Saturday, March 23, 2019

March 23, 1910 -- Chicago Police Silence the Oom-Pah Music
March 23, 1910 – Trouble on Quincy Street as a police officer, one William Rourke, “a County Kerry man,” [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 24, 1910]  stops outside a saloon as he hears a six-member oGerman band playing inside.  According to the Tribune’s report, "Rourke steps into the saloon and commands, 'In the name av the state av Illinois.  I command yez to stop this.  It’s gone far enough.'”  The band leader puts down his E flat coronet and asks the officer what the problem is. “Can ye play Th’ Wearin’ av th’ Green? No?  Well, then can ye play Th’ Wind that Shakes th’ Barley?  No?  Well, then, d’ ye know Tatter Jack Welch?  No?” With no answer forthcoming to his liking, the officer orders the band members to follow him to the station house, proclaiming, “I’ll not have this kind av a nuisance on my beat.”  At the First District police station Lieutenant Ben Reed asks the band members what they have to say for themselves.  Again, according to the Tribune, the leader answers, “This policeman he sait to me ‘Can you blay The Green Is Wearing Off?’  I sait no, we din’t had the music.  Then he ask me to blay The Vind Dot Shakes the Wheat. Once more alretty I sait to him dot ve didn’t blay dot kind of music.  The he sait 'Come with me to the station.’”  The lieutenant allows the musicians to leave, making them promise “that they would never invade the loop district again [or] he would put the whole bunch downstairs  if they didn’t get back to the ‘nord seit.’”

March 23, 1921 – Two gifts of $50,000 are unveiled, one from William Wrigley, Jr. and the other from the trustees of the Ferguson Fund, with the money underwriting a plan “to make the new Michigan avenue bridge with its approaches one of the show places of the world and a link between the Chicago of today and the village of the historic past.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 24, 1921] Charles H. Wacker, Chairman of the Chicago Plan Commission, says, “Not only for the direct result, but also for its influence toward the finest and better city of the future, do we value these public spirited benefactions.  They cannot fail to point the way to others who will be called upon to aid in embellishing the improved South Water street.  Decorative features and sculpture must be provided to make the Chicago river attractive like European water courses, and an object of beauty instead of ugliness.” The plan is to create bridgehouses on each corner of the bridge that will present the history that has taken place in the location where the new bridge crosses the river.  The bridgehouse at the northeast corner stands approximately at the spot where the first non-native American settler, Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable, built his home.  At the southwest corner stood the site of Fort Dearborn.  The sculptures that grace the bridgehouses today are a direct result of the gifts of 1921.  Wrigley’s contribution made possible the work on the north side of the bridge. The Discoverers by James Earle Fraser shows four early discoverers who explored the area in the seventeenth century. The Pioneers depicts early settler John Kinzie leading a group through the wilderness.  The sculptures on the southern bridgehouses were commissioned by the B. F. Ferguson Monument Fund and are the work of Henry Hering.  Defense depicts Ensign George Ronan in a scene from the 1812 Battle of Fort Dearborn, and Regeneration depicts workers rebuilding Chicago after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. As a kick sometime when you are passing by the Regeneration sculpture on the southeast bridgehouse, check out that funky salamander nipping at that stalwart female’s ankles.  Symbolism a-plenty.

March 23, 1963 – An estimated half-million people turn out “in sparkling spring weather” [Chicago Tribune, March 24, 1963] to greet President John F. Kennedy, jamming the route of his motorcade “wherever he traveled during his four hour stay.”  Secret service agents and police officers scramble at one point as the president orders his limousine stopped on the Cumberland Avenue overpass and gets out to shake hands with members of a crowd of several hundred people who had gathered at that location.  Under the Lake Street viaduct on the expressway workers remove the plastic bubble top of the limousine and haul it away in a city truck.  “Then, with the warm spring breezes ruffling his hair, Mr. Kennedy began his entry into the Loop, an entry made almost triumphant as the nation’s biggest Democratic organization turned all-out to greet the President and their mayoral candidate [Mayor Richard J. Daley] in the April 2 election.”  Another moment that took the motorcade by surprise occurs on Jackson Boulevard, which is “the domain of the various ward organization delegations.”  The bridge tender on Jackson gives the procession a salute by ringing the bridge’s bells and activating its flashing lights.  The bridge remains stationary, though, and where “Jackson boulevard slashes thru the city’s financial district, the air was filled with confetti and ticker tape.”  With temperatures near 60 degrees and bright sunshine throughout his short stay in the city, the president doubly felt the warmth of his Chicago welcome.

