Monday, November 5, 2018

November 5, 1915 -- Lorado Taft Receives Backing of Parks Commissioners

jbartholomew photo
November 5, 1915 –The South Park Commissioners issue a formal denial which attempts to counter a popular notion that they “had ‘thrown down’ Lorado Taft, the sculptor and were trying to induce Auguste Rodin, the noted French sculptor, to come to Chicago to beautify the Midway Plaisance.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, November 6, 1915]Charles Hutchinson, a member of the South Park Board, says, “Mr. Taft is to be given the opportunity now to do the biggest thing in his life.  It is his ‘Fountain of Time.’ Under his contract he is given ten years in which to perfect his working model, and for that model alone we have given him $50,000. He has been working three years on it.” It is expected that, when erected, the Taft’s monumental sculpture will cost over a quarter-million dollars.  The president of the South Park Board, John Barton Payne, is emphatic in his backing of Taft.  “There is not a word of truth in the gossip that the commissioners are negotiating with Rodin or ever thought of such a thing,” he says.  With the support of the commissioners, the project moved on and was finally completed in 1920.  The final work was only a small portion of the original scheme proposed for the Midway Plaisance.  According to the UCHICAGOArts website the original plan included a “Fountain of Creation” at the Midway’s east end in Jackson Park with a canal running the length of the Midway, “traversed by bridges and lines with avenues of commemorative sculptures.” [] The grand beaux arts scheme lost favor after World War I as “critics began to view the costly proposal as pedantic and anti-modern.”  In the end, even the 120-foot wide sculpture was compromised, finished in concrete instead of the marble that was originally proposed.  Still, it makes a heck of a statement as it stands on the west end of the Midway Plaisance. 

November 5, 1912 – In a public hearing before Colonel George A. Zinn, the army engineer in the city, the Patawatomi tribe formally protests the construction of a bridge at Michigan Avenue and the river.  Attorney W. E. Johnson asserts that the Patawatomi own a large portion of the south shore of Lake Michigan, saying, “The site of the proposed bridge the city is seeking the right to erect is outside of the domain of Illinois and Chicago.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, November 5, 1912] The head of the rivers and harbors committee of the Chicago Association of Commerce answers that the committee is not ready to file formal objections to the plan and delays the hearing until November 20.  A lot of water has gone under the bridge since the Potawatomi laid claim to this section of the city over a century ago as the above photo clearly shows.

November 5, 1998 – The architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, Blair Kamin, prints the sixth of a series of articles on plans for Chicago’s lakefront, in which he takes Mayor Richard M. Daley to task for “shying away from the bold moves necessary to get the job done” when it comes to shaping the downtown lakefront.  In the article Kamin looks at three lakefront attractions and assesses the potential and the plans for each of them.  “Navy Pier,” Kamin writes “enables us to sample the carnival midway pleasures of urban life, yet it causes suburban-style pain, particularly through the traffic jams that result from funneling thousands of cars through already-busy Lake Shore Drive and narrow feeder streets.”  Turning south to Soldier Field, Kamin says, “Wouldn’t it be wiser to look at what Soldier Field and its environs could do for the lakefront 365 days a year, not just during the 10 regular season and exhibition games that the Bears play . . . whether the Bears leave or stay, Soldier Field can be transformed from a stadium in a parking lot to a stadium in a park.”  Then, moving to the east, Kamin takes up the issues surrounding Meigs Field.  “Meigs must go,” Kamin writes.  “To stand on this peninsula – to be removed from the clamor of the city and glimpse the stunning views it affords of the skyline and the south shoreline – is to realize that Meigs is an anachronism.”  What Kamin urges is something he calls “a new architecture of both landscape and public policy.”  He recommends appointing a “powerful lakefront commission that would coordinate the efforts of the dizzying array of agencies that control the lakefront, seeing to it that the more than $500 million in projects planned for the next 12 years – roads, buildings, and revetments – turn into an ensemble that is more than the sum of its parts.”

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