Tuesday, July 31, 2018

July 31, 1930 -- Latin School Receives River-Side Gift

July 31, 1930 –Announcement is made that Mrs. Kersey Coates Reed and Mrs. Charles Schweppe, the daughters of the late John G. Shedd, have given the Chicago Latin School at 1531 North Dearborn Parkway a nine-acre athletic field on the west bank of the North Branch of the Chicago River.  The new field stretches from Addison to Grace Street bordered on the west by California Avenue.  George Morton Northrop, the Head Master of the school, says, “It may be that eventually it will seem wise to move the upper school to this new location.  In time a boathouse, a swimming pool, a gymnasium, and five courts could be added.  Eventually it might be well to have a dormitory for housing a number of boarding pupils and some of the younger, unmarried masters.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 1, 1930]The new athletic campus was purchased from the Commonwealth Edison Company and the estate of Sophie Beyer for approximately $125,000.  The campus served the Latin School until 1959 when it was sold to Gordon Technical High School, now DePaul College Prep.  Funds from the sale were used to complete the upper school at North Avenue and Clark Street and the roof gymnasium, which was completed in 1992.  The parcel originally given to the Latin School is outlined above

July 31, 1985 – More than 150 firefighters from 25 communities fail to save the clubhouse, grandstand, and exposition center at Arlington Park race track.  The fire begins at approximately 1:30 a.m. with the first alarm turned in about 45 minutes later.  The loss is devastating, coming just a little more than three weeks before the “Arlington Million” is due to be run on August 25.  The State of Illinois takes in about seven percent of the $1.5 million that is bet each day of the racing season at the track, and the final 55 days at Arlington are out the window as the complex is a total loss.  Estimates are that 1,000 people will be left without jobs.  Because the 1929 Post and Paddock Club, where the fire began, had been remodeled a number of times over the previous half-century, the number of false ceilings and concealed spaces between floors allowed the fire to spread in ways that could not be detected.  The sprinkler systems were ineffective because of the concealed nature of the flames, which eventurally spread from the club to the grandstand.  At one point demolition experts were even brought in from Ft. Sheridan to see if part of the grandstand could be blown up in order to stop the flames from advancing.  By noon, though, it was clear that nothing more could be done, and the fire burned itself out at about 5:00 p.m.  None of the 1,900 animals at the track was endangered.  It would be four years before the track would reopen.

July 31, 1922:  The city is thrown into turmoil as a storage tank of the Peoples Gas Light and Coke Company collapses and explodes at West Twenty-Fifth and Throop Streets, injuring a hundred people, severely burning the majority of them.  Since the location sits on the bank of the Chicago River with a neighborhood close by, most of the injured are teamsters, pedestrians, or children playing in the area.  The tank, which was 180 feet high and 180 feet in diameter, contained 4,000,000 cubic feet of illuminating gas.  The tank collapses at about 12:30 in the afternoon with the Chicago Daily Tribune describing the scene in this way, “Wild scenes followed immediately.  Men, women, and children attacked by the weird flames ran screaming.  Some threw themselves flat on the ground.  Others flung their clothing over their faces and hands in frantic efforts to escape the fire.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 1, 1922]  The chief engineer for the company, J. H. Eustace, says that there was no explosion, adding, “In fifty years of experience in gas manufacturing I have never heard of anything like this . . . In some way the crown of the tank was ruptured, and gas, escaping in great quantities, ignited.  What caused the rupture is a mystery; and what would ignite escaping gas from the top of a holder high in the air is equally a mystery.”

Monday, July 30, 2018

July 30, 1997 -- Ft. Sheridan Historic District Sells for $5.75 million

July 30, 1997 –The Chicago Tribune reports that Highland Park and Highwood have agreed to pay $5.75 million – or 41,000 an acre -- to the United States Army for 140 acres at Fort Sheridan, for which the Army, at one point, was demanding $20 million. The average price for an acre of North Shore real estate along Lake Michigan comes in at a million bucks. Bret Herskee, a member of the Ft. Sheridan Rehabilitation Advisory Board, says the price “is unbelievable. They stole it.” [Chicago Tribune, July 30, 1997]The Army walked away from the base on May 28, 1993, and the 140 acres that the two cities are purchasing is made up by a historic district that was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.  Part of the agreement limits the number of housing units in the Historic District to 551, made up of 275 homes carved out of the 90 original buildings on the base with 276 new units to be constructed.  If the number of residences goes above or below 551, the cities will have to pay the Army $45,000 for each additional unit of surplus or shortfall. There are still significant obstacles to overcome before development can begin, not the least of which is made up of two landfills from the old base that will somehow have to be safely eliminated.