March 23, 1946 -- The United States Navy announces that the 265-foot U. S. S. Willmette will be sold, closing a chapter in Chicago history that began in 1903 when the ship was built as a freighter. It was almost immediately converted to a passenger ship that could hold as many as 2,000 people. The name of the ship was the Eastland, the ship that took 812 people to their graves when it capsized in the Chicago River on July 24, 1915. After she was raised, the Navy purchased the hulk and converted it to a training ship with a new name. Captain E. A. Evers, who lived in Willmette, and other interested citizens, were successful in having the ship named after that North Shore community. The Navy found no buyers for the ship, and it was decommissioned and broken up for scrap in that same year of 1946.

Friday, March 22, 2019

March 22, 1946 -- State Street Looks to Helicopter Shoppers
March 22, 1946 – With World War II concluded, the city begins to look toward the future, and Randall Cooper, the executive secretary of the State Street council, says that merchants’ plans include landing platforms on the roofs of Loop department stores that will handle helicopter taxi service to State Street department stores.  “We have known for years that Chicago’s world famous shopping street is the number one attraction for women visitors who have only an hour or two in the city,” says Cooper.  “We have hoped for a long time that some means could be provided to bring people held at the airport between planes into the city, and much of the talk has been about using helicopters.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 24, 1946]  He continues, “It would be an exciting experience for people bound over at the airport for two or three hours to be flown quickly into the heart of the shopping district.  It is something we have definitely in mind.”  

March 22, 1932 – The Illinois Department of Public Works announces that $400,000 of gasoline tax revenue will be allocated for a one-mile extension of Lake Shore Drive from Montrose Avenue to Foster Avenue.  Although the land has not been created for the section north of Wilson Avenue, the half-mile section between Montrose and Wilson can begin as soon as weather permits.  Plans call for two 40-foot wide roadways with enough land on either side to allow them to be widened to 60 feet.  Grade separations will also be built at Montrose with future grade separations at Lawrence and Foster Avenues.  This is just one part of a highway program that will see $2,000,000 spent on improving roads across the city in 1932.  The above photo shows the new road in 1938 at Wilson Avenue with the completed grade separation.

March 22, 1902 – Members of the Western Society of Engineers inspect the cofferdam being prepared for the foundation of the new bridge at Randolph Street.  In doing so they examine “the first American test of steel sheet piling, which, it is contended will work a revolution in dock and bridge construction.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 23, 1902] Tryggve Larssen, a government surveyor in Bremen, Germany, seems to have come up with the idea for the rolled steel piles with a channel-shaped cross section. [].  The first installation of the new supporting members was in a waterfront structure in Bremen and are still serving their original purpose today.  Impressive, isn’t it, that engineers in Chicago picked up on the idea so quickly, and foundries responded with a similar amount of speed?  In the case of Chicago with its high water table and sandy soil, it was thought that the new Larssen pilings could save at least a month in constructing cofferdams.  As can be seen in the above photo, the cofferdams created for the extension of the city's River Walk were formed with basically the same engineering as they were back in 1902.

March 22, 1955 -- The federal government awards a $507,765 contract for reconstructing the Congress Street arcade through the Chicago post office in a move that will permit extension of the west side expressway through the building and across the river on a new bridge by the fall of 1956. Pathman Construction Company is the successful bidder. The city will pick up another $600,000 of the project. Since 1952 the federal government has spent another eight million dollars altering the post office building so that it can accommodate the new expressway, The post office can barely be seen in the center of the photo above as the area east of the building waits for the construction of what today is the Congress Expressway.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

