August 31, 1994 -- August 31, 1994 – After 137 years Continental Bank at 231 South LaSalle Street, the oldest financial institution in the city to operate as an independent bank, becomes part of BankAmerica Corp., the holding company for Bank of America. With $187 billion in assets Bank of America scoops up Continental and its $22 billion in assets for a reputed $2 billion. Continental Bank was formed in 1957 as Merchants’ Savings, Loan and Trust Co. with founders such as Cyrus McCormick, George Armour and the city’s first mayor, William Butler Ogden. In 1924 the bank moved into an impressive new building on the southeast corner of Jackson Boulevard and LaSalle Street. Standing across the street from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago the impressive headquarters had a spacious Grand Banking Hall and a second-floor chairman’s office paneled in oak taken from a sixteenth-century English mansion. [Chicago Tribune, August 31, 1994]In the 1960’s and 1970’s the bank pulled ahead of its chief local rival, the First National Bank of Chicago, and was the first local bank to open a branch in a foreign country. By 1981 it was the nation’s sixth largest bank. Things soured in the 1980’s, however. In 1982 the failure of Penn Square Bank of Oklahoma City forced Continental to write off $326 million in Penn Square loans. Two years later rumors that the bank would be sold started a world-wide run on the bank that caused the United States government to step in with a restructuring plan that included a $4.5 billion commitment by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
August 31, 1925 – The first one-eighth mile of the new Wacker Drive, running east and west along the south side of the river is opened, a project that is expected “to take 41 per cent of the traffic congestion out of the loop.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 31, 1925] All day motorists are attracted “into that broad one-eighth of double decked esplanade like bees to a posy.” The “smooth upper level roadbed” is 72 feet wide and is bordered on one side by a 24-foot sidewalk and on the other by an 18-foot sidewalk which overlooks the Chicago River, 15 feet below. The paper reports that United States Vice-President Charles G. Dawes has recently conducted a tour of the project for General Geroge Goethals, the chief engineer of the Panama Canal, finished 11 years earlier. Goethals reportedly remarked, “There isn’t anything equal to this at home or abroad.” Reports the Tribune, “From the finished one-eighth he could visualize the finished stretch of concrete quays, lower level street, upper level street, circling stairways, balustrades, pylons, lamps, pilasters, pedestals and arches which will sweep gracefully along the river’s south bank for three-quarters of a mile from North Michigan boulevard to the junction of Lake and Market streets”. The east end of Wacker Drive begins to take shape where the barges are docked across the river from the Wrigley Building.
August 31, 1891 – The Chicago Daily Tribune greets news that a new art museum will be built on the lakefront with an editorial in its favor. “The most important feature of the scheme, however, is the securing of a permanent art gallery for the city of sufficient dimensions to meet all demands for long years to come . . . It may be anticipated that the new structure will be as perfect as money and skill can make it, and as beautiful as artistic taste can suggest . . . something which will more clearly reflect the growth of enterprise, skill, and artistic taste in the World’s Fair City.” The paper, and the city along with it, got its wish.