Sunday, May 19, 2019

May 19, 1934 -- Stockyard Fire Burns Eight City Blocks
May 19, 1934 – A ferocious fire burns for more than four hours at the Union Stockyards on the city’s South Side.  Before it is brought under control it destroys eight city blocks – approximately 80 acres – and 1,200 people are injured.  Hundreds more lose their homes.  Nearly all of the buildings in an area bounded by Halsted, Emerald, Forty-First, and Forty-Second Street are destroyed, along with about a quarter of the pens and barns in the stockyards.  Over 2,200 firemen battle the flames in a fire that Mayor Edward Kelly says is “the worst fire Chicago has known since the great one of 1871.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 20, 1934].  Although firemen manage to save the great packing concern of Armour and Co., many landmarks in the stockyards are destroyed, including the International Amphitheater, the Stockyards Inn, the Saddle and Sirloin Club, Drovers National Bank, and the Livestock National Bank.  Six fire department pumpers are destroyed as they sit attached to hydrants.  It is believed that a carelessly tossed match or cigarette began the blaze, which quickly burned out of control due to winds of up to 60 miles-per-hour and a lack of rain during the spring.

May 19, 1862 –The first regular meeting of the newly elected Common Council is held, and the alderman get off to a big start.  Alderman Hoyt presents an ordinance regulating cows … “providing that no person should drive cows in herds to pasture, who lives east of Clark street on any street west of Clark street, and vice versa.”  [Chicago Tribune, May 20, 1862] From the looks of it this burg is becoming civilized, and Clark Street seems to be turning into a pretty big deal. 

May 19, 1893 -- The battle for the city’s lakefront, which continues to this day, commences as a judge issues a restraining order that prevents the city from leasing any part of the Lake-Front Park “to a circus or to any party or parties for any purpose except as a public park.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 20, 1893] Although the judge says that he will allow the circus to continue in the park until the end of its run on June 5, he orders that all other parties leasing space in the park must get the heck out. Elbridge Haney, attorney for Montgomery Ward and Co., says, “The city authorities have rented the property at ridiculously low figures to circuses and other shows. This year they have rented it for two weeks for $5,000. Then the city has for years maintained a yard for storing paving blocks, tar wagons, stones, old lumber, and all sorts of rubbish, and lately it proposes to add another objectionable building for stabling sixty garbage horses and wagons. Last Monday it commenced the erection of such a building, and I compelled the city to quit work as soon as I discovered it.” The battle over the Lucas Museum of Narrative Arts, pictured above, a plan that has now been abandoned, is just one more episode in a 125-year narrative about how best to use the city's lakefront.

May 19, 1908 – A plaster of paris model goes on display at the Art Institute of Chicago, showing landscape architect Frderick Law Olmsted’s vision for Grant Park. The Chicago Daily Tribune reports rapturously, “From the sooty network of railroad tracks and the malodorous wastes of mud and garbage, there will rise, according to the model, a magnificent plaza, beautiful buildings, broad meadows, great trees, swimming pools, boat houses, brilliant flower gardens, impressive boulevards and winding drives.  Above all, Chicago will regain its heritage, the lake, which will be bordered by high wooded banks, surmounted by promenades and drives.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 20, 1908] The focal point of the plan will be the Field Columbian museum, situated in the center of the park on Michigan Avenue, dwarfing the Art Institute’s building just to the north.  The plan locates the Crerar library to the south of the Field Museum, balancing the Art Institute to the north.  Other amenities include a gymnasium, natatorium, “a monster playground,” boat houses, restaurants, rest houses and “airy piazzas.”  The chairman of the South Park Commissioners, Henry G. Foreman, says of the plan, “Chicago has become so used to a front yard filled with smoke, and cinders, and railroad tracks, and ugly freight cars, and mud, and refuse, that any plan to change it seems to many people a mere dream.  It is hard to wake people up to the fact that we not only have great opportunities, but that we are making the most of them, and soon will have adjoining the loop a great and beautiful park.”

Saturday, May 18, 2019

May 18, 1952 -- North State Parkway Mansions to be Razed
May 18, 1952 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that another pair of old mansions will be reduced to rubble so that a 17-story rental apartment building can be built at 1538 and 1540 State Parkway.  Completion of the new building, designed by Shaw, Metz and Dolio is scheduled for 1953. The apartment building will have space for 60 families and indoor parking for 36 cars.  All units will be at least five rooms with two bedrooms and two bathrooms.  A unique feature of the new building is that it will be constructed in the shape of a cross with only one apartment occupying each arm of the cross, allowing for wider views and better cross ventilation.  Scheduled for demolition is the home at 1538 North State Parkway, built by William H. Bush in 1887 on land that he purchased from Hobart Chatfield-Taylor, a Chicago author who owned all of the land extending from that lot to Lincoln Park.  Today's 1540 North State Parkway is pictured above.  

