Wednesday, October 31, 2018

October 31, 1982 -- William P. Fahey bridge Is Dedicated

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October 31, 1982 –The Columbus Drive bridge over the Chicago River is opened to traffic.  The first car to cross is driven by the widow of Chicago police officer William P. Fahey, for whom the bridge is named.  He was killed in the line of duty on February 10 as he attempted to make a traffic stop at Eighty-First and Morgan Streets.  According to the chicagoloopbridges web site, the William P. Fahey bridge is unique in two respects.  It is the first of the trunnion bascule bridges in the Loop to use box girders to span the river instead of trusses, and it is also the first to have its trunnions set back far enough from the river so that pedestrians can walk under it at the level of the river.  The bridge has a clear span of 180 feet and cost $33 million to construct. Although it was a controversial plan when proposed – many thought that it would flood the north side of the river with traffic that streets were ill-equipped to handle – no one can argue with its importance today while surveying what Streeterville looked like in the 1980’s and what it looks like today.


October 31, 1902 – Harlow N. Higinbotham, the president of the board of trustees of the Field Columbian museum, holds forth about the museum’s future, saying, “All that stands in the way of a magnificent $10,000,000 building for the Field museum is a site downtown just across the Illinois Central tracks at Congress street, and that site the city of Chicago ought to provide.  The people of Chicago should have easy access to the museum.  At present persons visiting the city who have only limited time at their disposal cannot visit it.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, November 1, 1902] Higinbotham’s comments come as he hosts 30 of the  “highest authorities in the world on American anthropology … men from Germany, England, Sweden, Holland, France, Mexico and the South American countries.”  The scientists tour the home of the Field Columbian Exposition in Jackson Park, the building that served as the Palace of Fine Arts during the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, a museum that “even in its present quarters … the visitors thought … compared favorably with the museums of Europe and with those in the eastern states.”  The visitors spend the morning at the museum, take lunch at the Del Prado, then go for a drive through the parks and boulevards of the south side before spending the evening as guests of University of Chicago President William Rainey Harper at his residence.  The above photo shows the Field Columbian Museum, the former Palace of Fine Arts at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition -- and today's Museum of Science and Industry -- as it appeared at the time of Higinbotham's plea.


October 31, 1935 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that the eight bridges between Michigan Avenue and Franklin Street have opened more times in a nine-month period than they have opened in most twelve-month years.  According to Harbormaster William J. Lynch in the first nine months of 1935 the bridges opened 9,320 times between January 1 and September 30 with the average time a bridge stood open a bit less than four minutes.  It is hard to imagine a situation today in which traffic in the center of the city is completely stopped over two dozen times a day as bridges are raised and lowered.  According to Lynch these eight bridges blocked traffic a total of 546 hours – more than 68 eight-hour days – in the first nine months of the year.  If one looks at all sixteen bridges that cross the river on the north and west side of the Loop, the number of openings came to 15,088 with motorists and pedestrians spending a total of 866 hours waiting for the bridges to do their work.  At the south end of the North Branch of the river the little Kinzie Street bridge was opened 2,424 times in the first nine months of the year.  Alderman William A. Rowan, the chairman of the council committee on harbors, wharves and bridges, reacts to the figures, saying, “The question involved is the convenience of millions of individuals as opposed to the convenience of a relatively few owners of vessels.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 31, 1935]  He estimated that over 70 per cent of the openings of the eight bridges on the main stem of the river occurred to accommodate noncommercial vessels.  The above photo shows the main stem of the river in 1930, looking west from State Street, with the four-year-old Wacker Drive on its south side.




Tuesday, October 30, 2018

October 30, 1972 -- Illinois Central Railroad Crash Kills 45

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October 30, 1972 –The worst accident in Chicago transit history occurs as 45 people die and more than 350 are injured when a six-car commuter train slams into the rear of a four-car commuter train that is backing up to a station platform at Twenty-Seventh Street after overshooting it.  President Richard Nixon sends the Secretary of Transportation, John Volpe, to the scene and the National Safety and Transportation Board begins an investigation. It took six hours for 240 fire fighters to remove the dead and injured from the two trains at a site just two blocks away from the emergency room of Michael Reese Hospital, which had doctors on the scene within minutes.  There were nearly a thousand passengers on the two trains as they collide at 7:27 a.m. at the height of rush hour.  Most of the deaths occur on the rear car of the lead train, which is composed of new “high-liner” double deck passenger cars.  The following train, composed of older single-level steel coaches, plows into the reversing train, over-riding the underframe of its last car and telescoping it.  The official report of the N.T.S.B. finds “that the probable cause of this accident was the reverse movement of train 416 (the lead train) without flag protection into a previously vacated signal block and the failure of the engineer of train 720 (the following train), while operating faster than the prescribed speed, to perceive the train ahead in time to avoid the collision.” 



