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.
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