Saturday, June 23, 2018

June 23, 1965 -- Equitable Building Dedication

June 23, 1965 –The Midwest headquarters of the Equitable Life Assurance Society at 401 North Michigan Avenue is opened in dedication ceremonies.  Also opening will be Pioneer Court, developed jointly by Equitable and its neighbor to the north, the Chicago Tribune.  An editorial in the paper observes, “By memorializing 25 distinguished Chicagoans, chosen by the Chicago Historical society, and carving their names in the rim of the fountain in Pioneer Court, the Equitable Life Assurance society and The Tribuneconsciously affirm awareness of their part in the historic succession of which our generation is a part, with the opportunity and obligation to add to our heritage form the pioneers who preceded us … As have all those who went before us, we both are contributing to the future.” [Chicago Tribune, June 23, 1965]As can be seen in the above photo the fountain in Pioneer Court was a popular place to sit in the sun, watch people go by, or eat a summer lunch.  It lasted for 25 years. There still is a small water feature on the north end of the plaza, but planters have largely replaced the 50-foot diameter marble fountain and the water jets that provided an alternative to the roar of the traffic passing by on Michigan Avenue.

June 23, 1955:  The Chicago City Council, by a vote of 35 to 11, directs John C. Melaniphy, the acting corporation counsel, to intervene in a suit in which the Art Institute of Chicago is proposing to use income from the Ferguson fund to build an addition on the north side of the museum. Established in 1905 by lumber baron Benjamin F. Ferguson, the intent of the fund was to build monuments and statues throughout the city.  Thomas Cullerton, Thirty-Eighth Ward alderman and Thomas Keane, alderman from the Thirty-First Ward, assert that using the fund for a building addition would “concentrate the investment in one place, to the detriment of the rest of the city.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 24, 1955] Alderman Leon Depres of the Fifth Ward disagrees, saying, “A dead hand should not control a trust, particularly one that is in the public interest.”  The B. F. Ferguson wing of the museum opened in 1958.  It is pictured above.

June 23, 1927 – The Material Services Corporation buys two parcels of property along the North Branch of the Chicago River, just north of Chicago Avenue and west of Halsted Street, a deal costing $200,000.  The east property is purchased from the widow of Charles M. Hewitt, who, before he died, was the president of a railroad supply company.  The western section of the property is purchased from the Parker-Washington Company of St. Louis.  Together the two tracts hold 670 feet of frontage on the river and 790 feet along the Chicago and North Western railroad right-of-way.  The property is today the location of Prairie Services Yard #32. Chicagoan Henry Crown began Material Services in 1919 with a borrowed $10,000.  By 1959 the company had a controlling interest in General Dynamics and was worth 100 million dollars.  He was commissioned a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II and was always a well-prepared businessman.  “When the Colonel gets into a deal,” one real estate executive said of him, “he knows the size of your underwear.”  [New York Times, August 16, 1990]

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