno opens for business.  According to Eater Chicago Ike Sewell worked for Fleischmann’s Distilling Corporation and his future partner, Ric Ricardo, was the owner of Riccardo’s Restaurant and Gallery at 437 North Rush Street.  The original plan was to open a Mexican Restaurant until Riccardo, an Italian by birth, tasted Mexican food for the first time.  That pointed the duo in the direction of pizza, but not just the usual thin crust of tomato sauce, cheese and toppings, but a pizza that was worthy of the city with the big shoulders.  The restaurant was originally called The Pizzeria and then Pizzeria Riccardo.  It became Pizzeria Uno when Sewell and Riccardo opened Pizzeria Due a block away in 1955.  Today there are over 130 Uno Pizzeria and Grill restaurants in 21states, Washington, D. C., South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Honduras, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

December 2, 1962 -- Wilmette's "No Man's Land" Headed for Change
December 2, 1962 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that the J. S. James and Company has plans to build a $6 million, ten-story co-operative apartment building on the site of the Vista del Lago Bach Club. In razing the club in what came to be known as “No Man’s Land,” between Kenilworth and Wilmette, the end comes for a project that was “the north shore’s symbol for the soaring optimism of the 1920’s – and the crushing disillusionment of the depression years.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 2, 1962]  Vista del Lago was the brainchild of Commodore J. Stuart Blackton, who spent $1.5 million in 1926 to build “the envy of Lido and the despair of southern California and Florida.”  At $330 per year members would be able “to avail themselves of a clubhouse, patio, ballroom, terrace, theater, Turkish bath, dining room and grill.” [Chicago Tribune, December 28, 1986]  By 1930 the club, “painted in vivid reds and yellows,” had more than 500 members, but the Great Depression put an end to plans that had the club rising to ten stories, “the tallest building for several miles around and visible from nearly all points along the North Shore.”  The posh beginnings deteriorated to the point where a state legislator called the area “a slot machine and keno sin center where college students were being debauched with beer, hard liquor and fireworks.” []  Fire destroyed much of the building as the 1930’s came to an end.  In early January of 1942 Wilmette annexed “No Man’s Land.”   It took some time for the area to shake its tawdry reputation, but in the mid-1960’s development began, and Plaza del Lago was born, “a robust mix of on-trend and classic with its diverse mix of leading retailers, one-of-a-kind boutiques, distinctive restaurants, grocery and services.” []  In January of 2018 Retail Properties of America purchased the shopping center at Plaza del Lago for $48 million.  The top photo shows the area in 1965 just after development began.  The photo below that shows the same area as it appears today.

December 2, 1967 – The New York Central Railroad’s Twentieth Century Limited pulls out of the LaSalle Street station for the final time.  No ceremony is held to mark the occasion as the 250 passengers on board settle in for the overnight trip to New York City.  Dale Hoffman, a conductor on the train for 15 years, says, “There was no announcement made of the last run, and no ceremony is planned as far as I know.  The Limited is just making another run as far as the railroad is concerned.” [Chicago Tribune, December 3, 1967] The Limited made its first run 64 years earlier, carrying 27 passengers on atrip that took 20 hours. The train will be replaced with a slower train that makes more stops.  The romance will be gone from a train that inspired plays and movies … the new train will be known simply as Number 28.

December 2, 1945 – Before it falls to the wreckers, the mansion of Cyrus Hall McCormick at 675 North Rush Street is opened to Chicago Daily Tribune reporter Edward Barry for one last look.  Barry writes, “To a person entering the old house suddenly from the busy streets of the near north side the impression was strong that he had stepped into a more tranquil, a more spacious age.  Before him heavy walls of mellow walnut converged toward the fireplace set into the far wall . . . In an austere room to the right of the entrance hall were found the objects of art which the McCormicks brought back with them from their trips to Europe, and had sent to them from the ends of the earth.  China of every imaginable design huddled under dust cloths . . . The deserted rooms were empty and cold.  Where open fires formerly crackled and laughter resounded there was nothing to be heard but the hushed voice of the traffic outside.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 2, 1945]  The 35-room mansion, reportedly patterned after a wing of the Louvre, took five years to build and was finished in 1879.  After World War II ended, though, the old world order, at least as far as elaborate urban mansions for the rich were concerned, began to give way, and the McCormick mansion was finally demolished in 1955.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

December 1, 1945 -- Fort Sheridan Reaches the 200,000 Mark in Demobilization
December 1, 1945 – Brigadier General John T. Florence announces that Fort Sheridan has achieved a remarkable goal, processing 200,000 soldiers on their way home from wartime service at its separation center.  Master Sergeant Trudee J. Melsack, who says she will apply “at onece” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 2, 1945] for overseas service with the state department, is number 200,000.  In November of 1945 the fort processed 41,239 men and women leaving the service. On the last day of that month 1,678 went through the separation process at the post.  As the end of World War II became more certain, the United States War Department instituted the Adjusted Service Rating Score, basically a point system that determined when a member of the armed forces would be released from duty.  Initially, an enlisted man needed a total of 85 points to be considered.  He or she earned one point each for every month of service, another point for each month served overseas, five points for each combat award he or she earned, and 12 points for each dependent child under the age of 18.  On this date in 1945 those totals were revised upward to stem the tide of experienced military personnel, especially in the officers’ corps, who were leaving the service.  After this date officers would need 70 points plus four years of service to be considered for demobilization.

