Thursday, August 30, 2018

August 30, 1911 -- Unity Building Leans Dangerously

August 30, 1911 –Chicago Building Commissioner Henry Ericsson says that the 16-story Unity building at 127 North Dearborn street is leaning 30 inches out of plumb toward the south.  Ericsson says that it is a dangerous situation and that the building will eventually collapse if something is not done quickly.  Thirteen months earlier building department engineers found the building fifteen and three-eighths inches out of plumb at the fifteenth floor, but no action was taken.  The office tower, at one time the tallest building in the city, would be jacked back into place and would stand for another 78 years until destruction began in 1989 as part of the levelling of the structures that stood on Block 37.  It had quite a history.  In 1891 John Peter Altgeld took out a $400,000 loan from the Chicago National Bank, controlled by John R. Walsh, a tough rags-to-riches banker who controlled the Chicago City Council.  When Altgeld was elected governor in 1892, Walsh lobbied for control over the state’s patronage employees, but the scrupulously honest Altgeld refused. When a nation-wide Depression came in 1893, Altgeld lost $500,000 on the building, and it was sold into receivership. It was in Room 711 of the building that the first meeting was held to form the service club that would become Rotary International.

August 30, 1867 – A forewarning of things to come is issued at 4:00 a.m. when a fire is discovered on the second floor of a five-story brick building situated at No. 20 State Street, the approximate location today of the Tortoise Club just north of Marina City.  The fire in a building that houses the David Henry wholesale liquor dealer and importers is well underway before it is discovered and destroys an entire block of businesses before it is brought under control.  The David Henry Co. values its stock at about $70,000 with only $17,500 covered by insurance.  Other adjoiing businesses suffer as well … what fire doesn’t claim, water from the efforts of the fire brigade ruins.  A narrow alley runs along the south side of the David Henry building, and much of the water used to douse the fire runs into the rear of basements extending back from Lake Street, ruining much of the stock in buildings that are not affected by the flames.  It will be a little over four years later that a fire will destroy most of the city, but the fire on State Street on this day shows how quickly things could get out of hand in a city built principally of wood. The block that burned is shown as it appears today in the above photo.

August 30, 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.  

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