Sunday, September 30, 2018

September 30, 1982 -- Naval Reserve Leaves Chicago Lakefront Armory

September 30, 1982 –The United States Naval Reserve ends its 89-year presence on Chicago’s lakefront as it leaves its three-story Art Deco building at the foot of Randolph Street.  The 50-year-old building will be torn down to make way for the widening of Lake Shore Drive and the straightening of the “S” curve where the drive crosses the Chicago River.  Reserve units have been transferred to Park Forest, the Great Lakes Naval Station, Glenview and Gary.  The Navy Reserve in the city began operation on September 30, 1893 at the World’s Columbian Exposition. [Chicago Tribune, September 30, 1982] The reserve eventually moved to a building at 20 North Michigan Avenue before it moved into an old converted freighter on the Chicago River.  Illinois approved funds for construction of the armory in 1927 and the armory, which cost $465,000, opened in 1932.

September 30, 1983 – The Wild West comes to Wacker Drive as three men waylay the 121 Wacker Express bus and hold up the 27 passengers aboard, relieving them of “about $500 in cash, miscellaneous jewelry and wallets and purses.” [Chicago Tribune, October 1, 1983]. The bandits board the bus at State Street and announce a hold-up after stuffing a few dollar bills in the fare box. Police say that the bills will be dusted for fingerprints. This is the third bus robbery of the year. On October 28 a 23-year-old South Side man is indicted on charges of armed robbery in the commission of the crimes.

September 30, 1990 – The Chicago White Sox defeat the Seattle Mariners, 2-1, in the last game the team will play in Comiskey Park, the oldest baseball park in the major leagues.  The last pitch is thrown by Bobby Thigpen who gets Seattle’s Harold Reynolds to hit a grounder to Sox second baseman Scott Fletcher who throws to Steve Lyons at first for the out.  Tickets for the final game sell out in two hours when they go on sale on June 9, and a crowd of 42,849 is on hand to bid farewell to the old ball yard.  These are the last of the 72,801,381 fans who have watched the Sox compile a record of 3,024 wins and 2,926 losses in Comiskey since it opened on July 1, 1910.  Said Sox pitcher Wilbur Wood, “It’s a shame they’re closing it down . . . It’s like with all of the older parks, not for the players but for the fans.  The new parks are so symmetrical that you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all.  And the fans are so far away.  I hope the fans are close at the new park like they were at Comiskey.”  [Chicago Tribune, October 1, 1990]

September 29, 2003 -- Soldier Field Opens after Controversial Renovation
September 29, 2003 –The new Soldier Field opens to a national audience as the Chicago Bears take on the Green Bay Packers. The renovated stadium is the product of years of wrangling about what an appropriate venue would be for the Monsters of the Midway and exactly how much taxpayers should be expected to pay for it. As the stadium welcomes its first fans, reviews are mixed.  Joe Antunovich, the chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Council, says, “We’re stuck with what we have, which I believe is much less than we could have had. It’s an eyesore of the Nth degree. It’s just awful.” [Los Angeles Times, September 29, 2003]  Herbert Muschamp, the architecture critic for the New York Times, disagrees, writing, “If your commitment is to classicism, you will find a more authentically classical urbanism in the recast stadium than was present when the concrete colonnades stood alone.  And if your commitment is to conflict, as a city lover’s ought always to be, the field’s controversial reception will not let you down.” [New York Times, September 30, 2003]  The new Soldier Field will hold 61,500 fans, 3,500 fewer than the old stadium, and in the second largest market in the National Football League, it will be the second smallest stadium.  However, 60 percent of the new venue’s seats will be on the sidelines; in the old stadium that number was just 40 percent.  A unique feature of the stadium is that all of the suites and club seats are on one side while all the general-admission seats are on the other. As a result, the west grandstand is 20 feet higher than the east side, which will have four levels of $300,000-a-year luxury suites.  The renovated stadium will also have twice the number of concession stands as its predecessor and more than twice as many bathrooms.  On this night a crowd of 60,257 watches as the Green Bay Packers, with Brett Favre at quarterback, score 17 unanswered points in the first quarter, ultimately defeating the Bears, 38-23.

