Monday, December 31, 2018

December 31, 1902 -- Passenger Trains in Chicago
December 31, 1902 –The Chicago Daily Tribune prints the results, taken form Railway Age magazine, that show the number of railroads that enter and leave Chicago on a daily basis.  A total of 23 separate railroads send trains into and out of the city, a number made even more impressive by the fact that some railroads such as the Chicago and North Western and the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul run multiple lines into the city.  596 passenger trains run into Chicago each day while 594 depart.  Particularly notable is the number of through passenger trains that make a stop in the city on their trip to the east and west. Union Station leads that total with 94 with Polk Street servicing 74 passenger trains each day.  Central Station handles 72, Wells Street 65, and Grand Central 64.  The Illinois Central Railroad is the leader in suburban passenger trains with 251 each day with the Chicago and North Western operating 223 suburban trains into and out of the city each day.  

December 31, 1978 – The Chicago Tribune reports that the Chicago Police Department and the F.B.I. have found security at the Art Institute of Chicago “to be inadequate, lax, and outmoded.” [Chicago Tribune, December 31, 1978], the tough assessment coming four days after three Cézanne oil paintings, valued at $3 million, are found missing from a storage room.  The stolen paintings include “Madame Cézanne in a Yellow Armchair”, “Apples on a Tablecloth” and “House on the River.” After police find that there is no list of people to whom keys to the room had been distributed, Arthur M. Wood, the chairman of the museum’s board of directors, says that “all safekeeping and security practices are under intense review.”  Commander William Murphy, the Chicago Chief of Police, finds at least three deficiencies in the institution’s security system.  First, works of art have been kept in storage rooms with simple door locks and no reinforced doors.  Secondly, the system of checking out keys to such rooms has been “haphazard” with virtually no attention given to whom keys have been given.  No one has any idea, apparently, of how many keys even exist to the room where the theft occurred.   Murphy guesses that at least 400 employees have had access to the room in which 25 post-Impressionist paintings are stored. Finally, a “nonchalant” attitude has taken over about enforcing security rules that had been in place for years.  An F.B.I. agent working the case says, “What you’ve got is essentially a broom closet.  It is far from the kind of vault you would expect the Art Institute to keep its valuables in.”  It didn’t take long to track down the paintings … stealing was easy for Art Institute worker Laud “Nick” Pace.  Unloading the loot was much more difficult.  Pace, who disguised the works as packages as he walked them out the door of the museum, was caught several months later and sent up the river for a decade.  "Madame Cézanne in a Yellow Armchair" is pictured above, safely back home.

December 31, 1943 – A year ends, one that began with President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill meeting in Casablanca and, midway through, marks the surrender of the German army in North Africa to the British and Americans.  Even in the darkest hours of the war Chicago begins to look toward to what will come afterward.  On this day the Chicago Daily Tribune makes that clear in an editorial, stating, “If Chicago wants to avoid being by-passed by the great air transport companies of the post-war age, it will have to see that they get the terminal facilities they need.”  The editorial board sees neither airport currently in existence as practical.  The place we know today as Midway is “nine miles from the heart of the city and accessible only thru the most densely populated sections.”  Douglas Field, today’s O”Hare, “would be 19 miles from the loop.”  What is the alternative?  The editorial favors something that has been talked about for a decade or more – an airport on the city’s lakefront.  “An airport built in this area on made ground,” the editorial states, “would be free of obstacles such as usually surround municipal airports, could be readily expanded to any size needed to accommodate great, new planes, and would be only a few minutes’ drive from the heart of the city.”  The editorial continues, “The present outer breakwater runs from the vicinity of South Water street almost continuously to the Shedd aquarium at the foot of Twelfth street.  Extending land outward from this breakwater would provide ample room for an airport and would give airplanes plenty of space to gain altitude, even in a westward takeoff, before reaching tall buildings.  It would in no way interfere with navigation, and would be less than a five minute ride to the loop over a short causeway.”  The editorial even makes reference to the fact that the Wolverine and the Sable, Navy aircraft carriers steaming along the lakefront, have taken meteorological surveys of the area north of Thirty-First Street and have found that it is “usually free of smoke and has wind velocity and ceiling suitable for a large airport.”  Imagine what the city’s lakefront would look like today if the clamor for this kind of new airport had gained a large enough audience to see it actually built.  Above, the early 1940's photo of Northerly Island -- later Meigs Field and now Northerly Island again -- gives some idea of what an airport facility much larger than this would have done to the lakefront.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

