Sunday, October 21, 2018

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

No comments: