January 23, 1893 – At a meeting of Michigan Avenue property owners in the offices of Montgomery Ward and Company, “practical steps to begin beautifying the Lake-Front and make it ‘a thing of beauty and joy forever’ for the people of Chicago” [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 24, 1893] are begun. With a proposal pending in the City Council to lease a portion of the lakefront from Madison to Randolph Streets to a company for the production of firework displays, the group is alarmed that once such a foothold has been established, “it might be hard to dispossess them.” The opinion is unanimous that “the cupidity or corruption of city fathers and others who were periodically trying to use those blocks, originally dedicated to the public for private purposes, should be at once and forever thwarted.” The paper reports that Montgomery Ward speaks strongly against “the tendency of the Chicago of today to be indifferent to the needs and beauties of the Chicago of the future …This is the age of commercial activity, but there should be something in life besides this ceaseless grasping for the dollar … The authorities of all other great cities in the world, and especially those of Europe, are tearing down marble blocks and widening thoroughfares to create breathing places and pleasure grounds for the people, while our city authorities are always trying to convert one of the most beautiful locations for a people’s park into a dumping ground for garbage or a speculative site for builders and railroads.” The merchants at the meeting decide to enclose the area between Michigan Avenue and the Illinois Central tracks, from Madison to Randolph Streets, with “a handsome ornamental fence.” At the foot of Washington Street will be a large gateway with other entrances at the north and south corners of the area off Michigan Avenue. “Inside the grounds,” they agree, “will be laid out a delightful way for promenades, flower gardens, fountains, and statues, with plenty of seats for the people.” The members of the group propose to make the improvements at their own expense. The attractive scene in the above photo looks toward Michigan Avenue and the lake from Randolph Street in 1893. The present Chicago Cultural Center stands on the empty lot.
January 23, 1949 -- The first place winner in a nation-wide architectural competition for new talent sponsored by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City is Joseph Y. Fujikawa of Chicago. Mr. Fujikawa was born in Los Angeles and began his college career in a five-year program in architecture at the University of Southern California. That was interrupted when World War iI began, and he was interred in a "relocation center" in Colorado. After three months there he managed to get into the Illinois Institute of Technology, at which Mies van der Rohe was the director of the School of Architecture. His time at I.I.T. was also interrupted by an 18-month stint in the Army, and Fujikawa graduated in 1944. His career really began with Mies's first residential building in Chicago at Promontory Point. Perhaps his two most noteworthy designs in Chicago are the Ralph Metcalfe Federal Office Building across Jackson Boulevard from the Federal Center and the former Mercantile Exchange towers at 10 and 30 South Wacker Drive, the north tower of which is pictured above. Fujikawa died in Winnetka on the last day of 2004.