December 30, 1950 -- Chicago Fire Statistics for 1863
December 30, 1863–The Chicago Tribune publishes a set of statistics that illustrate the extent to which fire menaced the city in 1863.  Altogether there were 200 fires in the city during the year, only one provided “any great degree of destitution and suffering.”  [Chicago Tribune, December 30, 1863] That was a fire on September 5 in which 22 buildings were destroyed on or around State Street and 50 families were left without a home.  Two dozen fires were the result of “gross and criminal carelessness—playing with combustibles with lighted matches, overturning candles in hay and straw …” while 15 fires were incendiary.  Three were caused by lightning.  As might be expected, July was the month with the heaviest concentration of fires while February held the least.  The loss of property amounted to $608,492 with the heaviest loss coming as a result of the burning of Turner and Mitchell’s Packing House on December 22 at a loss of $45,000.  The article also advocates for the establishment of a central fire alarm and police telegraph system, stating, “In a city so widely extended, a system, whose object is to give an instantaneous, universal and definite alarm in case of fire, and to afford facilities for instant police communication with some central station from every portion of the city, cannot fail to be regarded with favor.”  The above photo shows the city in 1860 at the Rush Street bridge, about the point where Trump International Hotel and Tower stands today.

December 30, 1929 – A large American flag is hoisted to the twenty-fifth floor of the Merchandise Mart as the highest piece of steel is placed, and the massive building rockets toward completion.  What makes this especially amazing is that ground was broken on the project just 16 months earlier on August 13, 1928.  The first 200 tenants will move into the building on May 1, 1930.

December 30, 1950 – The National Arts Foundation announces that Frank Lloyd Wright has been chosen as the contemporary artist “who would be most highly regarded in the year 2000” in a selection process in which “prominent artists, writers and musicians from 17 countries” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 31, 1950] participated. In the same selection process Albert Schweitzer is named the “Man of the Century.”

Saturday, December 29, 2018

December 29, 1978 -- Art Institute Employees Questioned After Cezanne Theft
December 29, 1978 –Police and F.B.I. agents question about 50 employees of the Art Institute of Chicago, indicating that they may end up interrogating as many as 700 employees, in the investigation of a $3 million theft of three paintings by Paul Cezanne.  The paintings, stolen sometime between November 28 and December 27, were kept in a locked storeroom to which at least 300 temporary employees had access during the museum’s Pompeii A.D. 79 exhibit.  The three paintings,, “Madame Cézanne in a Yellow Armchair,” “Apples on a Tablecloth,” and “House on the River” are recovered over a year later on May 23, 1979 when a former employee of the museum s arrested with the three paintings in a plastic garbage bag.  Land Spencer Pace, a 28-year-old former shipping clerk at the Art Institute, had been a prime suspect in the case since the time of the theft.  Pace, already under suspicion, made overtures to Art Institute officials, claiming that he was acting as an intermediary for the parties who had the paintings.  Lieutenant Frank J. Lueken, the Chicago detective in charge of the investigation, says, “He set up an elaborate plan for the transfer of the money and the paintings and apparently thought he would be dealing only with museum representatives when he went to the hotel to pick up the money.”  Pace carried the paintings to the Drake Hotel, collected a ransom, and was arrested when he left the hotel. 

December 29, 1886 – At a special meeting of the Chicago City Council an ordinance receives unanimous approval that an offer of a burial place in the Lake Front Park, today’s Grant Park, be made to the family of General John Logan.  The Civil War hero and United States Senator from Illinois had died just three days earlier.  A legal opinion had already been obtained, stating that “the title to Lake Park south of Madison street is vested in the City of Chicago, and the City Council has the power to permit any use of the same not inconsistent with its use as public ground or for park purposes, and not inconsistent with the particular statute governing the city in this matter.  Such a use of this public ground as was contemplated was not at variance with its use as a park.  Precedents are numerous where parks and public grounds of this character have been devoted to use for the burial-place and monuments of eminent citizens.”  After the opinion is read, the ordinance is then read and adopted.  It states, “That the portion of Lake Park lying south of the south line of Harmon court extended eastwardly be, and the same is hereby, set apart as the site for the burial-place and monument of the late John A. Logan, United States Senator from the State of Illinois, and said site may be hereafter used as a burial-place for the widow of the deceased when she shall have departed this life; provided, that this ordinance shall be void unless the family of the deceased shall signify their acceptance of this offer within six months from the passage hereof.  This ordinance shall take effect immediately.”  It took a while.  The memorial, designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Alexander Phimister Proctor with a plinth by New York architect Stanford White, would not be dedicated until July 22, 1897.  For additional information on the monument itself, you can turn to this blog entry in Connecting the Windy City.  The above photo shows the dedication of the Logan monument in 1897.