July 30, 1917 – Three women and five men are arrested at the Oak Street beach as “Several thousand proletarians of the Twenty-first and nearby wards rose against the Lincoln park board and the patricians of Lake Shore drive … for the right to lave their weary feet and cool their perspiring persons in the waters of Oak Street beach.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 31, 1917] The trouble begins early in the evening when a crowd, estimated to number between 3,000 and 5,000 people, gathers in the area as about 150 girls and 15 or so children enter the water for a swim.  A Lincoln Park policeman orders the bathers out of the water and is ignored.  Finally, he removes his uniform coat and wades out, dragging one of the bathers to shore.  The assembled crowd revolts, moving on the police, “battering two or three of them.”  Shouts are heard … What’s the idea we can’t get cool … T’ell with the millionaires … Nine out of ten houses are closed on the drive.  It is up to the Lincoln Park Commissioners to decide what should be done since in 1884 the residents along Lake Shore Drive gave up their riparian rights to the commissioners in exchange for a promise not to allow any building construction along the lakeshore in the area. Since the commissioners had made no attempt to build bath houses or comfort stations at Oak Street, the beach was, either in fact or in appearance, a private amenity for the wealthy families, including the Potter Palmers, who lived along the drive. Those who head down to the beach at Oak Street these days will still find nothing permanent at the beach ... the bistro is taken down and re-assembled each year.  Oak Street beach is just off the above photo to the right.

July 30, 1967:  As the dedication ceremonies draw near for Chicago’s Picasso statue, the Chicago Tribune prints comments about the artist’s gift from a variety of sources.  William E. Hartmann, an architect for Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, the man most responsible for bringing the sculpture to Chicago, says, “Chicago Picasso has an excellent sound.  The two words have the same number of syllables, and they represent an affinity for two strong spirits."  Bud Holland, an art gallery owner, states, “I refuse to comment on a work I haven’t seen, but even if I hate it, I’m going to love it.  I think the idea of a major work by someone of Picasso’s stature standing in such a public position is so exciting that it’s going to raise the level of public sculpture not only in Chicago but in the entire nation.”   James Brown, IV, a trustee of one of the groups underwriting the cost of the Picasso, says, “There will come a time when we can’t imagine anything else being in the plaza except the Chicago Picasso because it is so appropriate to the site and backdrop.”   Alderman John J. Hoellen, pretty clearly not a big fan, says, “The statue represents the power of city hall, stark, ugly, overpowering, frightening . . . They could take this monster to Lincoln park, where it would be in close proximity to the Chicago zoo.  Incidentally, the rib cage on the thing offers a very fine roosting place for pigeons.”

Sunday, July 29, 2018

July 29, 1914 -- Canal Street Railroad Bridge Makes Way

July 29, 1914:  Destruction begins on the swing bridge at Canal Street to make way for the new vertical lift bridge for the Pennsylvania Railroad as the new bridge stands, nearly complete, above it.  The new bridge will be the heaviest lift span in the country.  Today it is the only bridge of its type on the Chicago River system.  When it is raised, the bridge provides 130 feet of clearance for traffic on the river below.  According to historicbridges.com“The lift truss span was constructed outward from the towers with the use of special falsework that angled back into the tower so that it would not be in the river obstructing boats … As built the bridge contained 6,941,000 pounds of structural steel and machinery. An interesting design feature of the bridge was that the northern piers of the bridge were built overly wide, so that half of these piers could support half of a second vertical lift bridge, should the railroad have wished to add more trackage to the line.”  The top photo shows the new bridge towering above the original swing bridge in 1914.  The color photo shows the bridge today in its lowered position.

July 29, 1934 – The Dymaxion, a three-wheeled automobile, arrives at the Century of Progress World’s Fair with Buckminster Fuller, its designer, driving the vehicle onto the fairgrounds where it will be exhibited at the Crystal House on Northerly Island.  Nineteen feet long with front wheel drive and a single wheel at the rear, the car is capable of traveling at 120 miles per hour.  The photo above shows the Dymaxion beside architect George F. Keck's "Crustal House" on Northerly Island.

 July 29, 1936:  The motor ship Material Service sinks early in the morning a mile north of the lighthouse at Eighty-Sixth Street as she is caught in an open-water gale for which she was not designed.  Although seven members of the crew are rescued, Captain C. D. Brown and 15 other crewmembers die.  First Mate John M. Johnson says upon his rescue, “We were going along as usual when suddenly the vessel listed to port.  Then it came back on an even keel, but immediately began to sink.  We had the usual complement of lifeboats, but the sinking was so sudden that there was no chance to launch them.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 29, 1936]  The ship had hauled a load of gravel from Lockport to Chicago, and had left the mouth of the Chicago River around midnight, headed south for a dock in the Calumet Harbor area when disaster struck.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

July 28, 1864 -- Chicago River Beckons and Repels

July 28,1864:  The Milwaukee Sentinel publishes a story, most probably apocryphal, about the Chicago River from a “reliable gentleman” who had gone to Chicago some days earlier and reports “A heavy fog rested over the water as they approached that city [Chicago], rendering objects even close at hand indistinguishable.  Under these circumstances the boat came near running past the city entirely, and would have done so but for the fragrance of the Chicago River, which fortunately enabled the Captain to run his craft safely into port. Light-houses dwindle into insignificance beside this all powerful guide to mariners. Whew!” [Chicago Tribune, July 28, 1863]

July 28, 2010 – The jury begins deliberations in the corruption trial of former Illinois Governor Rod Blogojevich, sooner than expected and without testimony from a number of witnesses, including Blogojevich himself.  Assistant U. S. Attorney Reid Schar says, “This guy had more training in criminal background than the average lawyer and somehow this guy is the accidentally corrupt governor?” [Christian Science Monitor, July 28, 2010] One of Blagojevich’s attorneys, Sam Adam, Jr., says, “He’s got absolutely horrible judgment on people.  And that’s the case and they want you to find him guilty of these horrible things because of that.”  As they went through their closing arguments the opposing attorneys exhibited different styles with Adam “pacing, sweating and alternately shouting and whispering to the jury” while Schar “did not raise his voice throughout his argument,” which concluded with his saying, “I don’t know how you begin to put a price on the damage defendant Blagojevich has caused.  The time for accountability for the defendants is now.”  On August 17 Blagojevich was convicted of one count of lying to federal agents while a mistrial was declared on the other 23 crimes with which he was charged because the jury could not agree on a verdict.  A retrial was then set to begin on April 20, 2011.  