May 18, 1886 – The Schiller Monument in Lincoln Park is unveiled on a Saturday afternoon before 7,000 people, including members of 60 separate German societies and lodges of the city.  Mayor Carter Harrison and William Rapp, editor of the Staats-Zeitung, make speeches appropriate to the occasion.  The Chicago statue is recast from a model of the original sculpture that stands in Marbach, the birthplace of Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller.  The original sculptor was Ernst Rau.  According to the Chicago Park District a large number of German immigrants held a meeting in Turner Hall, after spending several years raising money for the monument, and subsequently placed a cornerstone and foundation for the work in Lincoln Park.  William Pelargus, a sculptor from Stuttgard, was hired to recast the original Marbach monument, and a Lake View stone cutter was given the commission to create the granite base.  The Laing and Son Granite Company repaired the monument in 1959 and installed a bronze plaque on the base.  It still stands in its original location. The top photo shows the original monument in Marbach.  Below that is the memorial as it looked in the early 1900's.  It is not much changed today, as can be seen in the final photo.  

May 18, 1878 – The cornerstone is placed for the First Regiment’s armory on Jackson Street between Wabash and Michigan Avenues, celebrated in “one of the finest military parades and reviews that has taken place in this city for years.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 15, 1878] The first meeting to organize a National Guard regiment in Chicago took place on August 28, 1874 with the militia funded through private donations.  George M. Pullman contributed the first $500 with 22 of the city’s leading citizens contributing $100 apiece.  The first drill hall was established at 112 Lake Street.  In February of 1875 the First Regiment assembled as demonstrations swept the downtown area.  The six companies of the regiment were credited with saving the city from almost certain rioting as the men encamped in the armory.  The members of the regiment, still without a suitable place to call home, played an instrumental role in putting down the disturbances that came in July of 1877 during the rioting that occurred during the railroad strike, stationing cannons on the Twelfth and Sixteenth Street bridges.  Finally, the First Regiment dedicated its new armory on the site of the old Trinity Church on October 29, 1878.  The armory remained open until 1900 when a new armory was begun farther south on Michigan Avenue.  The above photo shows the armory as it stood on Jackson next to the Leiland Hotel.

May 18, 1967 – Officials of Chicago Helicopter Airways, Inc. predict that the helicopter line may be hauling a million passengers annually within a few years. The chairman of the company, John S. Gleason, Jr., says that preliminary plans have begun for developing a downtown heliport in Grant Park or on adjacent Illinois Central air rights. Gleason is encouraged by reports that a projection of 300 flights a day operating out of a revamped Midway Airport could result in the shuttling of a million passengers a year between Midway, O’Hare and the Loop. He is also optimistic about a third major airport being built in the lake. Optimism is the engine that turns the rotors, right? Even if the craft never gets off the ground, the noise sure gets your attention.

Friday, May 17, 2019

May 17, 1926 -- Wacker Drive Opened From Michigan to Wabash
May 17, 1926 – The east link of the new Wacker Drive is opened between Michigan and Wabash Avenues shortly after noon.  The Chicago Daily Tribune reports, “Many of the joy riders, attracted by the new skyline views of The Tribune and Wrigley towers and the Jewelers building, slowed down and some stopped in order to scan the scene at greater length.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 18, 1926]. The last segment of the project, the block between State Street and Wabash Avenue, the only remaining block still to be excavated to the lower level, will begin construction on the following day.  The construction of Wacker Drive was a direct result of the Chicago Plan of 1909 in which architect Daniel Burnham recommended the double-decked roadway along the south bank of the river as a means of eliminating the congestion on River and Rush Streets.  The project was completed from Lake Street to Michigan Avenue in 1926 at a cost of $8 million.  The illustration above shows the new road as proposed in the Chicago Plan of 1909, underwritten by the Commercial Club of Chicago.  

May 17, 1912 – After being caught in a dangerous air pocket, Farnum T. Fish, “the youthful aviator at the Illinois Aero club’s flying field,” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 18, 1912] is forced to descend from 8,800 feet and land his plane in Grant Park in front of the Auditorium Hotel. He is almost immediately arrested by park police officers.  At the South Clark Street police station, the 16-year-old aviator is formally charged with violating Section 1 of Chapter 7 of the 1911 code of the South Park Commissioners, which states, “No person shall make any descent in or from any balloon, aeroplane, or parachute nor shall any person aid or permit any balloon, aeroplane, or parachute to descend in any park or in any boulevard.  Any person violating any clause or provision of this section shall be fined not less than $10 nor more than $100 for each offense.” When released on a $400 bond, Fish observes, “Chicago must be ahead of the times. I know of no city in the world with such an ordinance.” Known as the “Boy Aviator,” Fish received FAI Airplane Pilot’s Certificate #85 in Dayton, Ohio in 1911.  He flew nearly continuously in various air meets throughout 1912.  In 1915 he flew for Pancho Villa in Mexico where he was shot in the leg while flying over enemy troops, still managing to land his plane before collapsing at the air base.  He was commissioned as a lieutenant in the United States Army in July,1918 and served as an overseas test pilot for the Army Signal Corps.  He was a member of the Air service Officers Reserve Corps form June 1919 to 1934 and returned briefly to active duty in 1942. He died on July 3, 1978. 