December 29, 1944 -- John H. Lescher, a Chicago police officer for 35 years, turns in his star and announces he will work his last day on January 2.  An era ends with Lescher’s retirement because he was the first officer to sound the alarm on July 24, 1915 when the Eastland turned on her side at Dearborn Street, carrying 844 passengers and crew members to their deaths.  Assigned to the central station, he spent 32 of his 35 years patrolling the Loop.  Lescher, a bachelor, was an accomplished amateur wrestler who at one time held the world welterweight championship.

Friday, December 28, 2018

December 28,1978 -- Reebie Storage and Moving an Art Deco Feast
December 28, 1978 –The Chicago Tribune profiles the Reebie Storage and Moving Company’s building at 2325 North Clark Street, a structure that “boasts silent pharaohs, hieroglyphic writings, and interior and exterior artwork that can transport any Egyptophile back to the ages in which Egypt was a country divided into halves symbolized by the lily and papyrus.” [Chicago Tribune, December 28, 1978]  The building was designed by architect George S. Kingley in 1923 at a time when the world had become fascinated with all things Egyptian as a result of the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb by Howard Carter in 1922. The warehouse's façade is an array of terra cotta tiles illustrating the Egyptian craze, the tile primarily the work of a German terra-cotta craftsman by the name of Fritz Albert, whose work goes all the way back to the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 at which he worked on the construction of the German Village.  The warehouse is a Chicago Landmark, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Urban Remains, the architectural artifacts merchant, describes Reebie as “not only picturesque but attempting historical accuracy.” [] It is based, according to the website, on two ancient temples and features “twin statues of Ramses II on either side of the entryway [that] stand in for the Reebie brothers, William and John; beneath these, their names are spelled out in hieroglyphics equivalent to the phonetic spellings, above the statues are high-relief scarab and two faces representing the goddess Hathor, papyrus plants decorate the base and capitals of the columns …” All the drawing for the warehouse were reviewed for accuracy by the Field Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago before their creation.  If you’re up on Clark Street sometime, strolling near Fullerton Avenue, take a look. The building is quite a feast for the Art Deco senses.

December 28, 1979 – The Chicago Tribune covers an address by Nathaiel Owings, the co-founder of architecture firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, given to the Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Owings comments are, strangely enough – given the many mid-century modern designs that SOM had completed by this time – “a retrospective crusade against the dehumanizing effects of skyscrapers.” [Chicago Tribune, December 28, 1979] The 75-year-old architect says that with the construction of the John Hancock Center, which his firm designed, and Water Tower Place, “the kingdom of State Street was dislodged” and “the human scale of North Michigan Avenue was ‘blown to bits.’”  Speaking of the sites chosen for the two buildings, Owings observed, “What tragedy lies behind these simple acts … I always wonder what we’re going to do when we have to tear these buildings down 100 years from now.  We’re certainly going to have a lot of problems.”  Owings makes it clear that he doesn’t condemn the city, a city that, despite his living in the Big Sur area of California, he still holds in high regard.  “It is the foremost American city – vital, wonderful, and always on the move,” he said.  “Chicago is a huge ant hill.  Push it a little with your foot, and you stir up a million little creatures, each carrying a grain of sand and scurrying around.  But that’s the point:  they’re moving.”  The old water works, the John Hancock Center and Water Tower Place are pictured above.

December 28, 1918 – A story that will continue for some years reaches a turning point on this date as the United States War Department passes on an opportunity to purchase the hospital that lumber dealer Edward Hines is building on the site of a former speedway near Maywood.  Secretary of War Newton Baker says, “…The war department has no right to spend money which has been appropriated to it for temporary war uses in making permanent additions to the military establishment, but that if the congress wants us to establish a permanent military hospital in Chicago the Speedway will then be considered, but that as a war emergency it obviously is not necessary.” The hospital, at this point half-finished, is surrounded by “a mushroom growth of mystery, hints of bribery, accusations and counter accusations.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 29, 1918]  Among other things realtor Milan M. Hitchcock, the former postmaster of Berwyn, vanishes without a trace in mid-November after he tells his family he is headed to Chicago to discuss land values around the Speedway with a detective representing the Hines interests.  According to the paper, “It developed during the investigation of his disappearance that he had received a telegram from a war department official months before asking for a valuation on the land surrounding the Maywood speedway.  The one he made was far below the price asked by Hines for his hospital.”  In early October the War Department informed Hines that it had never formally authorized the hospital that he had begun in memory of his son, who was killed in France as World War I came to an end. At that point Hines began a lobbying effort to get the government to bend to his wishes.  The lumber dealer apparently engaged in an extensive campaign against the hospital complex being completed at Ft. Sheridan, railing against the lack of safety in the wooden buildings of that facility, touting the fireproof construction of his own.  Influential Chicagoans by the thousands received circulars deriding the Fort Sheridan complex.  Ads were placed in newspapers carrying that message to a wide audience.  The story didn’t end there; plenty more was to come before the United States Senate voted in 1920 to appropriate 3.2 million dollars to assume ownership of the hospital, provided Hines kicked in $1.6 million.  Construction began again in spring of 1920, and the first patient was admitted to the new facility on August 8, 1921.  The above photo shows the hospital as it waited for someone to make a decision about what would happen to it.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

December 27, 1890 -- Burnham Denies Rumors that Chicago Architects Will Get Priority
December 27, 1890 –Architect Daniel Burnham, returning from a trip to the east coast where matters related to the planning of the World’s Fair were discussed, denies rumors that Chicago architects will monopolize the planning of the fair’s buildings.  Also on this day the Committee on Grounds and Buildings once again discusses the subject of a permanent art building, meeting with committees of the Art Institute and the Commercial Club.  Another development is the receipt of a letter from Washington, D.C., asking for 100 copies of the official announcement of the fair be sent to the nation's capital so that foreign nations could be notified of the event.

December 27, 1877 – A Chicago Daily Tribune editorial takes exception with Mayor Monroe Heath’s assertion that Michigan Avenue is “a beauty of a street.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 27, 1877] Calling it a “champion mud-puddle” with an “unctuous and nasty top-dressing,” the editorial suggests that there is something shady in the work of the contractors “who load seven and a half tons of this alluvial on a car and then charge for ten tons of gravel.”  The writers suggest that the mayor “roll up his pants, start form the Exposition Building, and walk through the middle of the avenue as far south as Twelfth street.” If he still needs evidence, the paper suggests that he “keep on until he reaches Twenty-second street.  If by that time he is not the nastiest object on the face of the earth, and is not convinced that even our own black alluvial is preferable to this red and yellow sticky stuff from Joliet, we shall believe that he is sincere in his admiration of Michigan avenue as ‘a beauty of a street.’”  The above photo shows Michigan Avenue three years after the editorial appeared.

December 27, 1865 – The first shipment of hogs arrives at the Union Stockyards, opened officially just two days earlier.  The vast facility that would come to occupy land bordered by Pershing Avenue, Halsted Street, Forty-Seventh Street, and Ashland Avenue, got its start in 1864 when nine railroad companies purchase 320 acres of swampland on the southwest side of the city.  []   Fifteen miles of railroad track brought the critters to the stockyards, and 500,000 gallons of water from the river were pumped into the yards each day, with waste water dumped into a channel flowing back into the river, that channel now known as “Bubbly Creek”.  From the 320 acres in 1865 the stockyards grew to 475 acres by 1900 and contained 50 miles of roads with 130 miles of railroad track at its perimeter. 16 million animals a year were processed in the stockyards during the peak years of World War I, an average of nine million pounds of meat every single day.  The above photo shows the Union Stockyards in 1867.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

December 26, 1998 -- The Sky Pavilion at the Adler Planetarium Opens

December 26, 1998 –The Sky Pavilion, the $30 million addition to the Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, opens and Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin calls it “the most daring building in years along a shoreline dotted by gleaming white museums based on the temples of antiquity.” [Chicago Tribune, December 30, 1998]  The new addition, dubbed “the bra” for the way its C-shaped expanse wraps around the 1930 building, will add a new theater, additional exhibit spaces and a 200-seat restaurant, throwing exceptional views of the city’s skyline into the experience.  Kamin makes the point that the new pavilion teaches a lesson – “The present doesn’t have to parrot the past to respect it … [the pavilion] is both a sensitive expansion and a spectacular addition to the lakefront – every bit as much an expression of its era as its distinguished predecessor. Designed by Dirk Lohan and Al Novickas of Lohan Associates, the addition adds a stunning new space while it subtracts alterations that have taken “some of the luster off this diminutive gem.”  Kamin makes the point that the engineering that developed the addition would not have been possible without a computer that could calculate the complex angles in the new structure, a structure he calls “one of the finest meldings of space and structure in Chicago since Jahn’s masterful United Terminal at O’Hare International Airport was completed in 1988.”

December 26, 1911 – As the machinists’ strike on the Illinois Central Railroad continues, five dangerous incidents of vandalism take place between the Parkside and Grand Crossing stations of the railroad.  At 3:10 p.m. the Blue Island Express runs through an open switch at Grand Crossing, and the engine is thrown off the tracks.  At 7:00 p.m. a south bound freight train is broken in two near Grand Crossing with two freight cars derailed.  An hour later a five-coach South Chicago local train hits an obstruction near Seventy-First Street, and the engine and the first trucks of the following coach are derailed.  Ten minutes after that a south bound passenger train derails just fifty feet west of the South Chicago train.  At 8:30 p.m. two men are seen tampering with a switch at Seventh-Fifth Street, near the South Shore station, but they make their escape before police can be informed.  Reached at his home, F. S. Gibbons, the Vice-President and general manager of the railroad, says, “I don’t believe the strikers would deliberately plan to wreck trains.  I believe an investigation will disclose something else as the cause.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 27, 1911] Despite his assertion, Chicago police place an officer at every switch between Seventy-First and Ninety-First Streets.  The strike, which began in June of 1911, was not fully resolved until the middle of 1915.

December 26, 1951 – The holidays are stressful times, and motorists on Michigan Avenue on the day after Christmas back in 1951 have ample reason to be stressed as a result of a standoff between representatives of two city agencies.  Traffic policeman Phil Tolan arrests a CTA bus driver, William Wilson, at Michigan Avenue and Ontario Street in the height of the evening rush hour.  It starts innocently enough when Wilson, with a green light, moves his bus into the intersection of Michigan and Ohio.  You see this all the time today -- traffic is backed up and the bus blocks the intersection.  Officer Tolan approaches the window on the driver’s side of the bus and tells the driver he should have waited, and Wilson closes the window in the copper’s face.  “Well, I couldn’t let him sass me like that so I told him he was under arrest and ordered him to open the door and get out and show me his license,” Tolan says.  [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 27, 1951]  He orders the bus driver off the bus, but Wilson won’t open the door until Tolan threatens to break it.  A paddy wagon is called, Wilson is taken to the East Chicago Avenue station, and the CTA is left with the task of transferring passengers to another bus and getting the stranded bus out of the intersection, a process that takes close to 45 minutes.  The humor probably would have been lost on all of the motorists jammed up on Michigan Avenue that evening, but before he was a cop, Tolan drove a bus for the CTA.  The photo above was taken about a half-mile south of Ontario, but you get the idea of what a 45-minute blockade of a key intersection might have been like.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

December 25, 1953 -- Carter H. Harrison, Jr. Dies

December 25, 1953 –Carter H. Harrison, the five-time mayor of Chicago, dies in his home at 2100 Lincoln Park West at the age of 93. Oscar Mayer, 94, one of the former mayor’s closest friends says, “I’ve lost my dearest friend.  He was a great and honest man.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 26, 1953]  Mayor Martin Kennelly says of Harrison, who with his father ran the city for 22 of its first 72 years, “He and his father have left an indelible mark on the history of the city’s progress.  His life and works and the principles he stood for will remain as an inspiration to all, and particularly to the young people of this city.”  Harrison and his father each served five terms as mayor. The senior Harrison lost his life to a deranged assassin as the World’s Columbian Exposition closed its run in 1893. The younger Harrison was born on April 23, 1860 at the corner of Clark and Harrison Streets.  At the age of 13 he began a period of study in Altenberg, now a part of Germany, returning in 1976 to enter St. Ignatius College, now Loyola University.  Later he received a law degree from Yale University and practiced law in Chicago until 1888, also working in real estate and as the editor of the Chicago Times after his father bought the paper in 1891.  He was first elected as mayor in 1899, serving that term as well as two-year terms in 1899, 1901 and 1903.  In 1911 he was again elected mayor and served out that four-year term until 1915. Perhaps his greatest battle was with the traction magnate, Charles Tyson Yerkes, against whom he led a fight to keep him from obtaining 50-year franchises for his companies, contracts which Harrison believed were unjust and harmful to the public.  In his autobiography, Harrison answered Yerkes, who had stated, “I cannot understand Mayor Harrison,” with the reply, “Of course Mr. Yerkes cannot understand me – I am an honest man.” 

December 25, 1892 – The Chicago Daily Tribune editorializes once again about the potential use of lakefront property south of Monroe Street and east of the Illinois Central tracks.  Pointing out that the United States government has established a “dock line” 1,300 feet east of the railroad tracks, the paper opines the feds are not “concerned with what is done west of that line.  It is a matter of no consequence to the United States whether the wharves are 1,300 feet from the tracks or 300 … Therefore, without fear of molestation from the United States, the city can proceed to construct wharves or levees in the manner which suits it.”  Since the city has the power to determine the use of the area east and west of the Illinois Central tracks to 1,300 feet into the lake, it can use that space for whatever purposes it chooses, according to the editorial.  Therefore, “… it can fill out solid to navigable water, and use the ground between the landing and the west line of the filling for park purposes.  That portion of the land not needed for harbor purposes necessarily must be used as a park, subject of the same limitations which apply to the strip west of the tracks.”  The editorial cautions against pushing forward without a plan, given the expense of creating parkland out of open water, but the writers assert that there is still a way to put the project into motion … “There is no reason why the shore line should not be pushed forward by the steady dumping of ashes and other harmless refuse, which it is often difficult to dispose of.  All that would be needed would be means of reaching the shore.”  The above photo shows what would one day become Grant Park in 1890.

December 25, 1934 – What a Christmas for Chicago – peace on earth, good will toward men, and, courtesy of the Chicago Park District, bathroom facilities at Oak Street.  Lake Shore Drive residents approve the plan to construct subway comfort stations beneath Lake Shore Drive and resident Frank G. Logan says, “We believe that this construction will provide a solution of both congestion and sanitation problems at Oak Street.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 26, 1934]  Seems reasonable – congestion and sanitary problems as a one-two combo seem like they should have a high priority.  This is an interesting piece of real estate; in 1884 the property owners along the Lake Shore Drive, at that time a residential street, gave up their riparian rights to the commissioners of Lincoln Park and agreed to pay for part of a landfill extension, including a breakwater to protect the lakeshore (and their street).  In exchange the commissioners agreed that no buildings would be constructed along the lakeshore in this area, which is probably why you see the Oak Street Bistro being assembled and disassembled each year. A proposal for the pedestrian subways was made in July of 1922, but it wasn’t until the fall of 1934 that the Illinois highway commission indicated it was willing to provide $100,000 for the pedestrian tunnels and comfort stations if the Chicago Park District was able to come up with an appropriate plan.  With no bathhouse and as many as 55,000 people flocking to the beach area on a hot summer’s day, the facilities were clearly needed.  The above photo shows Oak Street beach in the summer of 1930.

Monday, December 24, 2018

December 24, 2015 -- Eastland's Last Survivor Dies
December 24, 2015 –The Eastland Disaster Historical Society announces that the last survivor of the disaster on the Chicago River that claimed 844 lives on July 24, 1915 has died.  Marion Eichholz, 102 years old, was only a toddler of three years when her father jumped with her in his arms into the river to escape the sinking ship.  Eichholz’s testimony, recorded by her sister, Shirley Eichholz Clifford, provides a powerful look into the horror of that day on the river.  “People began to panic, and women were running and screaming. Dad picked me up in his arms, stood on the railing, and jumped into the river,” she said.  “I remember Dad swimming with me in one arm.  I was crying, and my strap slippers were dangling from my ankles.  We were picked up by a tugboat and brought to shore.”  Eichholz’s niece, Kathleen Kremholz, says, “What she always remembered is she had new shoes on … What she always talked about was seeing all the babies underneath the water who had drowned in baby buggies.”  Eichholz, on the left, is pictured in a childhood photo with her younger sister and her parents in the above photo.

December 24, 1887 – With the completion of an electricity generating plant at Washington Boulevard and Clinton Street, 100 “brilliant lights … blaze out on the Chicago River”. [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 24, 1887] It is hoped that the illuminated river will eliminate river traffic having “the necessity of keeping up constant whistling.” Ten miles of cable have been laid, covering all the bridges from Polk Street on the south to Indiana Avenue on the North Branch and out to the mouth of the river.  Four lights are placed on each bridge, two at each end, with a 2,000-candlepower capacity for each lamp.  The 150 lights will be the equivalent of 10,000 gas lamps.  The above photo shows the river in the 1880's ... imagine the traffic moving up and down the river at night, each boat whistling shrilly in the middle of the city to indicate its movement.

December 24, 1961 – The Chicago Daily Tribune tells the story of the first Christmas tree in Chicago, cut down somewhere near today's Division Street in 1804.  According to the paper’s account the commander of Fort Dearborn, Captain John Whistler, “decided his garrison should have a holiday tree to lift morale.  His men and their families were weary of the bitter cold and the ice on the lake to the horizon.”  The tree was dragged across the frozen river to the garrison that stood at what is now the corner of Wacker Drive and Michigan Avenue.  “On Christmas day, with a few feeble candles glowing on the tree, the garrison sat down to its first Christmas dinner,” the article continues.  Guests included John Kinzie and his family and another trapper who lived across the river, Francis Ouilmette.  In the middle of the celebration a friendly group of Indians, led by Chief Black Partridge, made a visit and the group was invited to stay and “partake of the feast.”  Imagine those first inhabitants of what would become this great city, huddled together dozens and dozens of miles away from anything remotely resembling civilization, sharing a quiet communal moment in the darkness and cold of the wilderness night.  It’s enough to make us thankful for what we have.  

Sunday, December 23, 2018

December 23, 1894 -- John Root's Grave Marker in Graceland
December 23, 1894 -- The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that “There has just been erected in Graceland Cemetery a monument that is probably the most unique as well as one of the most notable in the country.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 23, 1894]  The monument to which the paper refers is the stone marking the grave of architect John Root.  Pointing out that the funeral service for the great architect, three years earlier, was of “the utmost simplicity,” the paper observes that “… it seemed fitting that the stone that should mark his earthly resting-place should express to the utmost the simplicity of art and its traditions.”  A Celtic cross, designed by Daniel Burnham, Charles Atwood and Jules Wegman, marks Root’s grave site.  The plans “called for red Scotch granite of even color and material, without a flaw, and the carving to have the true archaic weather-beaten appearance as seen on the old Celtic crosses in Scotland and Ireland.”  The design executed in Scotland as “It was deemed improbable that the peculiar character and feeling sought for in the design could be brought out by any stonecutter in the United States.”  In the center of the cross, surrounded by “the motif by which the Druids symbolized immortality” are the outlines of the entrance to the proposed art institute, “the drawings of which were probably the last which Mr. Root executed.”  It is a monument to a man “who builded his monuments in brick and stone in life, and who, now gone, has his place in the history of American architecture and the arts for all time, his grave marked by a simple cross, yet covered in time-defying granite.”

December 23, 1907 – The permit for a new La Salle Hotel that will stand at the northwest corner of LaSalle and Madison Streets, is taken out.  Estimated to cost $2,800,000, the permit for the hotel is the largest issued in 1907.  The permit itself cost $2,400.50.  Construction of the hotel is expected to begin sometime between March 1 and May 1 with an estimated 15 months required to complete the 22-story structure.  When finished, the new La Salle Hotel will be the largest hotel building in the world.  The hotel stood until 1976 when it was demolished to make room for the Two North LaSalle office building.

Governor William Stratton
December 23, 1954 – Illinois Governor William Stratton gives formal approval to the engineering report that will impact over 320 miles of high speed highways in northern Illinois, new “super highways” that may end up costing as much as $458,085,000.  Upon the governor’s approval preparations begin for the sale of $390,000,000 worth of revenue bonds covering the cost of two of the new highways and part of a third.  The proposed highways include:  (1) a “Tri-State” route, extending from near the Indiana border to a point just south of the Wisconsin state line; (2) a route heading from the Edens expressway, completed in 1951, as it begins in Chicago and continues northwesterly to an area near Rockford; and (3) the first section of an east-west route beginning at the proposed Tri-State route and continuing to Aurora.  It is hoped that the road-building projects will be finished by 1957.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

December 22, 1933 -- Medinah Athletic Club Seeks New Lease Arrangement
December 22, 1933 – Interested parties head to federal court, contesting a proposal by members of the Medinah-Michigan Avenue Club to lease the facility, which has been in receivership for 18 months, paying a monthly rental fee of $11,000 in order to run the building as a private club.  The proposal seeks court approval to increase the current membership of the club from 500 to 1,100 within 90 days with each member paying a $10 monthly fee.  Any money above the $11,000 rental fee would be divided – 80% going to the club’s creditors and the remainder going to the members.  Apparently, the plan has the approval of the Continental-Illinois National Bank, holder of $4,200,000 in first mortgage bonds.  “Strenuous opposition” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 23, 1933] is voiced by representatives of the Seneca Securities Corporation, holders of $800,000 in second mortgage bonds.  Seneca’s attorney points out, “The court would be turning this property back to the same crowd which originally wrecked it.  When the receiver took charge he found $201,000 overdue on house accounts and overdue installments of dues alone.  Even in those generally prosperous days, with a membership of 3,500, the club had never shown a profit … The original club spent $750,000 to get its 3,500 members.  How the present club expects to get 600 new members on the present setup is more than I can understand.”  Judge Charles E Woodward sets a date of January 8, 1934 for the next hearing.

December 22, 1917 – Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini dies of heart disease at Columbus Hospital.  Mother Cabrini, the founder of the order of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, was the founder of the hospital in which she took her last breath.  She was born on July 15, 1850 in the small Italian town of S’ant Angelo Lodigiano, the youngest of 13 children.  In her late 30’s, at the direction of Pope Leo VIII, she arrived in New York City, a place crying out for schools and orphanages to serve the huge population of Italian immigrants.  Her tireless work was so effective that she received requests for help from far-flung places across the globe, and she made 23 trans-Atlantic crossings, establishing 67 different schools, hospitals and orphanages.  In 1946 Mother Cabrini was canonized by Pope Pius XII.  When Columbus Hospital was demolished to make way for 2550 Lakeview, the chapel of the hospital was painstakingly preserved and today the place where Mother Cabrini worshipped, the National Shrine of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, is open daily and has weekend Masses with opportunities for confession and hosts Eucharistic adoration on Fridays.  The sanctuary of the Shrine is pictured above.

