Sunday, February 18, 2018

February 18, 1881 -- LaSalle Street and the Board of Trade

February 18, 1881 – The City Council Committee on Streets and Alleys for the South Division meets in the City Clerk’s office to take up the matter concerning the vacation of LaSalle Street between Jackson and Van Buren.  A letter from the city’s law department makes it clear that “… there is no doubt that, by a three-fourths vote of all the Aldermen elected the City Council may vacate LaSalle Street” and that “Should such vacation be made, their [sic] would be no obligation on the part of the city to refund the money originally collected to pay the damages when the street was opened.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, February 19, 1881] The lawyers warn, though, that there could still be damages that a jury would be responsible for determining and “What damages a jury might award and what benefits a Commission might assess to pay the same, and what property would be selected to bear the burden it is manifestly impossible to say.  All that a mere lawyer could say would be that, unless all damages were absolutely released, it would lead to varied and interesting litigation.”  The chairman of the committee offered his opinion that it did not seem feasible for the City Council to vacate LaSalle Street unless a release was obtained from all the property-owners who could bring damages against the city.  Although no decision is reached in this afternoon meeting, the general feeling among the members of the committee is that an agreement can eventually be reached by which Sherman Street and Pacific Avenue, streets that were the southern extensions of LaSalle Street in 1881, could be widened and if the north end of these streets was not used for Board of Trade purposes within a specific time, then these streets could be reopened.  It would be a year or more until the Illinois Supreme Court removed all obstacles to erect a new Board of Trade building on a plot of land provided by a vacated LaSalle Street.  The above photo shows the Chicago Board of Trade, completed in 1885, and its position on a vacated LaSalle Street.  This building would give way to a tower designed in the Art Deco style that would open in 1930.

February 18, 1862 – Withdrawal of United States troops from Camp Douglas begins and the Chicago Tribune reports that it will “speedily be cleared of soldiers.”  [Chicago Tribune, February 18, 1862] Word comes that the camp will “soon undergo a complete change of tenants” [Chicago Tribune, February 19, 1862] as Captain Potter of the United States Quartermaster’s Department reports that “as soon as the regiments now in Camp Douglas shall have departed, their place will be occupied by seven thousand confederate prisoners, captured by our forces at Fort Donelson …  All the rolling stock of the Illinois Central Road is now being collected at Cairo as expeditiously as possible for the transportation to this place of the prisoners alluded to, and it is now confidently expected that their arrival here will not be delayed beyond Saturday of the present week.”  Before the end of the Civil War nearly 26,000 Confederate prisoners-of-war would be incarcerated at the camp.  It is estimated that somewhere around 4,000 of those men died in the cramped and unsanitary conditions there.

February 18, 1945 -- It is announced that the Chicago Title and Trust company has finally, after a 54-year buying program, gained control of the largest single piece of privately owned property in the Loop since 1897. The firm originally intended to locate its offices in a new building on the site at the corner of Washington Street and Dearborn, but opted instead to purchase the Conway Building a block west and sell the large corner block next to the First United Methodist Church of Chicago for a development deemed "proper for such a big and strategic location." Ultimately, the Brunswick Corporation purchased the property, and in 1965 the SOM-designed headquarters for Brunswick was completed, at the time the tallest reinforced concrete structure in the world. The photo above shows the Brunswick Building (now offices for Cook County) under construction across the street from the Daley Center, completed in the same year.  The spire of the First United Methodist Church of Chicago separates government from the private sector.

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