May 17, 1913 – In a rare display of cross-town (even cross-country) unity, over 35,000 Chicagoans slip through the turnstiles at Comiskey Park to pay tribute to New York Yankee manager Frank Leroy Chance, a former North Sider. As I. E. Sanborn reports for the Chicago Daily Tribune, “It was impossible at anytime to tell Chance fans from Sox fans. For that one day each was both and both each.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 18, 1913] The festivities begin at 2:00 p.m. when the White Sox band marches onto the field from the south entrance and settles behind home plate. For an hour afterward the “field looked like anything but a baseball park. The diamond was full of acrobats, tumblers, jugglers, trick dogs, human snakes and Sandows (professional bodybuilders).” Just before 3:00 Chance heads to home plate with the Yankee line-up, accompanied by Governor Edward Dunne and Mayor Carter Harrison. The fans jump up “with a roar which in the aggregate sounded like several hundred Niagaras all working at once.” The crowd is even more enthusiastic when it is learned that Chance will play first base for an inning with the New York team. Before that, though, he is presented with a pair of giant floral pieces eight feet tall, and a horseshoe of red carnations and roses. Chance had led the Cubs to World Series championships in 1907 and 1908, but in 1912 while in the hospital recovering from blood clots that resulted from blows to the head from pitches, the Cubs released him and the Yankees signed him to a three-year contract worth $120,000. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1946, 22 years after his death. On this day in 1913, though, the city is his – not so the game, which the last-place Sox win, 6-2. As Sanborn wrote, “It was a wonderful testimony to the warm spot Chicago has in its heart for the young Lochinvar (You won’t see too many baseball writers these days making references to Sir Walter Scott in their copy . . .) who came out of the farthest west more than a dozen years ago, stole a bride among its fairest daughters, and gave the city in return a proud place in the annals of baseball.”

May 17, 2016 – As it nears its first year of operation the Bloomindale Trail, Chicago’s “606,” comes under fire as hundreds of people march in a protest against the trail, saying that its popularity is making the area unaffordable for families who were there before the trail opened.  In a press release the Logan Square Neighborhood Association announces the march with this assertion, “Our families are being displaced from the community they love because housing costs are skyrocketing.”  The protest aims to get six aldermen from the area to get behind two ordinances.  One would institute a property tax rebate that would make it easier for families to stay in the neighborhood.  The other would cordon off an area on the west end of the 606 in which demolition fees would be assessed by the number of residential units in a building being demolished with fees as high as $25,000 for a single-family home.  Gentrification on the west end of the trail creates particularly strong pressures – the median income in the area is less than $50,000 a year while on the east end of the trail the median income is over twice that amount.  A report by the Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University concludes, “Before 2012, the abandoned rail line was a penalty on property values of about 1.4 percent.  After the 606 was underway, being near the 606 began to command a premium, but only on the western side of the trail.  Although the rail line was no longer a penalty in 606 East, buyers did not pay an additional premium for homes near the trail in this higher value market.  The story is different in 606 West.  There, buyers were willing to pay a 22.3 percent price premium for properties within one-fifth of a mile of the trail.”

Thursday, May 16, 2019

May 16, 1930 -- Marquette and Joliet Monument Dedicated
May 16, 1930 – Charles B. Pike, the president of the Chicago Historical Society, presides over a ceremony at which a monument is unveiled on the bank of Portage Creek near Stickney, the site at which Father Marquette and Louis Joliet came into the vicinity of the Des Plaines River. In the 1670's Portage Creek would have been to the west of Mud Lake, through which the two French explorers had to portage after leaving the Chicago River   In his remarks Pike credits two Chicagoans, Dr. Lucius Zeuch and Robert Knight, whose research led to the establishment of the historical site. The Reverend Joseph Reiner, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Loyola University, provides a narrative of the development of Chicago, a process that begins with Marquette’s and Joliet’s discovery of the possibility that a route might exist between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River by way of the modest Chicago River and the interior waters of Illinois.  Bertha Lerman, secretary of the Junior Citizens’ Club, pulls a canvas covering from a granite boulder that was set by the Chicago Historical Society on the old trail.  Today there is a much more elaborate work of art at the site. Located in the Chicago Portage National Historic Site in Lyons, it is on the west side of Harlem Avenue on a line with Forty-Eighth street.  The sculpture at the site, shown above, is by Guido Rebechini.

May 16, 2009 –The Nichols Bridgeway, a 625-foot pedestrian bridge connecting Millennium Park to the new Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago, opens.  Designed by the Pritzker prize-winning architect of the Modern Wing of the museum, Renzo Piano, it gradually rises from the Great Lawn southwest of the Pritzker Pavilion to a height of 60 feet as it meets up with the Bluhm Family Terrace on the third level of the Modern Wing.  As walkers move along the 450 tons of steel that make up the bridge, they are treated to spectacular views, west down Monroe Street toward the South Branch of the river, east to the open space of Grant Park and Lake Michigan, south to the spectacular new addition to the museum (and the railroad tracks that once occupied the entire area), and, north to Millennium Park and its lush Lurie Garden.  The bridge, built by Industrial Steel, Construction, Inc., is named after its benefactors, John D. and Alexandra Nichols.  

May 16, 1910 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that James A. Pugh, the largest stockholder in the Chicago Canal and Dock Company, has confirmed that the company will build piers into the lake at the mouth of the river without permission of the city – if the United States War Department renews the permit that it granted the company 18 months earlier.  A member of the City Council’s committee on harbors, wharves, and bridges says, “If Pugh gets his permit and goes ahead without a city franchise to build his piers he will get into a fight.  We’ll tie the thing up in the courts, if necessary, until we can get a bill through the legislature.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 16, 1910] Good luck, Mr. City Council Guy.  The terminal got built – it’s the long light-colored structure to the left of Ogden Slip, extending toward the brand new Lake Point Tower, nearing completion in 1968.  

May 16, 2000 – The Chicago Tribune editorializes about cost overruns at Millennium Park. “Private-sector corporations generally prefer the design-build method of contracting for new facilities,” the editorial observes. “They hire a unified team of architects and builders that can deliver an agreed-to building for an agreed-to price. Then there’s the method Mayor Richard Daley is using on the Millennium Project . . . you might call it the design-as-you-build method.” At issue is a Frank Gehry-design that, as originally proposed, was supposed to cost 150 million dollars and which had by this time risen to $270 million. “And crews are still building the support structure,” the editorial sniped. “What happens when they start adding the fancy stuff?” In a stinging conclusion, the editorial asks, “And one last question for the planners: After you’ve made your last change and gotten your elegant little culture park just the way you like, where are the hoi polloi going to go for the Blues, Jazz, Gospel and Taste concerts that are too big for Millennium Park? Or is that just another small, hanging detail?” A space of over 17 years is probably time enough to judge whether the “little culture park” was worth the investment. Judging from the crowds at what is now the most popular tourist destination in the midwest, it feels as if the “small, hanging details” worked out. The photo above shows the park as it started to take shape in 2001.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

May 15, 1880 -- Illinois Central Railroad Bridge Opens at River Mouth
May 15, 1880 – A new bridge opens on the Chicago River, one that carries Illinois Central railroad trains over the river near Elevator “A,” located on the south side of the river near its mouth.  A steam locomotive and one passenger car carries 30 men across the river to celebrate the completion of the project “which was conceived by the late William B. Ogden, and finally brought about by William F. Whitehouse, the Solicitor of the Dock and Canal Company.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 16, 1880].  The cost of the one-track bridge comes in at $27,000, and it is built “on a pier of solid masonry … the strongest and most substantial one of the river, and probably the Northwest.”  Various speeches are made at the offices of the Peshtigo Company (There still is a Peshtigo Court – one block long, the last street one crosses before heading under Lake Shore Drive on the way to Navy Pier on Grand or Illinois Street), including one by Mayor Carter H. Harrison.  Attorney B. F. Ayer, the general solicitor of the Illinois Central Railroad and the chairman of the Western Railway Association, offers a toast to the success of the bridge.  Illinois Central shareholder B. H. Sheldon observes that “in order to remain the Imperial City she is … it was necessary for Chicago to have afforded her every facility for the transaction of business cheaply and expeditiously,”  going on to say that before the bridge was completed “two great railroads, within 300 feet of each other, had not been connected before. Until now cars had to be transferred by the belt line nine miles around, which involved vexations delays and great inconvenience.”  The bridge is long gone … I have searched and searched and can’t find a single photo of it – just this 1893 rendering.  Elevator A is circled in red with the bridge just east of it indicated as well.  The tracks on the left side of the bridge belong to the Illinois Central.  The tracks on the right side of the bridge are the property of the Chicago and North Western Railroad, running along the north side of the river all the way from Kenzie Street on the North branch.  The elevator stands just about where the Hyatt Hotel is located today.

May 15, 1893 –It’s a big, big day in the city as the first of the World’s Fair Congresses kicks off at the spanking new Art Institute, a building that will for the next seven days be the “Place aux Dames” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 15, 1893] or the site of the Woman’s Congress, a colloquium that “is to be conducted by women, for women, and the subjects that will be discussed are all related to some phase of the life of modern women.” Preparations have been ongoing since May, 1892 and provide for four classes of meetings, the largest of which will consist of two daily sessions held in the Hall of Washington and the Hall of Columbus, each of which will accommodate 3,000 people.  Mrs. Potter Palmer and Mrs. Charles Henrotin will open the Congress on this day with a welcoming address.  One subject that the Woman’s Congress will cover in depth is “Woman’s Progress,” with discussion of such topics as “civil and social evolution of woman; the administrative ability of woman; woman the new factor in industrial economics; the ethics of dress; woman as an actual force in politics; woman as financier; woman in municipal government; the political future for woman and woman’s war for peace.”  One of the unique features of the Congress will occur on the final day, May 21, a Sunday, when religious services will be held at the Art Institute at which only women ordained as ministers will take part.  On that closing evening a “sacred concert” will be held “in which the line of sex will again be drawn, both as to composers and performers, both being, it is hardly necessary to say, women.”  The highlight of the concert will be the Columbian Ladies’ Harp Orchestra, “led by Mme. Josephine Chatterton, who has arranged for this harp orchestra a grand ‘Marche Triumphale,’ … the first time in this country so large a harp orchestra will be heard.

May 15, 1881 – With a fresh legal judgment giving the South Park Commissioners responsibility to improve and maintain streets that move people onto boulevards leading to or passing around parks, the Chicago Daily Tribune offers an opinion on what should be done with Michigan Avenue south of the river.  The editorial shines a spotlight on the one thing “which all the property-owners and residents along the line of Michigan avenue ought to agree to, and which will greatly enhance the beauty of the new boulevard.”  That is … getting rid of all the fences along the front yards that line the street.  “It is only by this means,” the editorial says, “that uniformity can be secured and protection guaranteed against rickety or incongruous fences.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 15, 1881]  

May 15, 1938 – An “autogiro” takes off from the Chicago Airport (today’s Midway) at 1:40 p.m., lands on the roof of the main post office at 1:45 and heads back to the airport 15 minutes later. This is a symbolic flight. The two-seater rotor craft will only carry 200 pounds of mail, and it can only fly about 100 miles per hour. BUT this event, as the Chicago Daily Tribune points out, “ . . . presages the day when all mail will be flown between these two points.” With pilot Johnny Miller in the cockpit, the autogiro takes off on the first day of National Air Mail Week, commemorating the day twenty years earlier when air mail service was initiated. The sacks of mail are delivered directly to Postmaster Ernest J. Kruetgenon who stands on the roof of the post office, 14 stories above the Chicago River. Only 200 guests are on the post office roof, but the event is seen and heard by many. The Field Building at 135 South La Salle opens its entire fortieth floor to spectators, and the Board of Trade opens its forty-fourth floor to the public. The event is also covered by W.G.N., WBBM, and the coast-to-coast Mutual broadcasting system. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

May 14, 2011 -- Sanitary District Calls Cleaning the River a Waste of Money
May 14, 2011 – The Chicago Tribune reports that the president of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s board says that making the Chicago River safe enough for swimming would be a waste of money while increasing the chances of people drowning.  At a news conference Terrence O’Brien says, “In these difficult economic times when public agencies are facing budgetary shortfalls, people are losing their jobs and homes … it is important … that public funds are used wisely.”  [Chicago Tribune, May 14, 2011]  Earlier in the week the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency notified the District that it had failed to prove over the course of three years of hearings that cleaning up the river “would result in substantial and widespread social and economic impact.”  The E.P.A. ordered the District to implement more stringent standards for bacteria and other pollutants so that stretches of the Chicago River, the Cal-Sag Channel, and the Little Calumet River are made safe for recreation.  THAT was just eight short years ago – when virtually no one could have imagined the transformation of the river that has occurred during that time.  In fact, a 2.5-mile distance swimming event is tentatively scheduled for September 15 of this year with intrepid swimmers leaving Ping Tom Park on the South Branch and splashing their way to the Clark Street bridge.   

May 14, 1938 –Workmen complete the razing of a three-story brick building at 601 West Sixty-Third Street, popularly known as the “Holmes murder castle.”  THIS is the building made famous 70 years later in Erik Larson’s popular book, The Devil and the White City.  It is where the owner of the building, Dr. H. H. Holmes, disposed of the bodies of six of his victims in the early 1890’s.  Holmes, who was hanged in 1896, allegedly murdered as many as 27 people before he was apprehended.  The United States government pays $61,000 for the building and lot, on which it proposes to build a post office.  The two buildings are pictured above.  The post office is still there. Note the elevated structure to the left of each building.  In the 1890’s that was the “Alley El,” the first elevated railroad in the city, one that carried passengers to and from the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. Today it is part of the Green Line.

May 14, 1907 – At 2:40 p.m. Chicago White Sox officials begin the festivities that honor the team for the victory in six games of the “Hitless Wonder” in the 1906 World Series against cross-town rivals, the Chicago Cubs.  “For ten minutes,” the Chicago Daily Tribune reports, “a stream of autos charged intermittently through the gate and deposited city and baseball officials, ball players, and rooters all over the outfield.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 15, 1907] Mayor Fred Busse, Police Commissioner George Shippy, and Charles Comiskey unfurl the World Series pennant and carry it to home plate where William Hale Thompson asks for and receives “three cheers for Comiskey, three more for the White Sox, and still another three for the mayor.”  As the ovation continues, a “mounted delegation” from the stockyards gallops “into the field and rode pell mell around it to the accompaniment of vigorous applause.”  Then, the president of the National Baseball Commission, August Hermann, presents the award to the mayor and Comiskey.  Silence fills the stadium as “the ropes were being fastened by expert hands to the pennant.  The white stockinged players, who had fought for and won that emblem of supremacy, grasped the hoisting rope, forming themselves into a long line with Manager Jones in the place of honor, and began to haul away.”  And then … “Just as 15,000 throats were swelling with the first notes of the grand paean which was to have marked the climax of Chicago’s biggest baseball féte, just as the silken banner, emblematic of the highest honors of the diamond, had shaken out its folds over the White Sox park and started its upward climb in response to the tugs of the heroes of the day, Comiskey’s veteran flagstaff swayed, trembled in every fiber, then broke squarely off in the middle and toppled back to the earth which reared it.”  The pennant is temporarily draped over a liquor sign in right center field as the game begins in threatening weather and is quickly called as the field is “flooded beyond all possibility of further play” within five minutes.  Several cars have to be pulled out of the mud in the outfield with the last one pulled off the field just before dark by a team of horses.  “The pennant will be raised another day,” the paper concludes, “when President Comiskey is able to have erected a new pole strong enough to bear the strain.  But there will be no heroics.  Chicago had those yesterday.”  The presentation of the pennant at home plate is shown above.

May 14, 1920 – The Michigan Avenue bridge is opened to traffic. It took 24 years and four city mayors to get the project completed, a project that began, according to Mayor William Hale Thompson, with a suggestion from the wife of the city controller in 1891, Mrs. Horatio N. May, who thought it might be just swell to have a link across the river at Michigan Avenue. Twenty years later the first plans for the bridge were drawn up, and in 1913 the first ordinance pertaining to the construction of the bridge was passed. Condemnation proceedings, authorization of bonds to finance the project, and the federal government’s objection to the use of steel for the bridge during wartime kept construction from beginning until April 15, 1918. Finally, at 4 p.m. on this day Mayor Thompson leads a motorcade from Congress Plaza up Michigan Avenue to the new bridge, where he cuts the ceremonial ribbon. Airplanes appear above and drop confetti. Four thousand cars follow the mayor’s automobile across the new bridge. A tiny dirt road on the north side of the river called Pine Street sits ready to become one of the city’s most impressive thoroughfares.

