Saturday, October 20, 2018

October 20, 1929 -- Glenview Dedicates the Curtis-Reynolds Airport
October 20, 1929 –A crowd of 35,000 packs the new Curtis-Reynolds Airport in suburban Glenview as the $3,000,000 facility is dedicated.  A hundred airplanes are on display as spectators are treated to an afternoon of “parachute jumping, aerial bombing and a short course race”. [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 21, 1929]  Roads in the area are not equipped to handle the crowds, and four hours after the event ends, there are still cars stuck on the 18-foot gravel of Harms Road.  Wiley Post, flying a Lockheed Vega is the first to finish in the afternoon’s air race, followed by Art Davis in a Waco biplane.  John Livingston, a pilot from Aurora, flying another Waco, is also among the leaders, and he also leads in a 5,000-mile competition that will end the next day in Detroit.  The race is the first such contest to be held in the area since the great air show on Chicago’s lakefront in the summer of 1911.  Amelia Earhart also attends the dedication, landing early in the afternoon. She says, “I was in Columbus attending a meeting when I heard about the airport opening here today so I flew on over—it’s a peach, isn’t it?”  The new airport is composed of two flying fields.  A 125-acre field on the south end will facilitate instruction of the 103 students enrolled at the Curtis flying school. Unfortunately, the dedication takes place a little over a week after the 1929 stock market crash.  The field continues operation, though, even hosting the International Air Races and the Graf Zeppelin that came to town in 1933 as part of the Century of Progress Exposition.  By the mid-1930’s, the United States Navy found its quarters too small at the Great Lakes Naval Base and leased part of the hangar for a Naval Reserve air base.  The Navy dramatically expanded its presence at the base during World War II.  In 1942 “1,300,000 square yards of concrete mats and runways were poured in only 121 working days,” [] and in August of that year the Carrier Qualification Training Unit began operating out of the field, using two converted side-wheel excursion ships as carriers on which to practice landings off the shore of Chicago.  In April of 1993 the Base Realignment and Closure committee recommended the base for closure, and the last fixed-wing plane took off from the base in February of 1995.  The former airport is now the site of a planned community with shopping, restaurants, and over 1,500 homes.

October 20, 1975 – Branches of Marshall Field and Company and Lord and Taylor open for business on the first eight levels of the new Water Tower Place, the 74-story skyscraper on North Michigan Avenue.  Lines begin forming at 8 a.m. at the doors of the “vertical shopping center” [Chicago Tribune, October 21, 1975] and crowds inside both stores are so large employees have trouble getting to their posts.  “We couldn’t be more pleased,” says Arthur E. Osborne, Vice-President and General Manager of the Marshall Field’s stores in the Chicago area.  “We’re just as excited about this as anything we’ve ever done.  There are wall-to-wall people …”  Charles Siegmann, Vice-President and Regional Managing Director of Lord and Taylor, says, “I’m running out of superlatives.  We knew it was going to be great, but never anything like this. I’ve never seen such great-looking people, the way they’re dressed and how friendly and gracious they are.  This is probably the biggest thrill our company has ever had.  And it’s just amazing the number of men who are here.”  The complex is a joint development of Urban Investment and Development, a subsidiary of Aetna Life and Casualty Company, and Mafco, a subsidiary of Marshall Field and Company.  Architect Edward D. Dart of Loebl, Scholssman, Bennett and Dart is the leading architect on the project.

October 20, 1900 – Progress Lighting the Way for Commerce, a statue over 21 feet in height, is lowered into place atop of the Montgomery Ward headquarters at 6 North Michigan Avenue.  It is not intended merely to sit atop the building; it will function as a weather vane that “obeys every change of the wind.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 21, 1900]  Richard Schmidt, the architect who designed the building, oversees the placement of the statue.  The figure is that of a young woman who holds a flaming torch in her right hand and a caduceus, or a short staff intertwined with two snakes, in her left.  In Roman mythology Mercury, who was the messenger of the gods, and the protector of merchants, shepherds, gamblers, liars and thieves, is often seen carrying a caduceus in his left hand.  Scottish-American sculptor John Massey Rhind was the artist who created the piece.  The statue was taken down in 1947 and cut into nearly three-dozen pieces.  Some of those pieces may still sit in parlors all over the city.

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