December 1, 1942 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that its owner, Colonel Robert R. McCormick, has given the Art Institute of Chicago “nine distinguished examples of the French modern school, paintings which are part of his well known collection.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 1, 1942] The most important of the paintings is Cezanne’s “The Bathers.” The collection also includes a Degas, “Two Dancers,” and Dufy’s “Nice.”  Daniel Catton Rich, the director of fine arts at the museum, says, “Col. McCormick’s gift is of great importance to the Art Institute.  The splendid Cezanne is one of the painter’s extremely rare figure compositions and fills a niche left vacant so far in the museum where Cezanne’s representation has been limited to landscape and still life. Due to the generosity of collectors of modern painting like Mrs. Potter Palmer, Mrs. L. L. Coburn, Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson, Mr. and Mrs. Charles H. Worcester and Col. McCormick, Chicago’s art museum now leads the world in great French painting of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.”

December 1, 1891 – The World’s Columbian Exposition formally assumes possession of the Inter-State Industrial Exposition Building, the impressive building that sits on the lot where the Art Institute of Chicago stands today.  The move makes way for progress on the building of the new art museum although there is still no guarantee that the new building will be constructed.  The move also leaves the Academy of Sciences without a place for its collection, which has been held in the Exposition building since 1875.  The University of Chicago has offered space for the academy on its campus, but the directors of the Academy of Sciences have rejected the offer, saying that it will take the specimens too far from the center of the city.  The above photo shows the Inter-State Industrial Exposition Building and Michigan Avenue in 1890.

Friday, November 30, 2018

November 30, 1929 -- Chicago Yacht Club Breaks Ground for New Home
November 30, 1929 –Ground is broken for the new home of the Chicago Yacht Club at Monroe Street and the lakefront as 200 members witness the ceremony.  George F. Getz, the building chairman, says, “Here will stand the finest yacht club in the world.  Chicago will be proud of the structure.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 1, 1929] A telegram from the head of naval aviation, William A. Moffett, is read in which he “lauded the organization and congratulated the club on its activity.”  Judge C. C. Kremer, who holds membership number one in the club, is also introduced to the gathered crowd.  Actual construction is expected to start on March 1, and it is hoped that the club can be in the $2,500,000 building by January of 1931.  The new eight-story clubhouse is to replace an older building, built in 1902, that had sat at the foot of Randolph Street until it was moved to Monroe Street to facilitate the construction of the outer drive. Optimism quickly faded as 1929 turned into 1930, however – the timing couldn’t have been worse as the stock market crash in 1929 ended the plans for the new building.  In 1935 a display home at the Century of Progress World’s Fair, “The House of Tomorrow,” is moved to the site as a temporary clubhouse.  It isn’t until 1955 that construction is finally begun on the first section of the clubhouse on its present site at the foot of Monroe Street. 

November 30, 1976 – Isamu Noguchi dedicates his outdoor sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago, a monumental piece standing on the east side of museum, facing Grant Park.  The fountain, commissioned to celebrate the bicentennial of the United States, is made up of two 40-foot pieces of granite and stainless steel, one horizontal and the other vertical and V-shaped.  The forms are set in a reflecting pool that will allow year-round operation.  The $250,000 piece is another sculpture that comes from the Ferguson Memorial Monument Fund.  Naguchi says, “I am always astonished that things work so well in Chicago when they don’t seem to elsewhere.  Chicago has always been a great place for me.  This is a very happy day in my life.” [Chicago Tribune, December 1, 1975] At the dedication it is also announced that the Chicago Park District has passed a resolution to place a monumental outdoor sculpture at the northeast corner of Fullerton Avenue and Cannon Drive.  Eventually Ellsworth Kelly would be chosen for that work.  In 1981 his Curve XII, known as his “I Will” sculpture was installed at the location named five years earlier.  Naguchi may have jumped the gun on his amazement that things work so well in the city.  His work, as one can see from the photo above, is not working all that well and seems to have been largely forgotten.

November 30, 1951 – At a meeting of the Irish Fellowship Club of Chicago at the Morrison Hotel proposals are put forth to bring the only Nazi submarine ever captured at sea to Chicago.  The plans have the United States Navy towing the U-505 from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where it is anchored, to Chicago, where it will be placed on a foundation near Buckingham Fountain.  Jack Foster, a naval reserve officer, tells the crowd that a Chicagoan, Admiral Dan Gallery, commanded the anti-submarine task force that captured the German U-boat and its top-secret codes and that makes Chicago the appropriate final resting place for the captured sub.  The head of the Irish Fellowship Club, Dunne Corboy, appoints an engineering consultant to head a committee that will study the proposal.  The new effort comes after the Science Museum in Hyde Park gives up its efforts, citing the prohibitive costs involved in the operation.  The U-505 finally comes to Chicago in September of 1954, as a result of a renewed effort on the part of the museum.  The photo above shows the U-boat just east of Michigan Avenue as it arrived it the city in 1954.