July 28, 1970:  The day after a Grant Park riot occurred when a crowd of 35,000 to 50,000 waiting for a concert by Sly and the Family Stone reacted violently as the concert was delayed and ultimately cancelled, Mayor Richard J. Daley orders that all rock concerts planned by the Chicago Park District Board be cancelled.  The mayor calls the fighting “A riot, a brawl, and mob action.”  [Chicago Tribune, July 29, 1970]  He continues, “There were a lot of liquor and wine bottles thrown at the policemen.  I believe the young people who attend these concerts should assume some responsibility for policing themselves.”  At least 162 persons are injured in the turmoil and hundreds of windows are broken all along Michigan Avenue opposite Grant Park as well as on some side streets between Michigan and State Streets.  Damage to police vehicles is estimated at $10,000 with one car destroyed by fire.  As the mayor reacts, three men and two women are arrested near the Grant Park band shell after a report that the performance venue will be set on fire.  Police search the truck belonging to Mike Patrick of Brommel, Pennsylvania and find a five-gallon can of gasoline and one-fourth pound of marijuana, almost never a good combination.

Friday, July 27, 2018

July 27, 1970 -- Sly and the Family Stone Cancels Concert

July 27, 1970 –Returning to police headquarters at Eleventh and States Street, patrolman John Keane says, “I wouldn’t go back there unless I was in a tank.” The place to which the officer is referring is Grant park where a concert featuring Sly and the Family Stone, scheduled to go off at 4:00 p.m. turns violent as impatient attendees, fueled by rumors that the headliner wasn’t going to show, end up on a rampage.  One opening act, Fat Water, runs through its set, but when the second group, the Flying Burrito Brothers, gets ready to perform, the crowd hurls a wave of bottles, cans, stones and broken pieces of park benches at the stage.  The headliners, who had scheduled the free concert in the first place to make up for three shows the band had cancelled in Chicago earlier in the year, cancelled this one, too, asserting that it was too dangerous to go onstage.  The crowd courses through the park, some acting violently, some just watching.  A police car and a driving instructor’s car are overturned and set on fire, and the violence spills into the Loop where windows of the Brooks Brothers and Fanny May Candy stores are broken, and some looting occurs.  The violence doesn’t die down until past 10:00 p.m. as 162 people are injured, 126 of them police officers and 160 are arrested.  For the reaction to the violence you can turn to this entry in Connecting the Windy City.

July 27, 1890 – With all of the news today focusing on the effects of global warming and rising seas, it is interesting to look back on a feature in the Chicago Daily Tribune 127 years ago, an article that dealt with the changing nature of the city’s shoreline and how the forces of erosion and addition affected the Chicago River over the years.  Originally the “little block-house fort” at Fort Dearborn on what is now the southwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive stood where the Chicago River bent “more than 90° and finally emptied into the lake at or south of Madison Street.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 27, 1890] The sharp bend to the south was formed because the mouth of the river was blocked by a sandbar that prevented all but barges and flat-bottomed boats from entering. In 1835 the United States government cut a channel through the sandbar on a line with the channel to the west, building piers on the north and south sides of the new channel at the same time.  The pier on the north side drastically changed the natural flow of sand along the lake shore that resulted from the erosion of lakeside bluffs on the north shore.  As a result, the shore between the new mouth of the river and the area around today’s Chicago Avenue expanded so that by 1872 a new shoreline that extended 1,500 feet into the lake had accumulated just north of the river gradually diminishing to about 500 feet at Chicago Avenue.  In the preceding years the Illinois Central Railroad and various private property owners had been busy filling in the lake for freight yards opposite the ends of South Water, Lake and Randolph Streets.  In 1871 this process was increased as “debris from hundreds of acres of burnt buildings had to be disposed of, and in addition a place of deposit had to be found for hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of earth dug from the cellars of the new buildings which were being built.”  With the article the paper prints a map, showing the difference in the shoreline over three-and-a-half miles between 1839 and 1890.  Between Indiana Avenue and Randolph street, the shoreline had been extended nearly a half-mile into the lake..  The newly created land between North Avenue and the river had increased by 180 acres.  The amount of ground added to the city between Monroe Street and today’s Congress Avenue was about 32 acres.  Awaiting adjudication was the issue of entitlement to this newly made land.  It would be years of court cases, suits and counter-suits before the issue would be resolved.  Still pertinent today is the conclusion of the article, “Lake Michigan is the one grand topographical feature of the city, distinguishing it from other cities, tempering its climate, and causing the health-giving breezes which remove atmospheric impurities … We need the water more than we need the land … The filling of the lake for park purposes may be a necessity of the present public exigency, but not a foot more should be allowed to be converted to private or corporate uses.”