October 30, 1931 – The largest Y. M. C. A. in the world is officially opened at dedication ceremonies on this date in 1931.  The new Lawson Y. M. C. A. on the northeast corner of Chicago Avenue and Dearborn Streets rises 24 stories and is built at a cost of $2,754,000.  The new building is named after Victor F. Lawson, the late publisher of the Chicago Daily News, who left $1,500,000 to start the project. There will be 650 residential rooms with 700 telephones, and each room in the building will have a radio speaker that allows a choice of five programs.  As described by the Chicago Daily Tribune, facilities include “a small chapel for private meditation and group worship; a completely equipped ‘log cabin,’ with an artificial woodland view out the window; a room of 1950, done in an ultra-modernistic style; the Lawson Memorial library; a boxing room with permanent ring; two large gymnasiums; volleyball and handball rooms; locker rooms with accommodations for 2,500 men; a rifle range; 10 studios for hobbies, handicraft, and music; mechanical exercise room; a swimming pool, 62 x 25 feet, with a 12 foot depth in the middle for diving; restaurants, grills and cafeterias, and fountain rooms.  There is also a roof garden on the nineteenth floor” [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 25, 1931] In May of 2017 developer Peter Holsten, who paid one dollar for the building with the caveat that it provide affordable housing for at least 50 years, announced a $100 million plan to convert 583 units into 400 larger units with private bathrooms and kitchens.  The plan also will replace exterior fire escapes with two enclosed stair towers and install a new bank of modern elevators.



October 30, 1907 – Wouldn’t it have been interesting to be serving the coffee on this day as Mayor Fred Busse, First Ward aldermen Michael Kenna and John Coughlin and a committee from the Commercial Club meet in architect Daniel Burnham’s office atop the Railway Exchange Building on Michigan Avenue.  Two days earlier the city council had passed an ordinance directing the commissioner of public works to gather plans for connecting Beaubein Court on the south side of the river with Pine Street on the north.  The meeting in Burnham’s office is one more step in a process of trying to unite the north and south side boulevard systems that has been dragging on for over 15 years.  After the meeting Clyde M. Carr, chairman of the Commercial Club committee, says, “We have acted and will continue to act as a clearing house for ideas on this subject.  We have not given our support to any one plan, but are anxious to push the first worthy plan that the authorities may decide upon as feasible.  What we are striving to keep in mind is the future – something that will give glory to Chicago for a hundred years to come.  We do not want a makeshift or a compromise.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 31, 1907] It will be another 13 years before the lawsuits are settled, the property acquired, and the great bridge leading Michigan Avenue across the river completed.  Daniel Burnham is pictured above in his office atop the Railway Exchange Building.

Monday, October 29, 2018

October 29, 1895 -- Loop Elevated Plans Face West Side Opposition

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October 29, 1895 –Rohn’s Pavilion on West Lake Street is in an uproar as businessmen and West Side citizens crowd into a meeting “to give expression to their opposition to the location of a part of the central elevated loop in Van Buren street instead of Harrison street.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 29, 1895]The fear is that running the tracks as far south as Harrison Street will entice merchants to set up shop southof the current business district, rather than westward, penalizing those on the West Side.  A resolution is passed requesting the City Council “to grant the use of Van Buren street for the south side of the loop, and, believing that the building of the loop will benefit the owners of property on Van Buren street, we request that they take all proper action toward securing its location as above indicated.”  An alderman by the name of Stanwood slams the “spiritless” efforts of voters on the West Side to demand anything of the city.  “What had the West Side in the way of public improvements at present,” he asks. “It had only the County Hospital, the Smallpox Hospital, and the dog pound. It could not even get its streets lighted.”  He implores those present to do everything they can “to let the city know there was a West Side.”  Time is of the essence as 150 men are already at work on foundations for the elevated structure on Wabash Avenue with plans to reach as far south as Madison Street in the next several days.  For whatever reason, the voices of the West Siders were heard. The Loop elevated line still runs along Van Buren Street instead of the Harrison Street east-west leg that was originally proposed.  The above photo shows the completed Loop elevated in 1897 with a train headed east on Van Buren Street.  Note the Old Colony building in the background to the left.  It is still there.


October 29, 1913 – The city’s Board of Supervising Engineers releases a report that predicts doom for the city unless something is done to solve its transportation problem.  Representing the board, Blon J. Arnold proposes the construction of an extensive system of subways that would cost as much as $18,000,000.  One tube should run under Clark Street from North Avenue to Twenty-Second Street.  The second bore would be a “loop” entering the downtown section through a tunnel beneath the river at Washington Street, heading east to Michigan Avenue and heading west by way of a tunnel under the river at Van Buren Street.  Three other subways are proposed as part of the plan, serving the north, south and west sides of the city.  Arnold notes that the average speed of streetcars passing through the downtown district is about five miles an hour.  He says, “This low schedule speed is caused by surface traffic congestion – car, vehicular, and pedestrian – and conditions are steadily becoming worse.  This average schedule speed should be increased to equal or exceed the present average speed in outlying districts or free running territory, and the only method of securing this increased speed, as well as increased capacity is by the construction and operation of subways through the congested district.”  The engineers’ report represents another example of how slowly the wheels of government can turn.  The first subway in Chicago would not open for another 30 years.  The photo above shows South Water Street in 1910.


October 29, 1902 -- The members of the Drainage Board approve the issuance of $1,000,000 worth of bonds with the money from the sale to be used for the construction of bascule bridges and for the widening of the river.  The bonds will be payable over a 20 year period and will pay four percent interest.  Board members also approve the purchase of the plant and property of the Norton Milling Company at the Madison Street Bridge for $225,000.  The property will be cleared and used to widen the river at this point.  The original asking price is $400,000, but when the sanitary district threatens to acquire it by condemnation the offer is lowered by $175,000.  With this move the city finally begins to deal with the problems that its antiquated center-pier bridges cause, problems that go back years but which gain special emphasis in January of 1901 when the city engineer refuses to take any further responsibility for nine fragile bridges.  The swing bridge at Madison Street, completed in 1893, is pictured above.  Note the narrowness of the draw on either side of the turntable.  Imagine piloting a boat headed toward the bridge in a strong west wind, and you get some idea of how little margin for error there was in navigating the river in the days before the bascule bridges.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

October 28, 1917 -- City Beautiful Movement Takes Hold



October 28, 1917 –The Chicago Daily Tribunetakes prints a pictorial essay that demonstrates how Commonwealth Edison, with more than fifty substations scattered throughout the city, is showing a “growing recognition of the value of dignity and appropriate adornment, as shown by the ‘Chicago plan’ movement”. [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 28, 1917] One station in particular shows this recognition, a new substation at the north end of Graceland Cemetery, facing Montrose Avenue on the south and Clifton Avenue on the west.  It is designed to supply 600-volt direct-current to the Chicago Surface Lines and the Northwestern Elevated Railroad and 4000 volts of power to lighting and power customers in the area.  According to a trade periodical at the time, “The location of the substation in the midst of a fairly high-grade residence section made it necessary to erect the building with special care to muffle the noise of the converters in order that the station might not be disturbing to the near-by residents.”  [Electric Railway Journal, Vol. 50, No. 21, November 24, 1917]  With special attention to its residential setting, the company also chose a design “embodying a simple, dignified beauty in its endeavor to make the building an attractive addition to the neighborhood, and one which would not detract from the value of the surrounding property.” We would call the style, with its red ornamental brick and tile insert frieze, the Prairie Style today.  The substation is still there although a new substation was built just to the north in the 1970’s.  


October 28, 1975 – In his Chicago Tribune column Jack Mabley awards the Mary Tyler Moore Show his “Bad Taste” award for the episode run on Saturday night three days earlier.  He says the show was “in incredibly bad taste.  Unless you think death and funerals can be hilarious.” [Chicago Tribune, October 28, 1975] The plot of the show had Chuckles the Clown, who had been a running gag in the series, talked about but never seen, dying in an accident.  Mary’s co-workers make jokes about the circumstances, and at the office she scolds her co-workers for their behavior.  During the funeral, though, it was she who could not control herself, as she breaks into prolonged and uncontrollable laughter.  Mabley wrote, “It’s not surprising that some boobnik could write a script like this, but that it would be accepted by the producers, and the actors, and the network, with no one questioning its offensiveness is a commentary on the depths to which televised mass entertainment has sunk.”  If you missed the original episode 42 years ago (WHA …), here it is. 