December 22, 1954 – The president of the American Furniture Mart, Lawrence H. Whiting, confirms rumors that the Mart has obtained control of 333 North Michigan Avenue, an art deco tower on the southeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive.  Whiting says, “The American Furniture Mart accumulated this interest as a long term real estate investment in what we consider to be an exceptionally sound real estate enterprise.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 23, 1954]  Arthur M. Wirtz, the chairman of the American Furniture Mart, is also the president of the 333 Building Corporation.  333 North Michigan Avenue was completed in 1927 following a design by the firm of Holabird and Root.  The Art Deco design of its 25 stories is particularly striking because of the building’s location just south of the DuSable Bridge, directly across the river from Tribune Tower.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

December 21, 1920 -- Rush Street Bridge Swings for Last Time
December 21, 1920 –The Rush Street bridge is swung to the middle of the river for the last time.  It is anticipated that the lower section of the new Michigan Avenue bridge will absorb the traffic that the Rush Street bridge has carried since 1884, primarily heavy vehicles.  When the United States granted permission for the construction of a bridge across the river at Michigan Avenue, it stipulated that the center-pier Rush Street bridge had to be taken down within 90 days of the opening of the new bridge to full traffic.  For decades the Rush Street bridge, the third bridge in this location, was the main route across the river for traffic entering or leaving the Loop, especially large wagons in the early days and trucks, later on, carrying freight back and forth from river-side warehouses and railroad yards.  It was so busy that in July of 1911 Charles Wacker, the head of the Chicago Plan Commission, said it was the busiest bridge in the world. That same year a traffic census counted 9,725 vehicles of all descriptions crossing the bridge in a 24-hour period.

December 21, 1922 – Fire destroys much of the Dearborn Street station at Dearborn and Polk Streets as a crowd of thousands crowd the streets to watch.  The fire starts on the third floor of the station and “raged across the entire top floor and roared up the tower, which the watchers momentarily expected would fall into the street.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 22, 1922] Six hundred employees along with passengers waiting for trains evacuate the station with just one injury.  Mrs. Hazel Locker, the assistant chief auditor for the Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad, had to be carried from the structure after being trampled in the crowd escaping the burning building.  Three switchboard operators, Mamie Scully, Lillian Michnick and Betty Fennell, are among the last to leave as they work the phones directly under the floor where the fire started until they are commanded to leave.  The crowds surrounding the station watch a spectacular blaze.  As the Tribune reported, “When the fire reached the tower it roared up the long shaft, which was soon a blazing torch.  The clock in the tower stopped at 3:55 o’clock.  One by one the big hands on the three faces of the clock dropped into the furnace below.  Slowly the flagpole on the top of the tower bent at its base and the crowd which had waited for it to fall cheered when it crashed.”  Railroad and postal employees save tons of mail as the fire continues to burn, and officials of the eight railroads that use the station announce that service will continue from the train sheds to the south of the station itself.  The station, completed in 1884, was thought to be one of the finest in the nation when it opened.  The station came close to being razed over the years, but in 1986 it was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places even as its train sheds were demolished.  Today it offers over 120,000 square feet of leasable office and retail space, and it has acted as one of the important anchors that led to the resurgence of the Printers’ Row district and the creation of the Dearborn Station residential development to the south. 

December 21, 1915 – A banner headline in the Chicago Daily Tribune screams, “Weeghman Admits He Has Secured The Cubs”.  Charles H. Weeghman began his career in Chicago as a waiter making ten bucks a week and parlayed a small stake into a collection of 15 Chicago diners that served cold sandwiches.  Weeghman loved baseball even more than he liked cold sandwiches, and he wanted desperately to own a professional team.  After his attempt to buy the St. Louis Cardinals proved unsuccessful, he teamed up with a renegade group of owners controlling teams in the Federal League.  Weeghman gave his Chicago Federals a new concrete and steel stadium near the elevated tracks on the north side of the city on the former site of the Theological Seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.  After the Federals, renamed the Whales, barely won the championship in 1915, American and National League executives, tired of the Federal League raiding teams for their players, asked for negotiations before Federal Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis.  The upshot was that the Federal League disappeared, but two owners were given opportunities to buy teams in the older, more established leagues.  Weeghman was one of those owners, and it was on this date back in 1915 that the news of his purchase of the Chicago Cubs was announced.  His first action as an owner was to hire Joe Tinker as the manager of the team.  His second was to move the Cubs from their west side location to Weeghman Field at the corner of Addison and Clark Streets.  A century and a year later Weeghman’s Cubs would win the World Series.  The above photo shows Weeghman Field in 1915.