Sunday, May 13, 2018

May 13, 1983 -- Chicago River Proposal for Beautification of Six Sites

May 13, 1983 –The Chicago Tribune, in its “Community News” column, reports that a six-month project by Friends of the Chicago River has culminated in detailed designs for enhancing six sites along the river with all six proposals under study by the city’s Department of Planning. David Jones, the chairman of the group’s steering committee, names the six areas under consideration for beautification.  The first proposal involves lighting of 18 Chicago River bridges between Michigan Avenue and Congress Parkway. The proposal states, “Think of the effect.  From Wolf Point you would see the whole necklace of lights.” [Chicago Tribune, May 13, 1983] The second location for improvement is Rush Street where a “bilevel, glass-front café behind the Wrigley Building that could seat 80 persons inside and another 150 outside” is proposed. Wolf Point is next where a boat ramp and dock are proposed along a landscaped bulkhead. Part of the plan includes a “small café, an outdoor amphitheater and a floating concert stage” with a high-rise building to be developed.  A “cleaned-up, greened-up turning basin” is proposed for North Avenue where “flowering trees, evergreens and ground cover could keep the basin colorful year-round and could act as buffers against unsightly industrial storage areas.” The fifth site is located on the North Branch of the river where it meets the North Shore Channel, the site of the city’s only waterfall.  “Paths could be landscaped along the bank,” according to the proposal. “Footbridges could be built, providing complete access to the area.  Boat docks could be added, and a sloping terrace on the east bank would allow an unobstructed view of the dock from an existing field house.” Finally, there is Bubbly Creek, located on the South Fork of the South Branch of the river between Thirty-First and Thirty-Ninth Streets.  It “could be developed into a heritage park capitalizing on the history of the site where Father Marquette camped one winter and where ships once unloaded their cargos of lumber … Water quality could be improved with installation of stationary bicycles, which when pedaled, could aerate the water.” Although not a whole happened as a result of the report – there are no aerating bicycles at Bubbly Creek -- it was a beginning, an acknowledgment that the river is a resource as important to the city as its beautiful lakefront.  Thirty-five years later the Main Stem of the river is a showcase with its Riverwalk connecting the lake with Lake Street and the South Branch. Projects are still being floated, such as the North Branch Industrial Framework Plan, drafted by the city’s Department of Planning and Development and unveiled a year ago.  Part of that plan can be seen in the above rendering.

May 13, 1950 – At the Eighty-Second annual convention of the American Institute of Architects, Lewis Mumford, for 30 years the architecture critic for The New Yorker magazine, tells the audience, ‘The age of the big city is over … A balanced community, limited in size and area, limited in density, in close contact with the open country, is actually the new urban form for our civilization.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 14, 1950]

May 13, 1889 – The Secretary of War, Redfield Proctor, visits the site of Fort Sheridan, accompanied by a party of officers and gentlemen of the Commercial Club. The group is transported to the barren outpost by a special train that leaves the Northwestern station at Wells Street at 9:00 a.m. and returns at 1 p.m. The post commander, Colonel Lyster, meets the delegation at the north suburban station with an ambulance drawn by four government mules. The Chicago Daily Tribune writes, “The visit . . . was under circumstances most disadvantageous, the day being raw and the roads muddy.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 14, 1889] There isn’t much to see – “. . . one story frame barracks – shanties – and other buildings”. On the north end of the post the visitors are shown the proposed site for the commandant’s house. “Notwithstanding the gloomy day,” the paper reports, “the scene was inviting. The grove was blooming with wild flowers, and the angry swash of the turbulent lake many feet below was a recommendation of the spot superior to anything which had met the Secretary’s view during his Western visit.” If first impressions are everything, the new post falls woefully short. The report continues, “. . . it became apparent that construction of the post was not to be on that magnificent plan at first contemplated. The terra cotta pressed brick, the fine hardwood floors, the frescoed walls, and magnificence of palatial quarters had dwindled to plain yellow brick and papered walls. The commandant’s mansion had had a shrinkage from $30,000 to $15,000 and the contracts awarded yesterday called for only $2,000 more than the first appropriation.” The architects involved, Martin Roche and William Holabird, made it all work, though, and the Town of Fort Sheridan is a showplace today. The former quarters of the commandant appear above.

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