October 28, 1928 -- With the 1927 winner of the Nobel Prize, Professor Arthur Holly Compton, in the lead, a procession of 300 University of Chicago faculty members in their academic robes lead a procession into the university’s new Rockefeller Chapel for its dedication service.  Last in the procession is the Acting President of the university, Frederic Woodward and John D. Rockefeller, Jr., son of the benefactor who made the construction of the chapel possible.  As the procession enters the church a 150-voice choir sings O God Our Help in Ages Past.  During the service of dedication the Reverend Charles W. Gilkey is installed as Dean of the Chapel.  Gilkey concludes his short address by saying of the chapel, “It must not be a stone rolled from the ancient hillside, while the stream of life of this university goes around it.  It must be a channel through which that stream may flow, giving it new life and force.”   Rockefeller, Jr., on behalf of his father, addresses the assemblage, saying, “True religion means an abiding faith in God and our fellow man.  May this chapel help all who cross its threshold to lay hold upon so priceless a possession.  And may there be centered here a religion of activity and service as well as a religion of contemplation and faith.”   For an in-depth look at this special day and the generosity that made it possible, please head here.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

October 27, 1940 -- Ida B. Wells Homes Dedication

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October 27, 1940 –Close to 15,000 people attend the dedication of the Ida B. Wells Homes at Thirty-Eighty Street and Vernon Avenue even though the first families will not move into the homes, which will eventually hold 1,662 families, until January 18, 1941.  The Chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority, Joseph W. McCarthy, hosts the event with Oscar W. Rosenthal, the chairman of the Illinois State Housing Board, making the statement of the afternoon, saying that the project “will be ‘just a pile of masonry’ unless it gives impetus to the democratic spirt and strengthens American life.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 28, 1940]  Nearly 16,000 families have applied for inclusion in the project which will charge rents ranging from $18 a month for a two-room apartment to $23 a month for a half-dozen rooms.  The development would be the largest of the demonstration developments built under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Public Works Administration and the first such development in Chicago to include a city park with a playground and playing fields. [idabewellsmonument.org]  Although it was a mecca for carefully-screened two-parent families in its opening years, a variety of factors brought about a spiral of disintegrating conditions that ultimately led to the development’s closing in 2002.  It was demolished to make room for the mixed-income community of Oakwood Shores.


October 27, 2007 – Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamen begins his column with this disclosure, “Donald Trump hung up on me this week after he phoned to defend the blatantly commercial 10-foot-tall Michigan Avenue kiosk for his 92-story-hotel-condo tower.” [Chicago Tribune, October 27, 2007] A week earlier the paper’s Tempo column had run a story about the kiosk that sat on a sidewalk in front of the Wrigley Building.  That stirred a fire under Forty-Second Ward Alderman Burton Natarus, who vowed to get the advertising taken from the kiosk despite the fact that it was he who had backed the legislation allowing the advertising in the first place.  Trump, before he hung up, reminded Kamen of the fact that the glitzy kiosk was justified because he had spent $18 million to rebuild the superstructure of Wabash Avenue next to the new tower, saying, “This is a very small element of a very big commitment that I made to Chicago.”  As Kamen pressed the issue, Trump ultimately responded, “Write it any way you write it.  I’ve had it with you.  Thanks Blair.” It would be over two years before the kiosk would come down, but finally on January 8, 2009 it was dismantled. The city won this fight against a guy who never forgets a slight. Trump would go on to place his name on one of the city’s signature buildings in letters so large that a 10-foot-tall glitzy kiosk he was told he couldn’t keep five years earlier seemed almost laughable. 


October 27, 1971 – The announcement is made that plans are complete for an 800-unit building that will sit on the lakefront border of the Illinois Center development being created over a former railroad freight yard.  The Chicago architectural firm of Solomon, Cordwell and Buenz will design the building and the developers will be the Illinois Center Corporation, a subsidiary of Illinois Central Industries, Inc. and Talman Services Corporation, a subsidiary of Talman Federal Savings & Loan Association.  The residential building, today’s Harbor Point, will benefit from a city plan to reroute Lake Shore Drive so that it will curve around the building’s east side, ensuring that the tower will be more easily accessible, allowing it to stand as an architecturally significant statement on the southeast side of the Illinois Center development.  Harbor Point stands next to the lake to the left in this photo.  Note that the old "S" curve still exists as the new road is being constructed, and running east and west along Wacker Drive are strings of freight cars where today's Lake Shore East stands.

Friday, October 26, 2018

October 26, 1966 -- 500 North Michigan Avenue Topped Out

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October 26, 1966 –The steel framework of the 25-story office building at 500 North Michigan Avenue is topped out, exactly one year from the time ground was broken to begin the tower.  Turner Construction Company is the general contractor for the $15-million office building that is a design of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. 