September 29, 1915 --The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that the Municipal Art Commission has accepted a design for a colonnade or peristyle that will be built on the southeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street.  In the middle of the colonnade will be a fountain, the entire design provided by the firm of Edward H. Bennett.  The peristyle, finished in 1917, lasted until August 20, 1953 when the Speedway Wrecking Company quickly razed it with the debris used as fill in a northerly extension of Lake Shore Drive.  For more on the original peristyle and its modern replacement, you can turn to Connecting the Windy City and check this entry out.

September 29, 1906 –On a “rainy, chilly, and generally disagreeable” day [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 30, 1906] the South Shore Country Club opens its doors for the first time with 92 cases of champagne on hand to warm the 600 people in attendance.  Everyone is on edge as there are intimations that Arthur Burrage Farwell and the Hyde Park Protective Association might try to storm the festivities in an effort to stop the serving of alcohol, but at 4:30 p.m. the club’s president, William Thorne, the president of Montgomery Ward and Company, opens the first bottle of champagne on the club’s wind-swept veranda and calls one of the 200 waiters on hand to serve his guests.  “Here’s defiance to Farwell,” is the toast that follows.  Mr. Farwell’s organization is dedicated to removing the perils of alcohol from the area. “Their arguments – the sanctity of the family, the selling of liquor to minors, the perceived threat to land values and suspicions of gambling and prostitution – were used to garner community support for closing of the taverns.”  [Hyde Park Herald, February 20, 2014]  The association didn’t stop the festivities on this evening.  As the Tribune reported, “Outside the angry surf beat against the shore and the wind moaned above the strains of the orchestra, but in the dining room, where 600 were served, in the reception hall, and the spacious parlor, where the dark green furniture appeared in pleasing contrast against the white woodwork, the scene was of good cheer.” 

Friday, September 28, 2018

September 28, 1920 -- Chicago River Gets the Suds

September 28, 1920 –Here is a sad day in Chicago history … 180 barrels of "High Life" beer are poured into the Chicago River. It is the last part of a cargo from the ship Mineral City which was seized by government officials as it entered the city from Kenosha over a year earlier. The seized ship is shown above.  

September 28, 1911 – After Mayor Carter Harrison ventures forth with his brother, William Preston Harrison, and walks from the north side of the city as far south as Harrison Street “under the cover of darkness … to learn how his people conducted themselves,” [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 29, 1911] He informs his police chief, James McWeeny, that he has found State Street “rotten … a cheap imitation of a Midway show”.  In the letter to McWeeny he directs the chief to clean up the street, saying, “One of the last acts of my administration before leaving office in 1905 was to give orders looking to the cleaning up of the old time levee.  Today State street, south of Van Buren, while not so vile as it used to be, is a cheap imitation of a Midway show.  At 408 State street they advertise the ‘grizzly bear’ dance.  They have also suggestive pictures of women in costume.  They have a barker in front and regular Midway music.  This character of show has no place in a city.”

September 28, 1924 – In a day that was “replete with fervent pulpit oratory, congratulations, stately music and solemn ritual” [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 28, 1924] the Chicago Temple at Clark and Washington Streets is dedicated. Even though there are three services at the new church, throngs outside are still so great that two outdoor services are held in the morning and afternoon.  The president of the Temple’s board of trustees reads a letter from President Calvin Coolidge in which he writes, “I join heartily in the hope which moved its founders, that it may be the means of expanding and increasing the effectiveness of the great spiritual work to which it is devoted.  Unique in many ways as an ecclesiastical type of architecture, it will bring together the spiritual and lay activities of the church, giving from each a helpful inspiration to the other.”  The congregation is one of the oldest in Chicago, beginning in an 1834 building on the north side of the river.  In 1838 that building was floated across the river and rolled on logs to a location on the southeast corner of Washington and Clark, the same plot on which the First United Methodist Church of Chicago stands today.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