July 27, 1919:  Sparks from the smoke stack of the lake freighter Senator start a fire that destroys the coal sheds of the Peoples Gaslight and Coke Company on the east side of the north branch of the Chicago River at Hobbie Street.  The freighter had run aground as it moved past Goose Island, and the tug Racine was assisting it.  The sparks from the ships set the roof of the coal sheds on fire, which then spread to two buildings at 1145 Larabee Street, prompting a 4-11 alarm, another day at work on the North Branch.  The Senator didn't catch a whole lot of breaks.  On October 31, 1929 she was rammed amidships by the steamer Marquette and went to the bottom, taking seven crew members and a load of 241 brand new Nash Ramblers with her.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

July 26, 1885 -- Tenement Inspectors Make Their Rounds

July 26, 1885 –A reporter for the Chicago Daily Tribune writes a summary of a day he spends with Health Inspector De Wolf. Beginning on LaSalle Street, what was then Pacific Avenue, between Harrison and Polk Streets, “the Inspector led the way past a number of those disreputable resorts whose lawlessness has already given a name to the locality.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 26, 1885]The Inspector leads the way into a two-story frame building near Polk Street. In “a subterranean region, of whose existence no one viewing the premises from the street would have guessed” the group finds one room, twelve-feet square, in which the landlord lives with his wife and nine male boarders.  They all sleep in the same space.  Across the hall a widow is living with her three children, who “lounging on chairs about the room looked in need of fresh air and better food.” Her husband was a merchant who died in unfortunate circumstances and left her nothing. She takes in washing to make ends meet, and the Inspector laments, “It seems hard that a decent woman should have to rear her children in such a place, surrounded by vicious and depraved people.”  The group moves on to a tenement on the corner of State and Twelfth Streets.  The frame and brick building is packed with tenants and, until an earlier Health Department inspection there was not a single water-closet on the second or third floor.  The article states, “The consequences of this were during the summer months horrible to contemplate.  Not only the back-yard but he roofs of the surrounding sheds were knee-deep in garbage, which needed only the returning spring to make it a veritable mine of disease.”  Despite some of the conditions, though, the trip ends optimistically as the reporter praises the work of the health inspectors, writing, “Every yard was already cleaned or being cleaned and all the rubbish under the houses gathered into heaps and carted off.  In some places the garbage had lain four or five feet deep, and the exhalations from this bulk when it was stirred up by the men were deadly.”  Still, there was much work left to be done.

July 26, 1940 – A grade separation in Lake Shore Drive north of North Avenue opens although the $750,000 project will not eliminate traffic problems in Lincoln Park immediately.  Ramps onto and off the drive are now open, but work still continues on Lake Shore Drive north of the bath house at North Avenue while the connection to Clark and LaSalle Streets to which the Lake Shore Drive ramps will lead is not scheduled to open for another two weeks.  The pedestrian bridge over Lake Shore Drive at North Avenue is also still under construction.  Basically, the roadway that opens on this day will only allow motorists access to the parking area at the North Avenue beach.  Otto K. Jelinek, traffic engineer for the park district, says, “The capacity of the pavement has been reduced by about a third, so it’s impossible to get the efficiency that we had when Beach drive was in service.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 27, 1940] The 90,000 motorists trying to find their way through Lincoln Park during rush hour look forward to the end of construction.

July 26, 1902 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that the People’s Gaslight and Coke Company has purchased a building and leasehold interest of the property at the northwest corner of Adams Street and Michigan Avenue for $200,000 from the Lake Hotel Company.  This will be the site of the company’s new headquarters, a 21-story building designed by Daniel Burnham and Company, to be finished in 1911.  Although People’s Gas moved out in 1995, the building still makes a statement across the street from the Art Institute of Chicago with each of the columns at its base made out of a solid piece of granite that is 26 feet tall, four-and-a-half feet in diameter, weighing 30 tons.  The photo above shows the new skyscraper going up in April of 1910.  The building was built in two sections with a hollowed-out middle, the north section being completed first.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

July 25, 1877 -- The Battle of the Halsted Viaduct

July 25, 1877 –The Battle of the Viaduct takes place as a mob of over 10,000 people do battle with the police and federal troops at the Halsted Street viaduct over the Chicago River north of Bridgeport with violence following. On July 14, a strike begins in Martinsburg, West Virginia when the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad cuts workers’ wages for the third time in a year. The strike quickly spreads, bringing violence to cities as far apart as St. Louis and San Francisco.  On this day, it is Chicago’s turn as thousands of men, women and children march on a route that takes them through rail yards and the stockyards and north up Halsted Street to the viaduct that crosses the Chicago River.  On the north side of the bridge the police meet the angry mob and force them back south, firing at the protestors as they flee.  Tempers run high as the rioters, angered at being fired upon while retreating, stop street cars attempting to cross the viaduct.  One car is overturned, and cars that follow “were stopped, the conductors rifled of the contents of their pockets, and the passengers compelled to ‘get up and act’ under various threats.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 25, 1877]Farther up Halsted the gun store of M. J. Pribyl is cleaned out. Reinforcements swell the ranks of the police who are joined by the Second Regiment of the United States Army, and the confrontation turns even more deadly as the police fire at the mob for a half-hour.  Ultimately at least 18 rioters – some estimates place the deaths at 30 -- are killed, over 100 are wounded, and 13 police officers are injured, one fatally. Relative calm returns on the following day, but the event begins a period in the city’s history that will lead to the confrontation at the Haymarket in 1886 and the violence that will come with the Pullman Strike in 1894. 