Monday, May 13, 2019

May 13, 1935 -- Congress Expressway Proposal Unveiled
May 13, 1935 --  The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that the Illinois highway department has put together “a tentative plan for the construction of a main traffic artery in Congress street such as was proposed in 1908 by Daniel H. Burnham …”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 13, 1935].  The plan envisions an elevated highway that runs from Canal Street to Columbus Park, at which point the road would step down to street level at a level low enough to pass under the numerous railroad trestles on the west side.  The entire project, which would include a new bridge over the Chicago River that would carry vehicles though the 1932 post office, is pegged at $21,260,000.  The plan would turn 35 north and south streets into dead-end streets.  Between Canal Street and Columbus Park only eight entry and exit points would be a part of the new highway – at Canal, Morgan, and Loomis Streets, at Oakley Boulevard, and at California, Central Park, Kostner, Laramie and Central Avenues.  The Congress Expressway is another example of how much time often passes between the hatching of a plan that makes sense and its execution.   It would be December of 1955 before the first 2.5 miles of the expressway would open, a section between Mannheim Road and First Avenue.  The photo above shows the Old Post Office in 1953 with the Congress Expressway on the west side.  The bridge and roadway through the post office itself will not start for another year.

May 13, 1983 –The Chicago Tribune, in its “Community News” column, reports that a six-month project by Friends of the Chicago River has culminated in detailed designs for enhancing six sites along the river with all six proposals under study by the city’s Department of Planning. David Jones, the chairman of the group’s steering committee, names the six areas under consideration for beautification.  The first proposal involves lighting of 18 Chicago River bridges between Michigan Avenue and Congress Parkway. The proposal states, “Think of the effect.  From Wolf Point you would see the whole necklace of lights.” [Chicago Tribune, May 13, 1983] The second location for improvement is Rush Street where a “bilevel, glass-front café behind the Wrigley Building that could seat 80 persons inside and another 150 outside” is proposed. Wolf Point is next where a boat ramp and dock are proposed along a landscaped bulkhead. Part of the plan includes a “small café, an outdoor amphitheater and a floating concert stage” with a high-rise building to be developed.  A “cleaned-up, greened-up turning basin” is proposed for North Avenue where “flowering trees, evergreens and ground cover could keep the basin colorful year-round and could act as buffers against unsightly industrial storage areas.” The fifth site is located on the North Branch of the river where it meets the North Shore Channel, the site of the city’s only waterfall.  “Paths could be landscaped along the bank,” according to the proposal. “Footbridges could be built, providing complete access to the area.  Boat docks could be added, and a sloping terrace on the east bank would allow an unobstructed view of the dock from an existing field house.” Finally, there is Bubbly Creek, located on the South Fork of the South Branch of the river between Thirty-First and Thirty-Ninth Streets.  It “could be developed into a heritage park capitalizing on the history of the site where Father Marquette camped one winter and where ships once unloaded their cargos of lumber … Water quality could be improved with installation of stationary bicycles, which when pedaled, could aerate the water.” Although not a whole happened as a result of the report – there are no aerating bicycles at Bubbly Creek -- it was a beginning, an acknowledgment that the river is a resource as important to the city as its beautiful lakefront.  Thirty-five years later the Main Stem of the river is a showcase with its Riverwalk connecting the lake with Lake Street and the South Branch. Projects are still being floated, such as the North Branch Industrial Framework Plan, drafted by the city’s Department of Planning and Development and unveiled in 2017.  Part of that plan can be seen in the above rendering.

May 13, 1950 – At the Eighty-Second annual convention of the American Institute of Architects, Lewis Mumford, for 30 years the architecture critic for The New Yorker magazine, tells the audience, ‘The age of the big city is over … A balanced community, limited in size and area, limited in density, in close contact with the open country, is actually the new urban form for our civilization.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 14, 1950]

May 13, 1889 – The Secretary of War, Redfield Proctor, visits the site of Fort Sheridan, accompanied by a party of officers and gentlemen of the Commercial Club. The group is transported to the barren outpost by a special train that leaves the Northwestern station at Wells Street at 9:00 a.m. and returns at 1 p.m. The post commander, Colonel Lyster, meets the delegation at the north suburban station with an ambulance drawn by four government mules. The Chicago Daily Tribune writes, “The visit . . . was under circumstances most disadvantageous, the day being raw and the roads muddy.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 14, 1889] There isn’t much to see – “. . . one story frame barracks – shanties – and other buildings”. On the north end of the post the visitors are shown the proposed site for the commandant’s house. “Notwithstanding the gloomy day,” the paper reports, “the scene was inviting. The grove was blooming with wild flowers, and the angry swash of the turbulent lake many feet below was a recommendation of the spot superior to anything which had met the Secretary’s view during his Western visit.” If first impressions are everything, the new post falls woefully short. The report continues, “. . . it became apparent that construction of the post was not to be on that magnificent plan at first contemplated. The terra cotta pressed brick, the fine hardwood floors, the frescoed walls, and magnificence of palatial quarters had dwindled to plain yellow brick and papered walls. The commandant’s mansion had had a shrinkage from $30,000 to $15,000 and the contracts awarded yesterday called for only $2,000 more than the first appropriation.” The architects involved, Martin Roche and William Holabird, made it all work, though, and the Town of Fort Sheridan is a showplace today. The former quarters of the commandant appear above.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