September 27, 1911 -- Auditorium Purchased at Tax Sale
September 27, 1911 –The Chicago Daily Tribunereports that Chicagoan George J. Lawton has bought the Auditorium office building, hotel and theater for $48,680 at a county tax sale. Lawton says, “I am going to make a test case and see if I can get possession of this property.  I can get a deed, and as soon as I get that I’m going to try to get a title. If I can get that, I will begin legal proceedings to oust the present owners.  It will take two years to fight it out, but I think it’s worth trying.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 27, 1911]The owners of the property in question failed to pay taxes on May 1, and six weeks later the County Treasurer advertised the property for sale.  The property is sold at public auction on September 22, and Lawton wrests the valuable property away from consortium made up of the Studebakers of South Bend, Ind.; Ambrose Cramer of Lake Forest; and the Peck estate of Chicago.  It is estimated that the property and the building together are worth close to $4,000,000.  Seven years earlier the Chicago Symphony Orchestra had left the building for digs on Michigan Avenue.  The hotel had lost prestige as more modern buildings opened up, and the offices in the structure were left to compete with the new skyscrapers springing in the Loop, most of them not looking out at the noisy elevated tracks.  It is probable that the building would have been torn down, had it not been for the fact that the razing of the structure would have cost more than the land on which it stood was worth.

September 27, 1991 – The largest public works deal in the history of the city is awarded to a team of firms led by real estate developer Richard Stein as a $675 million contract for the design and construction of an exhibition hall and galleria west of the current McCormick Place.  The contract is signed just two days after Illinois Governor Jim Edgar signs into law a $987 million expansion program that the General Assembly had approved in July.  Edgar says, “This expansion will allow shows to stay in Chicago and allow millions of dollars to come into our economy.  This legislation is a plus for all the people of Illinois.” [Chicago Tribune, September 28, 1991] Work on the new complex is expected to begin in February of 1993 with completion by August of 1996. Stein’s group, known as Mc3D, is the only one of the three proposals submitted that puts all the exhibition space in the new building on one floor. The group also will be responsible for constructing an 80-foot galleria that will connect the new south building with the north building and the original east building.  The whole package of nearly a billion dollars of work also includes a modest $60 million-dollar plan that will dramatically enhance the lakefront – the rerouting of the northbound lanes of Lake Shore Drive to the west of Soldier Field, creating a beautiful swath of green space and a campus for the three great cultural attractions on the lakefront, the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum of Natural History and the Adler Planetarium.

September 27, 1910 – As 200,000 people look on, Walter L. Brookins circles his Wright biplane 2,500 feet above the city for a sustained flight of 20 minutes.  Taking off from Grant Park, which was “black with humanity,” [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 28, 1910] the aviator thrills the crowd as he soars south to Twelfth Street, over the Loop to the Federal Building on Dearborn Street, and back over the lake.  “Chicago looks for all the world like the picture on a postal card when you are 2,000 feet above it,” Brookins says at the end of the flight.  “I could look down between my legs and see everything, but of course could recognize only a few of the buildings.  I knew the federal building as soon as I saw it and I stopped my westward flight as I looked directly beneath me.”  The next day Brookins would attempt a sustained trip from Chicago to Springfield in an attempt to outrun an Illinois Central passenger train.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

September 26, 1979 -- Rock Island Reaches End of the Line
September 26, 1979 –The Interstate Commerce Commission rules that the bankrupt Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad will be taken over and operated by a management group selected from 14 other railroads.  Following the decision, a federal judge denies a request by the railroad to delay action on the commission’s decision.  Vice-President Walter Mondale announces the ICC decision, saying that restoration of service on the strike-bound Rock Island is critical to Midwest farmers who are in the middle of bringing in the annual soybean and corn crops.  The members of the striking United Transportation Union agree to go back to work after the ICC agrees that they will be paid “prevailing industry wage rates”. [Chicago Tribune, September 27, 1979] With that assurance in place, the Brotherhood of Railway and Airline Clerks agrees to talk to the new management team  about returning to work.  The ruling of the ICC marks the first time in U. S. history that the federal government has ordered a major railroad taken over because it is failing.  It is estimated that the federal government will be paying $80 to $90 million to operate the Rock Island for the ensuing eight months.  The railroad traces its history back all the way to 1847 when a charter was granted to its predecessor, the Rock Island and LaSalle Railroad Company. At the height of its operation the railroad extended as far west as New Mexico, as far north as Minnesota and as far south as Louisiana and Texas.  Chicago was its eastern point of origin.  The railroad was ultimately liquidated in 1980 although most of The Rock’s principal routes still exist today under the control of other lines.