October 26, 1922 – Brigadier General Van Horn Mosley, the commandant at Fort Sheridan, announces that the investigation into the bombardment of the Lake Forest estates of Francis C. Farwell, Mrs. Edith Rockefeller McCormick, and Cyrrus H. McCormick has been closed..  A day earlier a squad from the fort had been conducting a drill with a “one pound gun” and “instead of firing into the lake … trained the gun up the beach.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 27, 1922] Shells ricocheted off the beach to the north and into the Farwell mansion with one shell piercing the roof and a second hurtling through a bedroom while two more travelled through the mansion’s basement.   “Other shells plowed up the lawn on the estates of Mrs. Edith Rockefeller McCormick and Cyrus H. McCormick and J. Ogden Armour, but did little damage.”  The shells stopped falling only after Mrs. J. V. Farwell called Fort Sheridan, and a group of officers was sent to investigate.  Mosley refused to provide the name of the officer responsible for the bombardment, saying that “he was a capable and efficient officer and that to broadcast his name would only serve to destroy his usefulness to the government.”  Mrs. Farwell, who had seen one of the projectiles pass over her head and into a ravine, expressed her sympathy for the officer involved.  The Farwell estate is shown as it appears today in the above photo.


October 26, 1905 – A crowd of several hundred people watches as the cornerstone for the new Illinois Athletic clubhouse on Michigan Avenue is laid.  The president of the club, Second Ward alderman William Hale Thompson, introduces the current mayor, Edward Dunne, who with a silver trowel in one hand, touches the cornerstone twice with a silver mallet.  The dignitaries move across the street to the Art Institute’s Fullerton Hall where “addresses prophesying a bright future for the young club” [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 27, 1905] are made.  Colonel Frank Lowden, who in the future will become a U.S. representative from Illinois and, later, the state’s governor, says, “The poor man with health and physique is far richer than the millionaire with dyspepsia.  Health is a man’s chief asset.  Men live cleaner and better lives if they are addicted to athletics.  Nothing means more to Chicago morally or physically than the institution which tends to promote the resources of the body.”  The building, designed by Barnett, Hayes, and Barnett, will cost a half-million dollars to complete.  Eighty years later $25,000,000 will be spent on a six-story addition, and in 1992 the Art Institute of Chicago will purchase the structure.  First used as a dormitory, the building, now known as the MacLean Center, houses offices, classrooms, and graduate studios as well as a small cafeteria and student lounge. In the 1910 photo above the Illinois Athletic Club building stands to the right of the Lakeview Building.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

October 25, 1925 -- Wacker Drive Begins

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October 25, 1925 –A neat photo appears in the Chicago Daily Tribuneon this day that shows “a significant and impressive step in the creation of Wacker Drive out of old South Water street …” [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 25, 1925] In the background of the photo is the ten-story warehouse and office building occupied by Hibbard, Spencer, Bartlett and Co., a building that is in the process of being razed to make way for the construction of Wacker Drive.  In the foreground, across South Water Street is the skeleton of the first few floors of the Jewelers’ Building, today’s 35 East Wacker Drive.  The top photo shows the photo that accompanied the Tribunearticle.  Below that is the area as it looks today from approximately the same angle. The last photo shows the ten-story warehouse that was removed to make room for the building of Wacker Drive from Wabash to State Street.


October 25, 1957 – The Chicago Sun-Times begins moving from 211 West Wacker Drive into its new headquarters \on the north branch of the Chicago River between Wabash Avenue and Rush Street.  Completion of the move is expected by the end of November. As part of the groundbreaking ceremonies in November of 1955, 600 dignitaries, including Mayor Richard J. Daley, Governor William Stratton, and Senator Everett Dirksen, came together in the Palmer House to celebrate what was considered to be the keystone of the Fort Dearborn Project, a plan to redevelop the city north of the river and west of Michigan Avenue.  The building was the first building in the city to use “curtain wall” technology, in which the building’s steel frame provides structural integrity, and the window glass and mullions act as a curtain covering that frame. The structure was designed by the architectural firm of Naess and Murphy, the same firm that designed the Prudential building, finished two years before the Sun Times building opened.  Critical opinions of the building differed.  Said Professor Robert Bruegmann of the University of Illinois at Chicago, “If it got as far as 2007, there would be a very considerable interest in putting it on the National Register of Historic Places.  A lot of these buildings are killed off at just the moment before they come back into their own.” [Chicago Magazine, January 5, 2004] The building was levelled to make way for Trump Tower which opened in 2008.