July 25, 1890 – Choosing two industries that the general populace associates with good times, a Chicago Daily Tribune editorial then puts the candy makers and the soap manufacturers squarely in the spotlight in order to once again rail against the smoke that chokes the city.  “Almost the entire output of a candy factory,” the editorial observes, “is for outside consumption … The furnaces refuse utterly to eat the smoke for whose make they are directly responsible, and insist on giving it in large and unpalatable doses to the public at large.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 25, 1890] Of the “cakes” of soap manufactured in the city, the paper writes, “They smell so delicious that the little Indian maids under the care of Christian missionary ladies insist on eating them and going dirty.  If the smoke that comes daily from the chimney of a big soap factory jutting on the river near Rush street bridge should get a fair shake at the delicately perfumed packages the young aborigines would get over a bad habit with dispatch.” The smoke that the city’s industries produce is so bad that “Over towards the Adams street bridge a dog in a leading string is necessary for guidance.”  No one is exempt from the critical eye.  Bookbinders and printers “whose chimneys belch out stuff as black as the ink imprints that Guttenberg’s genius made possible.”  Merchants “turn out a tremendous stock every hour of the day, and foist it on their neighbors without money and without price – a practice conducive to mining life and wages in the coal regions.”  The editorial ends with a warning of government’s newfound seriousness concerning the smoke-choked city, “The city authorities will prosecute offending smokers hereafter without the preliminary of a warning.  Warnings in the past have failed of effect, and now the service of summons will be the first intimation received by owners and occupants of buildings that their presence is desirable in court.” 

July 25, 1919 – In Room 1123 of the county building Coroner Peter M. Hoffman conducts an investigation into the cause of the fire that sent the dirigible Wingfoot Express into a fatal plummet through the skylight of the Illinois Trust and Savings Bank on La Salle Street, setting off a gasoline-fueled conflagration that kills a crew member, two passengers, and ten employees of the bank.  Dramatic testimony comes in the person of the airship’s pilot, John A. Boettner, who testifies that there were no sparks or flames thrown from the engine and that the engines were running when the fire was spotted.  “I discovered the flames near the front of the bag and up above the equator,” Boettner says, “I rose to my feet and holding the wheel with one hand turned and by motions and shouts told the others to jump.  I saw them go over and then the bag buckled.  As the gondola shot forward I took a long dive toward the ground.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 26, 1919]  The above photo shows the skylight  of the Illinois Trust and Savings Bank through which the dirigible fell to the banking floor.   

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

July 24, 1940 -- Illinois Institute of Technology Is Born

July 24, 1940 –Armour Institute of Technology and Lewis Institute, which have operated as separate schools for more than 40 years, agree to join ranks, taking the Illinois Institute of Technology as the new name of the combined schools.  Action comes at the Chicago Club in the first meeting of the new school’s Board of Trustees.  The decision means that the city will have one of the largest technical institutions in the country with about 7,000 day and evening students, and to accommodate that number of students it is hoped that a completely new campus can be constructed in close proximity to the Loop.  Henry T. Heald, a 35-year-old who for the preceding two years had served as the head of Armour Institute, is elected as the president of I.I.T.  Heald is a graduate of the State College of Washington in 1923 and the University of Illinois in 1935. He joined the Armour faculty in 1927 as an Assistant Professor in Civil Engineering, also serving as a designer for the bridge department of the Illinois Central Railroad and as a structural engineer for the Chicago Board of Local Improvements.  The Armour Institute was founded in 1892 by Philip D. Armour who gave more than $2,650,000 to the school during his lifetime.  His son, J. Ogden Armour, gave several million dollars more.  Lewis Institute was the creation of realtor Allan C. Lewis who, upon his death in 1877, left $550,000 for the founding of a polytechnical school.

July 24, 1992 – More than a thousand people celebrate the final birthday party for the military garrison at Fort Sheridan.   The Chicago Tribune reports, “For Ft. Sheridan, Friday’s Organization Day was another in a series of lasts.  May saw the closing of the Ft. Sheridan Museum.  June saw the last Flag Day.  July was, of course, the last 4th of July celebration … sadness seemed to be the feeling of the day, even though some were playing softball, volleyball and golf, and kids competed in games and races.” [Chicago Tribune, July 25, 1992] The Post Commander, Colonel Robert Frizzo, says, “It’s depressing to most people knowing there’s not going to be anybody here next year.”  One attendee, John Lawler, who was born at the fort and “sneaked out for rides on officers’ horses,” said, “I’ve been here all my life.  I don’t want to see it close up.”  His wife, Millie, who worked at the base for 19 years, agreed with her husband, saying, “It’s beautiful grounds.  It’s a gorgeous coast.  And what are they going to do with it?  Nobody knows.”

July 24, 1918 – La Verne W. Noyes, President and founder of the Aermotor Company, announces the gift of $2,500,000 to the University of Chicago “to express his gratitude to those who ventured the supreme sacrifice.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 25, 1918]  The gift will be used for the education of veterans of World War I and their children with 20 percent of the sum going toward the salaries of university staff teaching history.  The scholarships are still in effect today.  Noyes started out as a manufacturer of dictionary stands, but things changed in 1883 when he hired Thomas O. Perry, who had conducted over 5,000 experimental tests, searching for a modern and efficient windmill.  By 1892 the Aermotor Windmill Corporation was selling over 20,000 of the new windmills, and within ten years the company was selling the devices at one-sixth the price of previous competition. [www.gasenginemagazine.com] Ida Noyes Hall at the University of Chicago, designed by Shepley, Routan, and Coolidge as a women's dining hall and natatorium, was another gift of Noyes three years earlier in 1915.  History is interesting.  Exactly one year after he announces the scholarship in 1918, La Verne Noyes dies at the Presbyterian Hospital.  With no immediate family the fortune of Noyes is distributed to 48 different colleges and universities as beneficiaries.   

Monday, July 23, 2018

July 23, 1978 -- Wells Street (Can It Be Turned Around?)

July 23, 1978 – Forty years ago on this date the Chicago Tribuneran an article on Wells Street with the headline, “Can Wells St. be Turned Around?” [Chicago Tribune, July 23, 1978]with the lead, “It’s a ragtag street, North Wells Street – a place that has been trying to be a lot of things at once, a place that has been up and, more recently, down.”  In the words of one Old Town merchant, as the area between Goethe on the south and Lincoln Avenue on the north began to change in the 70’s to nude dancing establishments and adult books stores, “The families didn’t want to come.  Those places are what killed us, and too much dope around – that’s not good.  No businessman here is making any money now. At the end of the week we’re pulling money from our pockets to pay the bills.”  Two months before the article ran, though, a collection of community groups in Old Town formed the Near North Association, and Robert A. Begassat, the president of the new group, says, “What we want to do is make Old Town a place people will come to again, and at the same time a place for the people in the neighborhood.”  Already, bowing to community pressure and increased police surveillance of prostitution, three of six bars with nude dancing have closed.  Recently, Alderman Burton F. Natarus successfully had also passed a zoning change for the east side of Wells between Burton Place and Schiller that would keep new taverns out. Sam Glassman, the president of the Old Town Chamber of Commerce and owner of the Book Joynt in Old Town, is cautiously optimistic, saying, “This street will never be what it once was, but if we can do half what we did, it will be terrific.  I’ve been here 12 years and I’ve seen it at the top and I’ve seen it at the bottom.  There’s only one way to go now, because we’ve hit the bottom.  But it’ll come back.”  And come back it has as a stroll down Wells Street on a July afternoon or a salad and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc at Topo Gigio will clearly show.

July 23, 1897 – Five thousand invitees come to the Art Institute of Chicago to honor the sculptor August St. Gaudens and the widow of General John A. Logan.  “For nearly two hours,” the Chicago Daily Tribune reports, “the throng filed in and out of the room known as the Henry Field gallery, where they were greeted by Mrs. Logan, Mr. St. Gaudens, and the members of the receiving party.  Charles H. Hutchinson, President of the Art Institute, stood at the head of the line, introducing the guests to Mrs. Logan, who offered her hand to each in a hearty grasp.  Scores of times during the evening did Mrs. Logan demonstrate her rare faculty for remembering the names and faces of those whom she had met only casually before.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 24, 1897]  The event is held just two days after the widow of the great Civil War general arrives in the city from New York for the dedication of her husband’s statue in Grant Park.  The sculptor, August St. Gaudens, spends the evening of the Art Institute reception in humility.  The Tribune reports that he “stood almost at the end of the line of those receiving the guests.  He who was most talked of among the thousands who thronged the galleries and promenaded the corridors, who was the cynosure of all eyes, was in mien and bearing the most unassuming man in the entire assemblage.  With quiet dignity he received the congratulations that were showered upon him, his clear, keen eyes lighting up now and again as some artist friend added a word of appreciative criticism to his friendly greeting and congratulation.”  For more information on the Logan statue you can turn to this link in Connecting the Windy City.

July 23, 1925 – Chicago’s new Union Station is formally opened at 11:30 a. m.  The ceremonies begin with Mayor William Dever and other officials touring the structure that covers 35 acres just west of the river between Adams Street and Jackson Boulevard.  After the tour is completed the guests are entertained at a luncheon served in the terminal's Fred Harvey restaurant.  The waiting rooms are finished in marble and cover an expanse as large as three baseball diamonds.   The terminal includes a jail for prisoners in transit, a hospital and a chapel.  Graham, Anderson, Probst and White are the architects of the complex.  The photo above shows the massive terminal as it appeared when it opened in 1925.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

July 22, 1979 -- Blues Brothers Begin Chicago Filming

July 22, 1979 –Joliet Jake and Silent Elwood Blues, the Blues Brothers, are in Chicago to begin filming the movie that will make them international stars.  “Hundreds of onlookers hung over guard rails as the bluesmen’s ancient black-and-white squad car screamed south on Lake Shore Drive,” reports the Chicago Tribune. “Twenty-seven pairs of newer squads, their lights flashing, followed at close range.  An unmarked helicopter hovered above.” [Chicago Tribune, July 23, 1979]The squad cars are rented from the Chicago Police Department and driven by off-duty officers hired by the film crew.  One off-duty cop says, “I feel good that they’ve chosen to shoot it in Chicago. We have a beautiful city, and it hasn’t had its fair share of movies.”. Residents in high-rise buildings along Lake Shore Drive flood the newsroom of the Tribune with calls, thinking that a high-speed pursuit of a criminal is taking place.  The film looked as though it were doomed to failure when it opened on June 20, 1980 since it was released in less than half the theaters than a typical big film of that era would have received play.  In the first week the $27.5 million film brought in $4,858,152, second only to The Empire Strikes Back.  Ultimately, The Blues Brothers, brought in $115,229,890 in foreign and domestic markets.

July 22, 1985 -- TIshman Realty and Construction Company, Incorporated and Japan Air Lines Development announce plans to build a 450-room luxury hotel on the north side of the Chicago River.  Scheduled to open in June of 1987 on the northwest corner of Dearborn Street and the river, the hotel is expected to cost $70 million.  The firms of Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum, Inc. and Takyama and Associates, Inc. project a 350,000 square foot hotel with a 100-seat gourmet French restaurant, a 150-seat Japanese restaurant, and two lounges totaling 160 seats.  The hotel will also feature a 9,000 square-foot ballroom and a smaller 4,000 square-foot gathering hall.  The announcement of the new hotel follows the start of the 35-story Quaker Tower in the same area, a tower that will house the new headquarters for Quaker Oats Company, scheduled to move from the Merchandise Mart in early 1987.  In January of 1997 the Hotel Nikko became the Westin River North Chicago and away went Benkay, the Hotel Nikko's Japanese-style restaurant.

July 22, 1897:  The formal ceremonies dedicating the Logan Monument in Grant Park are held, beginning a 1 p.m.  After the two-hour dedication ceremony, guns sound on the shore and from ships on the lake, and a parade of 10,000 marchers begins at Twelfth Street and Michigan Avenue and moves north on Randolph, west to State, south to Adams, west to Dearborn, north to Washington, west to LaSalle, south to Jackson, finally ending at Michigan Avenue.  Mrs. Logan, the general’s widow, is received that evening at the Coliseum with a fireworks display and band concert preceding that event.  Of Augustus St. Gaudens’ equestrian statue of General Logan, the Chicago Daily Tribune writes, “In the statue of General Logan St. Gaudens has chosen as the dominant idea the expression of courage, the martial courage, which is born of patriotism and indomitable will.”  The above photo shows the dedication ceremony on that July day in 1897.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

July 21, 1963 -- Sandburg Village Leads the Way in City Development

July 21, 1963 –In a pictorial essay, the Chicago Tribune highlights the “building boom” that is under way in the city, highlighting five big projects: (1) Carl Sandburg Village on North LaSalle Street; (2) the Outer Drive East apartment on Randolph Street near the lakefront; (3) the new federal office building (now the Dirksen Federal Courthouse) on Dearborn Street between Adams and Jackson; (4) the new Midwest headquarters of the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States on Michigan Avenue between the river and the Tribune building, and (5) the Civic Center (now the Richard J. Daley Center) just beginning to rise just east of the City-County building on Clark Street.  These were heady days in the city, as bold new structures rose throughout the decade in the city that worked.  The model for Sandburg Village, minus the brick walls that hide everything from view, is shown in the above photo.

July 21, 1919 – The lead in today’s Chicago Daily Tribune packs a powerful punch, “Not since the disastrous fire of ’71 has the city council at any one meeting considered improvement ordinances of such far reaching effect.”  This is the day that the city council votes on a budget package that will potentially lead to more than $195,000,000 in city improvements, including the completion of a bridge across the river at Michigan Avenue.  There is apparently no opposition to the plans.  “So anxious are the large majority of the aldermen to make Chicago go ahead that it is proposed now that plans be considered at once for initiation of improvements next year,” the Tribune reports.  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 21,1919]  Bond issues will lead to the widening of Ogden, Ashland, Western, Robey (now Damen), and South Water Streets.  Two million dollars will cover the cost of finishing Michigan Avenue.  Up to $30,000,000 will cover “reclaiming and improving submerged lands between Grant and Jackson parks.”  Aside from the money involved, the council will ask for an investigation of civic improvements in Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Kansas City, Omaha, Minneapolis and St. Paul because “Charles H. Wacker of the Chicago plan commission has repeatedly stated that these cities are attempting to become real rivals to Chicago in trade, commerce, manufacturing and municipal improvements.”  The above photo shows the proposal of the Chicago Plan Commission for eliminating the South Water Street markets and improving the area just south of the river.

July 21, 1919 – The Chicago City Council passes two huge ordinances that will, together, have an immense impact on the future of the city.  One is the lake front development ordinance, adopted by a vote of 66 to 2.  This decision ratifies an agreement between the city, the South Park Commission, and the Illinois Central Railroad, restricting development on the lakefront from the Chicago River all the way to Forty-Seventh Street.  The other act submits bond issues for street improvements totaling $28,600,000 that will be on the ballot for approval in November.  Charles H. Wacker, head of the Chicago Plan Commission, says, “This is the greatest day, barring none, in Chicago’s history. It means more to the growth, development, and greatness of the city than anything which has heretofore happened . . . When these improvements are completed this city will have passed from the provincial town class to a real metropolitan city.”  The photo above shows the lake front five years later in 1924.

Friday, July 20, 2018

July 20, 1984 -- Millennium Park Before the Transformation

July 20, 1984 – Strolling through Millennium Park today, it is difficult to imagine what the area was like before the transformation began.  Back in 1984 Cindy Mitchell, the president of Friends of the Park had this to say about the area east of Michigan Avenue between Randolph and Monroe Streets, “This could be the premier spot of the downtown area, a real tourist attraction and a place for Loop workers to enjoy a lunch, but it needs a great deal of work and some creative thinking.  [Chicago Tribune, July 20, 1984]In a stroll through the garden with a Tribunereporter and photographer, Mitchell pointed out that “The flower beds have no flowers.  Benches are in need of paint.  Workmen were trying to start up the two large decorative and long-dry water fountains. When the water was turned on in the first fountain, a huge leak sprang through the deteriorated masonry.  The second fountain proved more of a challenge and refused to flow.”  That wasn’t the worst of it.  Grass along the Michigan Avenue sidewalk is nonexistent; what little grass there is in the “park” is parched.  Stairways are deteriorating at an alarming degree and most the wiring in the park lights is so far gone that few of them work.  “Deeper in the park, the pigeons munch on piles of debris and share the lawn and benches with dozing derelicts, bag people and other itinerant-looking characters, some of whom frequent the back reaches of the park along the balustrade esplanade and dissuade visitors from using the area.” Commander Robert Casey of the First Police District says of the park that, although it is generally safe, “Office workers go there to smoke marijuana, and the bums sleep there during the night.  We run the wagons in there early in the morning to get rid of the rummies.” Mitchell asserts, ‘When you’ve got a problem, you can’t just throw up your hands and say, ‘It’s impossible.’ You have to say, ‘Let’s attack this problem. We can lick it.’ It takes some vision, some planning, some creative thinking. It takes determination. After all, Chicago’s motto is, ‘I will.’” Two decades later creative thinking paid off when Millennium Park opened and the city received a beautiful new front yard. The before and after pictures show the story.

July 20, 1881 – The Directors of the Board of Trade receive assurances that an ordinance vacating a portion of LaSalle Street between Jackson Boulevard and Van Buren Street will be valid and, based upon this information, vote to purchase the property at this location for $10,000.  The next step will be to organize a Building Association since Illinois law prohibits the Board from erecting a building exceeding $100,000 in valuation.  It is anticipated that the new building will cost at least $800,000, but the matter of the building itself is left for another day.  The Chicago Daily Tribune summarizes the results of the meeting in this way, “The Board of Trade purchases the property for $10,000.  This it leases to a Building Association for a term of fifty or one hundred years at a fixed rental.  The Building Association erects the edifice, and leases to the Board of Trade what may be required at a certain rental, yet to be determined upon.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 21, 1881] This would be a decision that would produce a huge impact on this area. According to Homer Hoyt in his One Hundred Years of Land Values in Chicago, "From 1881 to 1883 the value of land on Jackson, Van Buren, Wells, and LaSalle streets near the Board of Trade advanced from $200 and $400 a front foot to from $1,500 to $2,000 a front foot .. the total increase in the value of land and buildings within half a mile from the Board of Trade from 1881 to 1885 was estimated by current observers at from $20,000,000 to $40,000,000."  The first Board of Trade building to stand on this site is pictured above.  Barely visible above the front entrance at the base of the tower are the two statues of Agriculture and Industry that still stand in the plaza outside the present day Board of Trade building.

July 20, 1913 – The Chicago Daily Tribune’s art critic, Harriet Moore, writes an opinion piece in which she supports the City Club in its campaign against billboards.  Her argument begins with a single question, one she asked at a previous hearing in which a City Council committee was listening to testimony from both advocates and opponents of the signs, “Is it your opinion that beauty has neither health value nor financial value in a modern metropolis?”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 20, 1913]  She then answers the question with three separate responses:  that beauty is a health producer (“Hideous objects and harsh sounds, assaulting eyes and ears in a manner not to be escaped, destroy the harmony of life by introducing discords, and reduce the joy of life by insulting the senses with ugliness.”); that beauty is a commercial asset in any community (“Without beauty a city is merely a place to make money in and get away from.”); and, beauty is a great investment (“Why does the whole world flock to Italy, spending there millions every year?  Because, a few centuries ago a few hundred artists builded and carved and painted beautifully.”)  Moore concludes, “Chicago has the opportunity to become one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  The lake, the long stretch of park which is to border it, Michigan avenue widened to the river and adequately connected with the Lake Shore drive, the widened Twelfth street, the new railway terminals, the enlarged business district—these and other conditions and projects will create a beautiful metropolis.  Along with these large plans for civic beauty should go eternal vigilance against all kinds of defacement and in favor of all kinds of minor improvements.  The fight against billboards is an important detail of the general campaign.”