Saturday, December 15, 2018

December 15, 1936 -- Chicago Surface Lines Ordered to Remove L.S.D. Tracks
December 15, 1936 – The Illinois Commerce Commission orders the Chicago Surface Lines to tear up tracks that cross Lake Shore Drive at Chicago Avenue and which run parallel to the drive between Chicago and Grand Avenues.  The commission gives the transit agency 60 days to implement the order.  This ends a fight that has gone on for a dozen years, ever since the tracks were first laid on park district property in 1921 under a temporary order.  The removal of the tracks will facilitate the movement of traffic along the drive once the bridge across the river is completed sometime during the following year. Otherwise, the tracks would virtually nullify the gains brought on by the bridge that connects the north and south sides of the city negated by the obstacle caused by the tracks. The commission’s decision runs to 23 pages and concludes, “that the Chicago avenue tracks east of Lake Shore drive are unnecessary and that these tracks do not now serve any public convenience or necessity and should be removed.”  The tracks were laid down in May of 1921 to serve a temporary event at Navy Pier, the Pageant of Progress.  Three years later the Lincoln Park Board filed a petition to have the extension removed.  Thus, began a decade-long fight which culminated in October of 1936 after five months of testimony that led to a transcript of 6,000 pages that included 176 technical exhibits.  The above photo looks south on Lake Shore Drive toward Chicago Avenue from Oak Street in the mid-1930's.

December 15, 1895 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports on the progress being made in “transforming the present unsightly vacant space on the Lake-Front into a handsome park.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 14, 1895] At both ends of the proposed new park – at Randolph Street and at Park Row, about where today’s Roosevelt Road runs south of the park – the greatest work has been done.  About 700 feet of a new sea wall that will help to create a new harbor has been run south of Randolph Street.  The Illinois Central Railroad is creating the south end of the sea wall, using two pile-drivers.  On the west side of the tracks, 500 feet of foundation have been laid for a retaining wall with work halted during the winter season.  Railroad spurs have been laid at the south end of the park on which hundreds of loads of dirt have been dumped into the lake to create new land although this section of the new park “presents the appearance of the outskirts of a brick-yard.”  The top photo shows the lake park, today's Grant Park, in 1893 before work started on its improvement.  The 1907 photo below that shows all of the land that has been added to the east of the Illinois Central tracks as the development of the new park continues.

December 15, 1940 – Newly elected Congressman Charles S. Dewey calls upon all Chicagoans to begin backing a plan to place an airport in the heart of the city, a project that would extend from the lake a mile west to the New York Central Railroad tracks and from Sixteenth Street north to the south end of Soldier Field.  Dewey’s plan would raise the airport above the Outer Drive and the Illinois Central tracks just to the west of that roadway.  The congressman lists four distinct advantages of his plan:  (1) the city could recoup the cost of construction through fees charged to the airlines; (2) the project would provide a huge market for unskilled labor; (3) the location of the new airport would be a huge improvement in air service to the city and a boon for all city businesses; and (4) at least a square mile of “blighted area” would be removed from the near south side.  Dewey says, “It is fantastic to put the main airport out at the edge of the city.  The cheapest land, actually, is that in the blighted areas near the center of Chicago.”  Meeting objections that an already noisy city will become even noisier with an airport in its center, Dewey says, “A city is practically built upon noise.  Listen to that street traffic noise 20 floors below my office.  Noise means activity.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 16, 1940]   Dewey served one term as a representative from the Ninth Congressional District of Illinois, was defeated in his bid for re-election in 1945 and went back to the banking business as a vice-president of Chase National Bank.  

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