October 25, 1974 – Riding a 40-horse wagon, following a parade of elephants, clowns and circus wagons, sculptor Alexander Calder rides into the Loop to dedicate two sculptures.  As Calder’s wagon stops at the Dirksen Federal Building Plaza at Dearborn and Adams, architect Carter Manny, Jr. blows a whistle and announces, “Ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages, I present to the people the one and only Alexander the Great – Sandy Calder.”  [Chicago Tribune, October 26, 1974]  The sculptor and Mayor Richard J. Daley share a gigantic pair of scissors to cut the rope surrounding the 53-foot-high Flamingo.  In his remarks His Honor calls the Loop, “one of the world’s largest outdoor museums for contemporary sculpture” before naming Calder an honorary Chicago citizen.  Arthur Sampson, head of the General Services Administration that commissioned the $350,000 sculpture, reads a letter from President Gerald Ford that calls the Federal Center sculpture “a conspicuous milestone in the federal government’s effort to create a better environment.”  The entourage continues on to Sears Tower where Calder sets in motion his 32-foot-high kinetic wall mural and delivers his only speech of the day, saying, “Mr. Arthur Wood [the board chairman of Sears, Roebuck and Company] wanted me to give it a name.  So I thought of a name.  I call it, ‘Mr. Wood’s Universe.’”

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

October 24, 1961 -- Clark Street Building Violations Number in Hundreds


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October 24, 1961 –Three teams of city inspectors, a total of 15 men, begin investigating conditions in tenement buildings along North Clark Street.  In the first five buildings the inspectors cite close to 500 building and fire violations. The crackdown is a result of a Chicago Tribuneinvestigation of the area as well as a call from the Greater North Michigan Avenue Association to clean up the street.  One building, at 727-31 North Clark Street, houses 60 people in 40 units and is cited for 192 violations in wiring, plumbing, and fire safety requirements. John Jung, the assistant chief of inspections for the building department, says his inspectors “found numerous violations that could turn any of the buildings into blazing coffins for their occupants.” [Chicago Tribune, October 25, 1961] The top photo shows the building at 519-421 North Clark Street at the time the inspections were taking place.  The photo below that shows the corner as it appears today.



October 24, 2006 – An afternoon fire breaks out in the Wirt Dexter Building at 630 South Wabash Avenue, and before the sun comes up the following morning, the second Louis Sullivan building to be lost in the year lies in ruins.  Later it is revealed that scrap dealers cutting up a boiler in the basement spark the fire that brings over 250 firefighters to the scene. The building was commissioned by Chicago lawyer Wirt Dexter and according to Chicago’s Landmark Commission, “The building's unornamented design is a precursor to the firm's work on the Auditorium Building and the use of a cast-iron structural system permits larger window openings than would have been possible through the use of masonry alone. The distinctive, perforated, cast-iron beams on the rear facade, for example, anticipate building design of nearly seven decades later.” As a result of the five-alarm fire all classes at Columbia College are cancelled at its nearby buildings, Loop elevated service is suspended, and Harrison Street and Balbo Avenue are closed, as are State Street and Wabash from Harrison to Balbo.  This wasn’t the last Louis Sullivan structure that fire would claim in 2006 … on November 4 the George Harvey house in Lakeview would be gutted by fire as well.  I, me, this writer was particularly saddened to see the Wirt Dexter building fall.  On its ground floor George Diamond’s Steakhouse opened in the 1950’s with “its flaming red carpet and velvet paintings in a dining room that seated 600.” [Chicago Tribune, October 26, 2006] It was somewhere in that cavern of a restaurant on Wabash, after the gigantic wedge of salad and the steak dinner, that 47 years ago I proposed to the woman who would become my wife.  The Wirt Dexter building is shown in the above photos, before and after.


October 24, 1943 – I would imagine the folks residing at 1006 North Sheridan Road in Highland Park are darned surprised when a six-foot long rocket streams out of the Sunday sky and buries itself four feet into the lawn of their home.  The mystery is solved a couple days later when Army officers at Fort Sheridan confirm what the family already knows – there is, indeed, a rocket in their yard.  After investigating, U.S. Army officials explain that the 30-pound device is used during anti-aircraft gunnery practice at neighboring Fort Sheridan.  The rocket had a bent fin, and as it screamed over the lake at speeds between 300 and 400 miles per hour, that defect threw it off course.  Police estimate that if the rocket had hit the house directly it would have penetrated the home from the roof to the basement.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

October 23, 1915 -- Women March as Violence Flares

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October 23, 1915 –Three thousand striking women and girls march through the city’s wholesale clothing district and down Michigan Avenue, led by the only man in the entire parade, Sidney Hillman, the head of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America.  Two hundred policemen, 48 sergeants, and eight lieutenants are assigned to the parade.  The strike by the Chicago garment workers would go on for more than two months, and over 1,200 workers would be arrested, most of them immigrants.  The strikers were asking for an eight-hour work day for women and a commission that would fix the lowest amount an employer would be permitted to pay the girls and women working in factories. Three days later the strike turns deadly when a 35-year-old tailor on picket duty is shot in the back of the head near Halsted and Harrison Streets.  Hillman says, “One is dead and about four are wounded—one of them a bystander who has nothing to do with the strike … Chicago citizens have to realize that all the laws for protection of life have been suspended during the strike and they must express their opinion for their own protection … Statements of alleged violence by strikers have not been proven.  The city must determine whether it is going to stand idly by while all this lawlessness exists in the city.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 27, 1915]  