September 26, 1925 – Three construction workers die and two others are seriously injured as a steel concrete scoop breaks away from the fourteenth floor of the Metropolitan Building at Randolph and LaSalle Streets.  The three men who die are all working on scaffolds below the scoop.  Two of three workers on the highest of the two scaffolds manage to hang on and survive as the scoop kills the third man on the platform, suspended 25 feet below it.  The crash occurs when hundreds of workers are flooding the Loop on their way to work. The intersections are jammed with people, and police reserves are summoned to clear enough room to permit the dead and the injured to be removed from the area.  The Metropolitan Building as it appears today is shown above.

September 26, 1949 – Chicago learns that the architectural firm of Vitzhum and Burns has won a competition for the design of a church and Franciscan friary to be located at 108-116 West Madison Avenue, the site of the La Salle Theater.  The church, St. Peter’s, will replace one that has stood at 816 South Clark Street since just four years after the Great Fire in 1871.  The Franciscan Fathers made some darned good deals in the process of arranging for their new place of worship.  In 1942 the order bought the ten-story Woods Theater building from the Marshall Field estate for $600,000, property that it sold in June of 1949 for $1,200,000.  At the same time the order bought the site for the new church from the Marshall Field estate for $515,000.  The plans for the new building include a 1,600-seat auditorium, a chapel above the main auditorium that will seat 300, with the two upper floors serving as the friary.  Some heavy hitters participated in the competition, including Edo J. Belli, Nairne W. Fischer, Hermann J. Gaul, Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, Rapp and Rapp, and Shaw, Metz and Dolio.  Due to the scarcity of building materials in the post-war years it took awhile to finish the new St. Peter’s, but the church finally opened in 1955.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

September 25, 1930 -- Frank Lloyd Wright Exhibition Opens at Art Institute

September 25, 1930 –An exhibition of the latest works of Frank Lloyd Wright opens at the Art Institute of Chicago, a display to run through October 12, a collection that comes to the Art Institute from the Architectural League in New York City.  Wright, caught while helping to set up the exhibit the day before, says, “I obtained my motif from an intimate study of nature rather than as a product of studies of architectural styles.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 24, 1930]. He explains that there “must be no conflict between architecture and nature,” illustrating that concept with a development he has proposed for Hollywood Hills, California, in which houses of concrete blocks conform with the contours of the hills in which they are built.  The exhibit also includes models of a tall apartment building of glass and steel and a gasoline filling station in which gas and oil tanks are hung from a cantilevered roof so that there are no obstructions in the way of motorists.

September 25, 1907 – The city’s Commissioner of Public Works, John Hanberg, following a conference with officials of Marshall Field and Company, rescinds his decree against public clocks on State Street, issued two days earlier. The commissioner had earlier also notified Spaulding and Co., Lewy Bros., and J. Florsheim to remove clocks from the street even though the city council had passed permits for them, noting that they violated the city’s prohibition against projecting advertising signs.  Marshall Field officials agree to omit any advertising features from the clock, so the timepiece, one of the main features of State Street today, is allowed.

September 25, 1927 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that construction will soon begin on “one of the city’s most notable cooperative apartment buildings . .. . thoroughly American in its exterior design and in its interior treatment.”  The Powhatan, to be located at Fiftieth Street and Chicago Beach Drive, a design of Robert S. De Golyer and Charles Morgan, combines the modern qualities of Art Deco’s fascination with historical references.  The building will hold 45 apartments, ranging in size form six to ten rooms, that “will be the last word in luxury, with wood burning fireplaces, galleries with plaster beam ceilings, libraries, enough bathrooms to keep an entire family happy and so on.”  The twentieth floor will hold a ballroom, and owners will enjoy a community swimming pool on the first floor.  Today the Powhatan is an Art Deco jewel that has to be seen to be appreciated fully.  According to Emporis it is the most expensive residential high-rise on Chicago’s south side.  For the full story on this amazing building you can turn to this link.

Monday, September 24, 2018

September 24, 1907 -- Seventh Regiment Armory Land Purchase
September 24, 1907 –Title is filed for property on Wentworth Avenue between Thirty-Fourth and Thirty-Fifth Street, land that will be used to build an armory for the Seventh Regiment of the Illinois National Guard.  Architect W. Carbys Zimmerman will draw up the plans for the structure. The basement will contain a rifle range, bowwling alleys and a swimming pool.  There will be two large areas for assemblages, one that will hold 2,000 people and another on the lower level that will accommodate 1,000. When completed the armory was even bigger than the projections.  For $500,000 the city got a building capable of holding 15,000 people.  In 1908 it hosted the Republican National Convention and later that year Eugene V. Debs, the socialist candidate for President, also spoke to large crowds there.  You won’t find the armory there today.  The site is the north parking lot complex for Guaranteed Rate Field. The above photo is an interesting one … it shows spectators watching the White Sox play the New York Giants in the 1917 World Series from the rooftop of the armory just to the north.  Note the “7” on the tower from which viewers take in the game.

September 24, 1966 – Shortly after the Illinois Supreme Court finds that the Illinois Central Railroad holds full rights of ownership to 186 acres east of Michigan Avenue from Randolph Street to the river, the Chicago Tribune runs an editorial, entitled “A Whole New City on Our Doorstep,” proclaiming that the opportunity with which Chicago has been presented, “comes rarely to a big city, and it should not be missed.” [Chicago Tribune, September 24, 1966] The editorial notes that the development “will require major street improvements. Lake Shore drive must be rebuilt to eliminate the two sharp turns. Wacker drive must be extended east from Michigan avenue in two levels.  A new bridge across the Chicago river will be needed. “Wise planning for the area should include connections with the projected downtown subways for rapid transit trains.”  Despite the work needed, the piece is forceful in the warning contained in its conclusion, “City officials should not delay their part of this program until the private developers become discouraged.”  The photo above captures the area of Illinois Center where the Hyatt Hotel stands today.  

September 24, 1954 – With the decision to move to the suburbs, the Butler Brothers Catalog Company announces the appointment of Hogan and Farwell, Inc., a Chicago realty firm, as the leasing agent to develop the Butler building on the northeast corner of Canal and Randolph Streets.  The building has close to one million square feet of floor space with the Prudential Insurance Company of America leasing the tenth and eleventh floors and the United States government holding short-term leases for the Social Security board and the Air Force.   George and Edward Butler founded their mail-order company in Boston in 1877, opening a Chicago warehouse two years later.  By 1910 over a thousand people worked in its Chicago operation.  The 1922 warehouse, originally designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, is today Randolph Place Condos with 340 loft apartments.  The photo above shows the complex in 1950.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

September 23, 1929 -- Wabash Avenue Bridge Construction Begins
September 23, 1929 –Construction of the Wabash Avenue bridge begins, an event that, it is hoped, will usher in “the beginning of a new era of prosperity and business activity in the community …” [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 23, 1929] Projected completion date for the new span is anticipated to be December 1, 1930 as the contractor in charge of the construction of the bridge’s sub-structure has been given 11 months to complete the work.  The bridge will connect the north end of Wabash Avenue at Wacker Drive with the south end of Cass Avenue on the north side of the river.  A viaduct will also be constructed across the tracks of the Chicago and North Western Railroad and Kinzie Street with a gradual grade bringing the road down to grade level at Illinois Street.  The $3,700,000 span will be a two-leaf, single deck bascule bridge, 232 feet long and 60 feet wide with sidewalks on each side of the bridge spanning 13 feet.  Completing the project entailed coming to terms with the C and NW concerning the placing of piers, columns and easements.  Before construction even begins, businessmen on Cass Street are planning improvements that they hope will bring shoppers, new businesses and residents to the area.

September 23, 1933 – Another mile of Lake Shore Drive is opened to traffic from Montrose to Foster Avenue.  The road will only be open during the day as streetlights still need to be installed.  This will be the first major thoroughfare to be opened as a result of $20,840,000 in gasoline and license taxes that the Illinois legislature had approved earlier.  It is expected that 35,000 cars a day will be using the new road each day although there are still obstacles to be overcome.  The junction with Sheridan Road at Foster Avenue will be a significant bottleneck.  George Barton, an engineer for the Chicago Motor Club, says, “Unless every assistance is given to traffic at Sheridan road and Foster avenue the utility of the new mile of outer drive is seriously curtailed.  This intersection will be the new bottleneck in the north side boulevard system, replacing the present bottlenecks at Montrose and Clarendon avenues and at Lawrence avenue and Sheridan road.”  The junction of Sheridan and Foster is shown above several years after the Lake Shore Drive extension is opened.

