Sunday, June 17, 2018

June 17, 1978 -- State Street Mall Project Begins

June 17, 1978 – Work on the new $17.4 million State Street mall project begins.  The work kicks off with all traffic except for buses and emergency vehicles excluded from State Street. Already there is some griping about the plan.  One bus driver says, “You just can’t make time moving like a train.  Buses weren’t meant to move like that.  To make time you got to be able to move around, but now it’s strictly stick to your one lane.”  {Chicago Tribune, June 20, 1978] In the 17 years between the time that the mall was finished in 1979 and 1996 when traffic returned, most of the great department stores that lined State Street had shut their doors.  Certainly, other factors were involved in the closing, but one can’t help but think of the prescient words of a street sweeper as he watched work on the mall begin, “I hate change.  It only makes things worse.  I’ve been to Rockford and I’ve seen the mall there where all the stores are vacant.  These malls have nothing to do with the people.  They’re the hallucinations of politicians.”

June 17, 1884 – The Chicago Daily Tribune takes on the river shipping interests as it laments the amount of smoke that is poured over the city by the 65 tugs that work the Chicago River from which “are daily emitted dense volumes of black, dirty smoke.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 17, 1884] Two years earlier the city council had passed an ordinance imposing stiff penalties for emitting excessive amounts of smoke within the city “but the tugs have kept on smoking and the buildings, with a few exceptions, have kept on smoking, and the farce of the Smoke Inspector has been continued.”  In the fall of 1883 the ordinance was tested in the courts with the Illinois Supreme Court upholding the city’s right to fine violators of the law.  Smoke Inspector Merkl says, “They [the tug-men] have been making threats against the Mayor and the City Council.  They claim the enforcement of the smoke ordinance is a drive against the soft-coal interests of Illinois.  This is nonsense.  It is a matter of fact that there is not a tugboat on the Chicago River that uses Illinois coal … Illinois coal is too dirty for even the tugs.”

June 17, 1932 – The Chicago Daily Tribune announces that the world’s tallest building will be constructed on Illinois Central Railroad air rights south of the Chicago River and 200 feet east of Michigan Avenue.  A 100-year lease is finalized and the architect, Walter W. Ahlschlager, has been chosen with a plan, already in place, for the great Art Deco tower of 75 stories.  The building is to have 1,000 hotel rooms, but its primary purpose will be to consolidate all phases of the apparel industries in one location.  Amenities will include parking on the lower levels for Pullman cars, a 1,200-car garage, two auditoriums and an open-air swimming pool on the roof.  Even at this early date at least four-dozen firms have committed to occupying space in the building that will cover two city blocks.  W. R. Dawes, the president of the Chicago Association of Commerce, in a letter to the president of the Apparel Manufacturers’ Mart Building Corporation, writes, “The Chicago Association of Commerce heartily endorses the project.  We feel that the centralization of the apparel industry in the city of Chicago, and the erection of the magnificent building which you propose to construct on the premises will be of benefit to the entire apparel industry and to the city of Chicago. The completion of this project will be an achievement worthy of one of the greatest industries and of one of the greatest cities in the country.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 17, 1932]  Ten months later the project dies mysteriously.  Four decades will pass before this space on Wacker Drive begins to transform itself from a railroad freight yard to a developed piece of real estate.  For more on the plan and another one that also failed to rise, head here.  The Hyatt Regency Chicago stands on the river in this location today.

No comments: