Monday, December 17, 2018

December 17, 1938 -- Subway Construction Kicks Off
December 17, 1938 –The first dirt is turned in the $40 million project to bring a subway to the city, a project that has been in the discussion stages for over 50 years.  Thousands of citizens on the sidewalks of LaSalle Street follow a parade of local officials and city leaders to just south of Chicago Avenue where the ceremonies convene on State Street.  In 24-degree weather Public Works Administrator Harold L. Ickes delivers a 3,000-word speech, saying, “Today we are able to come together to inaugurate the most portentous civic undertaking since this city shook off the ashes of the great fire and started hopefully and determinedly to build again for the future … The subway that we inaugurate today will be only a beginning. As the city is able to extend it, this will be done, until Chicago will have as complete an underground traction system as any city in the world.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 18, 1938]  Chicago Mayor Edward Kelly says, “Chicago digs its first spadeful of pay dirt today … Day and night during the coming months the barometer of business in Chicago will respond to this mighty stimulus of money and men in overalls … We did not want to wind up with a makeshift transportation system.  We are achieving modern transportation in step with the times.  Yes, it has taken almost half a century to get under way, but Chicago has got what it wants – and without additional taxes or special assessments.”  The plan is to run the subway from Congress Avenue north to Lake Street, west under Lake Street to Canal Street, then northwest under Milwaukee Avenue to meet the Logan-Humboldt elevated lines.  The line opened in October of 1943.  A second subway project was suspended during World War II and was opened in February of 1951.  The above photo shows subway construction in progress on State Street, looking north from Madison Street.

December 17, 1905 – Looking back over the preceding year, the Chicago Daily Tribune reports that in 1904 the city erected “the equivalent of over forty-seven solid miles of buildings, single frontage, costing approximately $62,000,000.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 17, 1905] Additionally, the real estate transactions for the year totaled approximately $140,000,000.  The construction of apartment houses was double that of 1904, and “despite all these new buildings, builders and agents having them in charge report that they are being filled as soon as completed.”  The southern portions of the city lead the building boom which, the article points out, “simply goes to show what must be accepted as a great sociological fact, that the foreign elements of Chicago’s population, which predominate in the northwest division of the city, are greater home builders and are more attached to the individual home than the more well to do native born element which predominates n the south division.”  Leading the city as far as factory and warehouse construction is the new Sears, Roebuck and Co. plant on Harvard Street on the city’s west side.  In the central business district there were 71 real estate transactions, 30 more than in 1904 and “there is no doubt that they have strengthened greatly, especially in the choicest section of the business district,” where Joseph Leiter refused a $60,000-a-year rental of a small lot at the southeast corner of State Street and Jackson Boulevard which “at the present time … is a trifle startling, to say the least.”  The above photo shows the Sears complex on the west side, designed by Nimmons and Fellows, and begun in 1905.

December 17, 1936 – The Chicago Park District announces a project that will hopefully streamline the traffic flowing through Lincoln Park while providing a new bathing beach and bathhouse for the area as well.  A $1,100,000 grant from the Works Progress Administration is still needed to get the plan going, but when fully funded the project will carry Lake Shore Drive past North Avenue for another half-mile while La Salle Street will be extended from its terminus at Stockton Drive to meet the new section of Lake Shore Drive.  Additionally, a breakwater will be built 1,500 feet from the shoreline at North Avenue, and sand will be used to fill the space between the new breakwater and the shore, creating a new beach.  It is hoped that the new plan will reduce the congestion that has plagued the two lanes of Stockton Drive as it winds through the park, carrying rush hour traffic from both LaSalle Street and Lake Shore Drive south of North Avenue.  The 1934 photo above shows Stockton Drive to the left, winding north past the statue of Abraham Lincoln that today stands below and south of the La Salle Street extension.

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