September 23, 1933 – Work begins on the final section of the Field building being erected between Clark and La Salle Streets on the east and west and Adams and Monroe Streets on the south and north.  Steel workers begin erecting the first beams for the tower, which it is estimated will contain 4,000 tons of steel.  Three of the four corner units of the Art Deco tower, designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, are complete with placement of steel for each section taking between 35 and 57 days.  

Saturday, September 22, 2018

September 22, 1974 -- Weese Wins Award for Lake Shore East

September 22, 1974 – The Chicago Tribune reports that Harry Weese and Associates has won the highest award of the Chicago Chapter of the American Institute of Architects for an apartment building at the southwest corner of South Lake Park Avenue at East Forty-Seventh Street.  A.I.A jurors call the design a “good design at the highest level within the narrow constraints of publicly financed housing.”  The 26-story tower, Lake Shore East, features 38 angled, vertical planes of glass and brick which “give the building’s shape and its interplay of elements many different appearances as they are viewed from various perspectives.”  [Chicago Tribune, September 22, 1974]

September 22, 1981 – Two firefighters die and six others are injured while fighting an extra-alarm fire in the Willoughby Tower office building at 8 South Michigan Avenue.  Fire Commissioner William Blair says, “There was no chance … there was no way out for them.”  The two firefighters, Joseph Hitz, a snorkel truck driver with Hook and Ladder 1 and Craig McShane, a rookie with Engine 42, fall to their deaths down an open elevator shaft from the twenty-fifth floor to the roof of an elevator stopped at the ninth floor.  The fire on the floor from which they fell started in materials a cleaning crew had left in the elevator, and as a result the car fell until its brakes activated and stopped it on the ninth floor.  Six firefighters exit an elevator on the twenty-fifth floor to find the hallway filled with smoke.  Breathing through air masks, they find an open office through which they are able to reach a fire escape at which point they discover that one of their number, Hitz, is missing.  McShane, the only firefighter who still has air in his self-contained breathing apparatus, crawls back to check, and he falls through the same open elevator shaft into which Hitz had fallen earlier.  Mayor Jane Byrne, standing at the scene as the search for the two men is being conducted, says, “I am deeply sorrowed by the loss of the lives of these two brave firemen …I have conferred with Commissioner Blair and directed him to immediately procure, by the end of the week at the latest, two-way hand radios for every Chicago firemen in hopes that this would prevent a recurrence of such tragic accidents.”  Hitz and McShane are the first Chicago firemen killed on duty since 1978 and the first multiple deaths of Chicago firefighters since 1973. The plaque, pictured above, memorializing the two firefighters, can be seen at the firehouse at 419 South Wells Street, about a mile away from the tragic fire of 1981.

September 22, 1935 – In the six hours that the Chicago Tribune opens the doors of the new home of its radio station, 4,368 people tour the facilities.  Over 500 visitors fill out forms for a chance to gain admission to the auditorium when performances begin.  The paper describes the new digs in this way, “The lighting effects, the sharp slant of the auditorium for purposes of better vision, the richly covered, deep cushioned seats and the sound proofed walls attracted appreciative comments.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 23, 1935]  The building just to the north of Tribune Tower is laid out or “squared off” with Polaris, the north star, as a sighting point, an innovative approach that allows a variance of about an eighth-inch along the building’s frontage on Michigan Avenue.  On October 5 the auditorium opens with two orchestras entertaining all of the workers who had labored on the building, along with their families.  Colonel Robert R. McCormick, editor and publisher of the paper, tells them, “This victory of peace has a sadness for me, for it means I must part from the men I have watched at this building for the last year and a half . . . You have piled stone on stone, color on color, and joined wire to wire.  You have built here, forever, something that your children will thank you for.  You leave me with emotion.  God bless you and be with you always.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 2, 1935]

Friday, September 21, 2018

September 21, 1891 -- Fort Sheridan Pegged as Plum Assignment
September 21, 1891 –The Chicago Daily Tribunereports that because of the attractiveness of its quarters and because of the easy access it will have to the much- heralded World’s Columbian Exposition, due to open in 1893, there has been “much wire-pulling among officers and men of influence to secure the detail” at Fort Sheridan, under construction on the North Shore.  As the spring of 1892 comes to an end it is anticipated that close to 1,000 soldiers will be stationed at the new garrison, including eight companies of the Sixth Cavalry, currently stationed in Nebraska, eight companies of the One-Hundredth Infantry, already at the fort, Light Battery E, an artillery unit, just ordered to the base, and, at the end of the spring, four troops of cavalry.  Over a million dollars has already been expended on the construction at Fort Sheridan with at least another $200,000 worth of construction still to be completed. The base will be the most expensive military garrison in the country, and, when it is completed, it will also be the largest.

September 21, 1906 – The laying of the cornerstone for the new Cook County building is highlighted by the presence of United States Vice-President Charles W. Fairbanks who arrives to preside at the ceremony.  A long and circuitous parade begins at 2:00 p.m. at the Auditorium Annex where Fairbanks is staying and moves north to Clark, where the principal speakers ascend the dais.  Mayor Edward F. Dunne, Governor Charles S. Deneen, and Vice-President Fairbanks deliver the addresses at the Clark Street ceremony.  In the cornerstone rest volumes of Cook County history, the proceedings of the Cook County board for the year, the membership rolls of the principal clubs of the city, various artifacts supplied by the Chicago Historical Society, and copies of the day’s newspapers.  In the evening a banquet is held at the Auditorium Annex for 500 people.  Pictured above, the county’s half of the building on Clark Street, designed by Holabird and Roche, will be completed by 1908.  The city’s half on LaSalle Street will follow two years later.  

September 21, 1941 – A near tragedy is averted as the Midnight Special on its way out of Chicago and bound for St. Louis is halted just in time to avoid falling into the Chicago River when the railroad bridge at Twenty-First Street is opened to permit a lake freighter to pass.  The engineer brings the train to a halt with “its small front wheels and first large drive wheels already over the water and beyond the rail ends.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 22, 1941]  No one is hurt in the mishap, the passenger cars are pulled back to Union Station, and the passengers continue the trip after the fouled tracks are cleared.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

September 20, 2004 -- Spertus Institutes's New Home Unveiled

September 20, 2004 –Chicago architects Ron Krueck and Mark Sexton and the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies unveil a plan for the Institute’s new home on Michigan Avenue.  The plan will be the first test of whether a contemporary building will meet the design guidelines of the Michigan Avenue Historic District. Frist reactions are favorable. Jim Peters, the Director of Planning for the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois, says, “It adheres to many of the more key design guidelines for the district, including height, proportions and mild projections.” [Chicago Tribune, September 19, 2004]The proposed building, projected to cost $49 million, will contain a 400-seat lecture hall, a library, museum, and public facilities and will stand on what had previously been a vacant lot in the 600 block of South Michigan Avenue, just north of the Spertus Institute’s current home at 618 South Michigan Avenue.  Early in 2018 the Spertus Institute’s new building was named as one of Illinois’ 200 Great Places by the Illinois Council of the American Institute of Architects.  The structure’s window wall is built from 726 individual pieces of glass in 556 different shapes.  The multi-faceted planes of the window wall bring light into the building, an important factor on a couple of levels.  According to the Spertus website, “This emphasis on light echoes the Spertus logo, a flame accompanied by the biblical phrase “yehi” or, Hebrew for ‘let there be light,’ symbolizing both physical light and the light of learning.” []

September 20, 1992 – Big commotion on Wacker Drive east of Michigan Avenue when the Michigan Avenue bridge turns into a slingshot, shooting a 70-foot crane into the gap between the span and Wacker Drive. The crane’s boom falls across Wacker Drive with the iron ball and hook at the top of the crane bouncing off Wacker Drive and through the rear window of Jesus Lopez’s Ford Escort.  Says Lopez, “I guess I was just lucky. I’m glad I wasn’t sitting in the back seat.” [Chicago Tribune, September 21, 1992] Jeff Boyle, the city’s Commissioner of Transportation, says, “The southeast leaf of the Michigan Avenue bridge was the last of four leafs under construction. The bridge, which is out of balance during construction, started to rise and went up into a straight vertical position.  What stopped the bridge from going any further or falling back down was the crane that got wedged in there.” Diana Morales, a police officer directing traffic at the time of the accident had just stopped a CTA bus in an effort to divert it to the Wabash Avenue bridge just to the west. “I was behind the bus directing traffic and trying to get the bus out of the way, but [the driver] said he couldn’t move so I told him to just stay there.  [The Northwest leaf] was coming down and the Southeast side started coming up really fast and I just ran the other way.”  Six passengers on the bus are injured as flying debris come through the open windows.  The accident closes down the bridge indefinitely and ultimately leads to an acknowledgement on the part of the city that none of its inspectors had the experience or training to determine the proper balancing of weight on a bridge that is under construction.