May 12, 1941 -- Elevated Train Accident on Market Street
May 12, 1941 – A two-car elevated train slams into a bumper on the dead-end tracks of the Market stub at the Madison Street-Wacker Drive station, runs over a platform, and finally comes to a stop with its front end dangling over the street 50 feet below.  Fortunately, there are no passengers on board the train. The train’s motorman says that the brakes did not hold as he tried to stop at the station.  When this portion of the elevated opened in 1893, Market Street, like much of the West Loop was primarily made up of light industry, warehouses, and small businesses, and it was in this area that the Lake Street elevated ended its run before the Loop elevated system was completed.  As early as 1897, when the Loop began operation, the stub was slated for demolition.  Yet, it kept operating, primarily as an overflow route, when the Loop reached capacity, until the late 1940’s when it was demolished, making way for today’s double-decked Wacker Drive.  A photo of the Market Street stub appears above, along with a photo of the accident in 1941.

May 12, 1947 –A doleful editorial in the Chicago Daily Tribune begins, ‘Chicago is in a civic slump, however much it may be thriving industrially.  Dozens of improvement projects are languishing in this, the very city that once was a pioneer in every kind of municipal enterprise.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 12, 1983] “We have many things to be proud of,” the editorial continues, “but most of them were achieved long ago.  Now we cannot even get rid of smoke, to say nothing of obsolete railroad terminals.”  As a result, Chicago, the paper observes, is losing ground to other cities, “New York is building bridges, tunnels, and roads to overcome the handicaps of its site. Los Angeles has vastly extended its boundaries and is getting water from sources hundreds of miles away.  San Francisco has solved its problems of expansion by building bridges that are unequaled in all the world.” In the meantime, “Chicago, the erstwhile city of ‘I Will,’ the city that once was a national symbol of energy and originality, lives on her past.”  As the Tribune nears its one-hundredth anniversary, the column concludes, “Those who should be pulling Chicago out of its slump may expect to hear form The Tribune frequently and not admiringly as this newspaper enters its second century.” Contrasting the 1947 photo taken looking east from where today's River Point tower stands with the site as it appears today shows that, fortunately, the lack of vision that the paper lamented did not last forever.

May 12, 1880 – A Criminal Courts judge upholds the right of the city to transfer the control of Michigan Avenue and Thirty-Fifth Street to the South Park Commissioners, upholding the Boulevard Act of 1879.  The judge states that on February 21, 1869 the charter of the Board of South Park Commissioners gave that body the responsibility for existing highways and “to lay out new ones within the defined limits of the South Parks, and to manage and control them, free to all persons, but subject to such necessary rules and regulations as shall from time to time be adopted by said Commissioners for the well ordering and government of the same.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 13, 1880] Subsequent legislation added to the charter but did not impair it.  The Boulevard Act of 1879 went even farther as the judge observed in his opinion, “It is an act to enable the Park Commissioners ‘to take, regulate, control, and improve public streets leading to public parks, and to levy and collect special taxes or assessments to pay for the improvement itself.’  It authorizes the Park Commissioners to ‘connect’ the present park system, including existing boulevards and driveways, with any point within the city by the use of ‘connecting street or streets, or parts thereof,’ and it authorizes the city, town or village ‘to invest any such Park Boards with the right to control, improve and maintain any of the streets of such city’ … ‘for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of this act.’”  The commissioners, in other words, had the legal authority to connect any road leading to or abutting a park to city streets that would make a connection to a park, and they had the right, with permission of the city, to levy taxes to build and maintain such connections.  The judge upholds the right of the South Park Commissioners to assume responsibility for Michigan Avenue south of the river since it is an important connection to the roads and boulevards leading to city parks. The above photo shows Michigan Avenue in 1885 at its intersection with Van Buren Street.

May 12, 2011 – The Chicago Tribune reports that the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered Chicago to improve its sewage treatment system so that the river will be clean enough for “recreation in and on the water.” [Chicago Tribune, May 13, 2011] The new order goes far beyond those of a state panel that a year earlier had issued guidelines that would make the river clean enough for canoers and paddlers who “briefly fell into the water”. The ruling will necessitate the overhaul of two out of three of the city’s massive sewage treatment plants. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District estimates the cost will be close to $1 billion while the EPA puts the estimate at something less than $250 million. “We’ve got a chance for our generation to do something big for this important river,” says Senator Dick Durbin.


