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 C├ęzanne 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.

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