October 23, 1926 – Funeral Services for John G. Shedd, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Marshall Field and Company, are held at Fourth Presbyterian Church.  Officiant is the Reverend John Timothy Stone of Fourth Presbyterian, assisted by the Reverend Albert Joseph McCartney, pastor of the Kenwood Evangelical Church, which Shedd attended.  Shedd was born on July 20, 1850, the youngest of eight children, in Alstead, New Hampshire.  At the age of 16 he walked away from the farm life, taking positions in dry goods stores in Vermont, New Hampshire, and, in 1872, Chicago.  A year after the great fire destroyed the city, Shedd began work for Marshall Field and Company as a stock boy, rising through the ranks to become president of the company in 1906 upon Field’s death.  Five years before his death the National Cyclopaedia of American Biography wrote of the man, “Mr. Shedd’s aim is to supply nothing but serviceable merchandise, when possible, of better quality than furnished elsewhere; always to satisfy his customers, no matter at what cost or inconvenience, so that they will become the best advertisers of the store, to treat employees with the greatest consideration and thus inspire their loyalty.”  Shedd was one of the founders of the Commercial Club of Chicago and instrumental in the organization’s underwriting of the Chicago Plan of 1909, the first large scale attempt at urban planning in the country’s history.  He contributed extensively to Chicago museums, charities, and institutions with perhaps the most important gift being the contribution that led to the construction of the aquarium named after him.  He is buried in Chicago’s Rosehill Cemetery.


October 23, 1913 – I will admit this up front -- every time I see a news report about the Chicago police commissioner of this era, I have to cover it.  I love this guy’s name.  It was on this day that the city’s top cop, John McWeeny, walks off the job after Mayor Carter Harrison fails to support him in a controversy that has developed between McWeeny and Major M. L. C. Funkhouser, newly installed in the department to take charge of morals investigations, efficiency reports and business affairs. Funkhouser’s seventh report, printed in the Chicago Daily Tribune, alleges that “. . . there were more than 100 objectionable houses operating openly.  In the old red light district there were more than thirty resorts running without concealment, although the district is supposed to be ‘closed.’  Along State street and adjoining thoroughfares ‘wide open’ conditions prevailed from Sixteenth street to Thirty-First street.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 24, 1913]  McWeeny’s response to the report was, “I have had Funkhouser’s report investigated.  Some of it is stuff we have known right along and some of it we can’t verify at all.  If I were investigating serious matters I wouldn’t tell the world about it, as some people do.  Funkhouser can’t give me any orders.”  That was probably the last straw for Mayor Harrison, who chose to back Funkhouser, prompting McWeeny to walk.

Monday, October 22, 2018

October 22, 1974 -- Madison Street Building Loses Decorative Tile, Killing a Pedestrian

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October 22, 1974 –Shortly before noon a piece of decorative tile falls from the State and Madison building at 22 West Madison Street, killing a woman who is walking on the sidewalk.  A First District patrolman is about 15 feet away when the accident occurs, and he reports, “I heard a loud crash and turned around to see this woman and all the debris lying on the sidewalk.” [Chicago Tribune, October 22, 1974] Building Commissioner Joseph F. Fitzgerald, Jr. orders the building agents to undertake major repairs of the building’s fa├žade, noting that in 1972 his office had found “evidence of cracking and weakness in the building facing and ordered the agents to make repairs.” It would be another 22 years before the city adopted a comprehensive policy for the maintenance of exterior walls in older buildings.  Today a critical exam of building facades is required every 4, 8 or 12 years depending on the building’s classification. If a building owner files an Ongoing Inspection and Repair Program report every other year, the critical exam is waived. The ordinance applies to all buildings 80 feet or more in height.  The tile fell from the area near the top tier of windows in the middle of the left side of the building pictured above.


October 22, 2004 – The Dave Matthews Band, under attack after a driver for the band’s touring bus is accused of emptying 300 pounds of liquid waste into the river through the grates of the Kinzie Street bridge on August 8, presents checks for $50,000 to the Friends of the Chicago River and the Chicago Park District.  A written statement from the band explains, “We have decided to take action now even though it may turn out the incident was not caused by one of our buses.  We simply want to begin the healing process.” [Chicago Tribune, October 23, 2004] In the incident of August 8 passengers of a passing river tour boat are deluged with the contents of the buses waste disposal tank, and five people are taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for testing.  A witness is able to write down the coach’s license plate number, and the vehicle is identified as one chartered by the band, which is passing through the city on the way to a performance in Wisconsin.


