Monday, February 12, 2018

February 12, 1893 -- Philip Martiny Praised

February 12, 1893 – The Chicago Daily Tribune runs a long feature article on sculptor Philip Martiny.  We don’t hear a whole lot about the guy today, but back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s he was quite the stone chiseling fellah.  At the time of the Tribune article Martiny was finishing up work on most of the sculptural work for the Agriculture Building at the World’s Columbian Exposition.  The majority of the sculptures at the Palace of Arts, today’s Museum of Science and Industry, was the product of Martiny’s workshop as well.  The carved spandrels that sit atop the arches on the Michigan Avenue side of the Art Institute of Chicago are also from Martiny’s design.  Martiny was born in Strasbourg, a city that teetered back and forth between French and German rule over the centuries.  When it once again became part of Germany, the sculptor, who was at the time designing furniture, came to the United States at the age of 20 to avoid being conscripted into the military.  A stroke of good fortune led him to study with the great sculptor Augustus St. Gaudens for five years at which point he opened his own studio.  Martiny only spent a year or so in Chicago as he worked on his groupings for the Columbian Exposition; most of his work was done in New York where he kept his studio.  It was a momentous year, though, and although his name has slipped into obscurity, the fact that he was chosen to work on enhancing the palaces of the Great White City shows how much his work was valued at the time.

February 12, 1955 – Authorities begin an investigation into the fire that kills 29 men and injures over a dozen more at the Barton Hotel.  It is estimated that 245 men are asleep in the hotel, located on four floors above the Standard Store Fixture Company at 644-48 West Madison Street.  Many of the victims are down-and-out men who are trapped in “cagelike rooms” that they have rented for 60 to 85 cents a night.  [Chicago Tribune, February 13, 1955] The Tribune describes the sleeping accommodations as “cubicles four feet wide, six feet long, and seven feet high.  The bunks were separated by corrugated iron sheets and each was covered at the top by meshed chicken wire.  An aisle ran between each two rows of cubicles.”  The fire starts just after midnight on the second floor, and flames quickly spread to the upper floors, engulfing the building as men, blinded and choked by thick smoke, run, screaming, toward exits.  Firemen are hampered by temperatures close to zero, and three of them are injured in the desperate attempt to rescue victims.  The hotel maintenance man, Tony Dykes, says, “About 2 a.m. I heard someone in the back of the hotel holler: ‘Fire!’ … I heard the alarm go off in the hotel and then the lights went out.  I went back toward room 137 to see what I could do, but the smoke was so thick I had to give up.”

February 12, 1949 -- A spokesman for the North Central association charges that construction of a huge water filtration plant on 55 acres north of Navy Pier would cause property values on the near north side to plummet. Frederick M. Bowes, vice president of the association, says that if the city attempts to build the plant it would be in violation of a contract signed by the former Lincoln Park board when riparian rights were obtained for the construction of what is now the inner drive, and he promises that the association will fight in the courts to have the project stopped. Harry L. Wells, the business manager for Northwestern University, which controls a significant chunk of land in the area (and still does), says, "We'd like to see a fine territory developed around the university. When you start putting a filtration plant there it isn't going go be that kind of territory." The purification plant was, tied up in court for years, but it finally opened in 1968 as the James W. Jardine Water Purification Plant in the exact spot on which it was originally proposed.

No comments: