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.

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