September 20, 1915 – Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis orders the steamer Eastland sold with bids to be opened and the sale to take place on December 20, 1915 in the United States marshal’s office in the Federal Building.  The order is issued in order to cover the costs of the Great Lakes Towing Company, the firm that raised the hulk from the river bottom after the ship capsized on July 24 with a loss of life approaching one thousand souls.  According to Jay R. Bonansinga’s The Sinking of the Titanic:  America’s Forgotten Tragedy, “. . . only two bidders showed up at the macabre auction held on a cold December morning." One of them was an attorney from Boston, who represented an East Coast steamship company.  The other was Captain Edward A. Evers of the Illinois Naval Reserve.  Evers won the auction with a bid of 46,000 dollars, taking possession of the hulk on December 28.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

September 19, 2006 -- Wallenda Crosses River on Bicycle

AP / Charles Rex Arbogast
September 19, 2006 –Mario Wallenda, a 65-year-old paralyzed high wire artist, crosses the Chicago River 100 feet in the air near the Merchandise Mart.  “I’m doing this because I need the money, and I’m tired of sitting around the house. I tried lapidary, woodcarving, even needlepoint,” Wallenda says. [Chicago Tribune, September 20, 2006]The performer was paralyzed in 1962 when a seven-person high-wire pyramid collapsed, and two Wallenda family members were killed.  Wallenda is paid between $50,000 and $100,000 for the stunt, according to the event sponsor, WLUP-FM.  At 9:09 a.m. a crane drops Wallenda and his specially-designed electric bicycle above the river.  Two minutes later he is on the other side of the river.  He pauses for a few moments, and by 9:14 he re-crosses the river where the crane waits to lift him back to ground level.  “Things are tough,” Wallenda says. “I have enough money to live comfortably for the rest of my life, as long as I don’t live past next week.”

September 19, 1927:  Wreckers begin tearing down a four-story building at Randolph and LaSalle Streets as bands play and city chieftains make speeches, and the long-awaited widening of LaSalle Street from Washington Boulevard to Ohio Street begins.  The project, which has its beginnings in the Chicago Plan of 1909, is expected to cost $7,455,000, an expenditure that will provide another through street to the near north side and relieve congestion on Michigan Avenue. The president of the Board of Local Improvement, Michael J. Flaherty, wields a pickax and chips away briefly at an old building south of the river on LaSalle even as one tenant, the Hub Raincoat Company, refuses to vacate the structure, saying that the firm has a right to remain until September 23.  The $3,500,000 bridge across the river at LaSalle Street is projected to be completed sometime in late 1928.  The widening of LaSalle Street had the city acquiring 20 feet from each property facing the street, which resulted in the complete loss of many buildings and significant alterations to buildings such as the Reid-Murdoch building on the north side of the river, which lost one whole tier on its west side to make way for the expanded roadway.  A picture of the building before and after the truncation can be seen above.

September 19, 1911 – A wild night on the river as a newly-hired wheelman on the Manistee locks himself in the pilot house and “with whistles tooting and engine bell chiming . . . steamed his Dreadnought up and down the river, charging every craft in sight.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 20, 1911]  The seaman, Martin Daley, is hired that day and almost immediately “took on a cargo of rum.”  He locks himself in the pilot house, signals the engine room for “full speed ahead,” and gets someone to cast off from the wharf at Michigan Avenue.  He brings the Manistee so close to the Rush Street Bridge that “most of the fresh coat of paint on her side adhered to the bridge.”  Steaming back toward the lake, Daley then “directed his energies toward running down smaller craft – launches, ‘party boats,’ and dingies [sic]”  as members of the crew break the windows of the pilot house in order to stop the rampage.  Finally, a Chicago policeman manages to clamber aboard at the life saving station at the river’s mouth and arrests the drunken sailor.  Daley tells the officer that he is going back to the Atlantic Ocean “because they can’t take a joke on the lakes.”  The above photo, taken in 1905, looks east from the Rush Street Bridge to just about the location where the Manistee was berthed.  The Kirk Soap Works stands where 401 North Michigan and the new Apple Store, currently under construction, can be found today.