Saturday, May 11, 2019

May 11, 1924 -- Cardinal Mudnelein Returns from Rome
May 11, 1924 – Cardinal George William Mundelein returns to Chicago, making Chicago the first city west of the Allegheny Mountains to have a cardinal as the head of the Catholic Church.  At Holy Name Cathedral he dedicates his first hour in the city to the young men of the church.  The Chicago Daily Tribune reports, “Quietly, intimately, and rapidly Chicago’s first cardinal gave his blessing to the little boys, youths, and young men who jammed the transepts, filled up the nave, and spilled over into the spaces in fornt of the altar …” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 12, 1924]. Mundelein says, “On returning from a long, long journey, it is but fitting that the first to welcome the first cardinal of the west should be the little ones … Your cardinal needs you; he needs the young men.  With your help and enthusiasm, the church can go still further forward.”  Mundelein was named the city’s archbishop in 1916 and spent little time in letting people know that he was a different prelate than those who had preceded him.  He avoided tragedy by skipping the soup at a University Club banquet in his honor and worked to break down the barriers in the various Polish, German, Bohemian, and Irish parishes in the city.  When he returned as a cardinal on this day in 1924 a million Chicagoans lined the streets to hail his return.  Before his death in 1939, a reporter asked him if he had ever considered returning to the city of New York, where he grew up on its Lower East Side.  He replied, “You and I live in the greatest city in the world. The only way they will get me to leave Chicago is feet first.”  [Chicago Tribune, July 20, 2014]  The crowds outside Holy Name Cathedral are shown in the above photo on May 11, 1924.

May 11, 1894 –The Pullman Car Works closes until further notice at 6:00 p.m. after 2,000 employees walk out with “no excitement and no demonstration.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 12, 1894] A meeting of the Grievance Committee convenes on May 10 at the Dewdrop Saloon in Kensington that lasts until 4:30 a.m. at which point the 46 members of the committee vote unanimously to strike.  At 7:00 p.m. On May 11 American Railway Union Vice-President George Washington Howard begins to address a packed Turner Hall in Kensington.  He urges the men against violence, “Now, men, you have work before you and you must do it like American citizens.  Use no threats, no intimidation, no force toward any one who gets into the works.  It must be distinctly understood that there will be no violation of the law … My advice to you is let liquor of all kinds entirely alone.  If you drink at all you are liable to lose your senses, and if you lose your senses God knows what will happen … keep sober and straight, and every laboring man in the country will be with you.”  Then Howard turns the crowd’s attention to the path ahead.  “In the past,” he begins, “corporations used to divide men who are on strike, but they can’t do it now … I heard Mr. Pullman say the other day that you men owed his company $70,000 for rent which you could not pay.  If that is so how long will it be before he owns you soul and body … I am under the opinion that it is so long since he has done any work that he has forgotten what ill-usage means, and does not know that kind words and courteous demeanor are becoming even to the President of a great corporation.  If he had taken the trouble to come down here two days ago, as he should have done, and had listened to the men’s grievances from the men, the strike would never have occurred.”  George Pullman claims he is totally surprised by the work stoppage, going into detail about how he has tried to take care of his employees.  “[The strike] not only surprised but pained me,” Pullman says., “for I had taken a great interest in keeping the men employed … I did and was doing all in my power to keep the men at Pullman supplied with work … We also spent $160,000 for improvements at the works and in the town during the last few months that we would not have made for several years had we not wanted to give the men work.  I had this done because I was exceedingly anxious for the welfare of the men.”  The strike idled the Pullman works with no end in sight when, on June 26, 1894, American Railway Union President Eugene V. Debs called for a boycott of all Pullman cars on American railroads, an action which eventually led to a walk-out of 250,000 workers in 27 states.  U. S. President Grover Cleveland ordered 12,000 federal troops to end the strikes that idled the entire western portion of the country’s transportation system. Over the course of the trouble, 30 strikers were killed and property damage exceeded $80 million.  Ultimately, Debs and Howard both went to federal prison, the American Railway Union was broken up, and Illinois ordered Pullman to sell off its residential holdings.  Strikers gather outside the Pullman Arcade Building in the above photo.

May 11, 1894 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports on a mystery solved at Fort Sheridan.  The tale begins with “uncanny noises” being heard at “unearthly hours” in the big drill hall just southwest of the fort’s tower.  The noise was compounded by the sound of “a body falling heavily on the floor,” followed by “the crash of steel and strange cries from an excited voice.”  Some believed that a ghost had haunted the drill hall … such stories had been prevalent since the end of 1893 when three separate sentries saw the ghost of a murdered officer, one the sentries even swearing that the ghost had knocked his hat off his head.  So it is that the officer of the guard organizes a raiding party and with “fixed bayonets and forty rounds of ammunition to each man the guard moved on the big room prepared for ghosts or anything else above or under ground.”  Entering the huge hall, the men find their commandant, Colonel R. E. A. Crofton, pictured above, lying on the floor, tangled up in a bicycle.  For the time being, the mystery is solved. 

May 11, 1925 – Ten thousand people jam Michigan Avenue as Ray Schalk, catcher for the Chicago White Sox, shows the crowd how to catch a ball thrown from the 560-foot top of Tribune Tower. Traffic is blocked on the Magnificent Mile for 20 minutes as Schalk makes three attempts to catch the ball. The first ball bounces off scaffolding and never makes it to the catcher’s glove. The second bounces off his glove, but he can’t make the grab. Using both hands on the third attempt, Schalk makes the catch. With the ball successfully in hand “ . . . the coppers on horseback were needed to get Ray back out of the throng so he could get to the ball park for the afternoon game.” [Chicago Tribune, May 12, 1925] The police could have taken it easy. Although their catcher caught the ball thrown from Tribune Tower, the Sox dropped the game to the Washington Senators, 9-0. Ray Schalk did not play.