October 22, 1887 – Standing Lincoln, Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ sculpture of the Great Emancipator, is dedicated at the entrance to Lincoln Park.  On the day after the dedication The Chicago Daily Tribune describes the scene, “Since the night of the great fire Lincoln Park has never contained within the same area so many human beings as thronged its plains, clustered under its trees, and in every variety of vehicle crowded its roadways yesterday afternoon.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 23, 1887]  The statue, one of two sculptures in the city (The other is Storks at Play in front of the Lincoln Park Conservatory) provided for in the will of lumberman Eli Bates, is dedicated on a gray afternoon.  Chicago Mayor E. A. Roche heads the dignitaries, and Abraham Lincoln II, the 15-year-old grandson of the late president, releases the flag covering the statue as upwards of 10,000 people watch.   The statue is a good place to seek out in the next few weeks as the trees to the north show their autumn colors.  Stand before the likeness of a politician who rose above the fray, made the hard choices, and ultimately paid for it with his life.  It gives one something to think about as we head toward November. 

Sunday, October 21, 2018

October 21, 1946 -- Navy Pier Opens U. of I. Campus

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October 21, 1946 –Governor Dwight H. Green and Chicago Mayor Edward J. Kelly preside over the dedication of the Chicago branch of the University of Illinois at Navy Pier.  Along with George D. Stoddard, the president of the university, they raise the American flag over the complex that the United States Navy had lowered upon vacating the pier that it had used for training electronic and radio personnel throughout World War II.  Green tells the assembled students and dignitaries that the G.I. Bill of Rights is “a monumental achievement, in which, for once, America has taken care of its own.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 22, 1946]The makeshift college is set up to handle about 4,000 students, seventy-five percent of whom will be veterans. Almost every student wiil be a commuter who holds a part-time job.  And almost all of the students are first-generation college students. The school is only a two-year college, which poses a problem for many students who will eventually have to decide on either continuing their education at a more expensive private school in the area or transfer to the main university downstate. As the initial group of veterans moved on, the Navy Pier institution became more and more impractical.  In a letter to the editor of the Chicago Tribunein 1960, one student wrote, “We students at the U. of I. branch at Navy Pier are shoved into a warehouse that stinks of dead fish in the summer, and in winter is so cold that teachers tell their students to bring jackets to class.  Are we to take a back seat to politics and pigeons?” [Chicago Tribune, July 8, 2016]In 1961 Mayor Richard J. Daley brokered a site for a U. of I. at Chicago campus on Chicago’s near west side, and the new campus opened in February of 1965.  It would be decades before Navy Pier would find a way to work its magic on Chicago once again.



October 21, 1974 – The largest cash robbery in the history of the universe is discovered early in the morning on this date at the Purolator Armored Express vaults at 127 West Huron Street.  Over $4.3 million in unmarked bills is taken from one of the vaults. Gasoline bombs are left to explode and cover up any evidence, but a lack of oxygen in the vaults causes the fires to burn out quickly.  Detectives say that there are no signs of forced entry to the vault, which has concrete walls that are over a foot thick, a pretty obvious indication that this is an inside job.  It doesn’t take long for the crime to unravel.  Tony Marzano, a 33-year-old scam artist, enlists his cousin, Charlie, to go in with him on the robbery.  They get their pal, Ralph Marrera, to hire on as a night watchman on weekends, and through him are able to paw through the offices of a senior officer of the company, where they find the combination to the vault’s lock.  Things begin to break bad when another hood, Pete Gushi, fails to arrange for the boat intended to take the robbers from Miami to Grand Cayman, where they plan to stash the cash in a “no questions asked” bank.  The Marzano’s eventually get the cash to Grand Cayman, but the bank won’t accept it because it doesn’t have the staff necessary to count 700 pounds in unmarked bills.  Gushi sings, Marrera attempts suicide, and the whole case is wrapped up within a month.



October 21, 1965 – The Chicago Tribune reports that Lake Point Tower, “a broadly curved three-winged high rise of 900 apartments” [Chicago Tribune, October 21, 1965] will be built east of Lake Shore Drive not far from Navy Pier.  It will be the world’s tallest reinforced concrete building.  The paper reports, “The tower, sheathed in glass and aluminum, will dominate a landscaped base structure covering the block bounded by Grand avenue, Streeter drive, Illinois street, and Lake Shore drive on the west.”  Two developers – Harnett-Shaw & Associates, a New York firm and Fluor Properties of Los Angeles – will back the project.  The land on which the building will be built is leased property from the Chicago Dock and Canal Company, a company that traces its origins all the way back to Chicago’s first mayor, William B. Ogden.