March 21, 1963 -- CTA Head Virgil Gunlock Dies

Virgil E. Gunlock
March 21, 1963 – The head of the Chicago Transit Authority, Virgil E. Gunlock, dies in Illinois Masonic Hospital at the age of 57 after suffering a heart attack on March 12.  Much of the city’s infrastructure that we take for granted today came about as a result of Gunlock’s leadership in a number of areas. Born on a farm near New Canton in Pike County in 1905, he attended the University of Illinois, graduating with a degree in civil engineering in 1927.  In 1938 when the city began its first subway on State Street, Gunlock was appointed resident engineer on the contract.  During construction he rose to the position of chief subway engineer.  In 1945 he was appointed the Commissioners of Subways and Superhighways just as the city was preparing for a monumental expressway building program.  In 1952 he was named as the city’s Commissioner of Public Works.  Two years later he was appointed to the CTA board.  As head of the CTA Gunlock realized that the system, which had shrunk by nearly 25% by the mid-1950’s, could not survive without some sort of government subsidy, and along with Daley he worked diligently to make politicians and the public realize the importance of that fact.  He also prepared a “wish list” of projects that the mayor lobbied local and state legislators to bring to completion.   This included rapid transit lines in the medians of the planned northwest and south (Kennedy and Ryan) expressways, a "first" in the United States.  A memorial column published in the Chi Zetagram, the newsletter of the Lambda Chi Alpha chapter at the U. of I., stated, “Had lesser men occupied the key posts held by Mr. Gunlock, many of the city’s most important public works projects would never have advanced as rapidly or as smoothly as they did.  Mr. Gunlock will be remembered as a highly-skilled, good-humored, but no-nonsense engineer-administrator who played a major role in the building of today’s Chicago.” 

March 21, 1969 – Rennie Davis, the coordinator of the National Mobilization Committee in Chicago, already under indictment for his role in disturbances at the Democratic National Convention in 1968, threatens to bring new protests to the city.  Speaking at a press conference with Lee Weiner, a Northwestern University research assistant also under indictment, Davis says, “I believe the demonstration leaders who were indicted will receive the support to show that the Nixon administration made a serious mistake and will be sorry for it.” [Chicago Tribune, March 22, 1969] Protest will come in the form of an anti-war march on April 5, to coincide with similar marches in a half-dozen other cities.  At the same time Davis is speaking, Superintendent of Police James Conlisk announces the suspensions of four of the eight policemen indicted by a grand jury for their actions during the convention.  Conlisk says he will recommend dismissal of the officers to the police disciplinary board.  Prior to this announcement, only one of the officers had received any disciplinary action.  Captain Raymond Clark, director of the police internal investigations division says the investigation of the officers was “thorough, but apparently the government has avenues of investigation not open to the police department.”

March 21, 1894 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports on the remarks of Judge Lorin C. Collins, a respected jurist who served as the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives and as a Chicago Circuit Court Judge before retiring to private practice in 1893.   He speaks of the great opportunity that lies before the city in potential park land along the lake, saying of the land that one day would become Grant Park, “Every one admits that the people have rights there, but so long as we go putting buildings there, which are not ornamental, and filling it up the same as the property west and south, they see no use in maintaining them.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 21, 1894]   The judge’s proposal, which he says would be trivial in comparison to the building of the World’s Fair of 1893, still is huge in its scope.  He says, “I would propose, as a general plan, to remove all the Illinois Central tracks north of the new depot, which are mainly used for freight purposes, and take away all the unsightly structures north nearly or quite to the river. Condemnation proceedings could be instituted, and I do not think a jury would fix the damages at excessive figures.  Any legislation necessary could be secured at Springfield for such a purpose with comparative ease, and I think the State would willingly cede what rights it now claims in the land in question.  I would pay for this improvement by a general park tax on all the city and the entire cost would not be as great as that of Jackson Park now.  Bonds might be issued allowing future generations to help pay for something of which they would get the benefit … One can hardly estimate the great benefit to the city from having a magnificent park on our Lake-Front.  Not only would it be of incalculable benefit to the residents of the city, but it would be a park such as no other city in the world has, and render us proportionately famous … I would wipe out everything there except the Art Institute and make one grand park of it.”  The above photo, taken in 1893, looks south in the area that would one day become Grant Park. 

March 21, 1867 -- Before a packed Coliseum crowd Professor R. D. Hamilton holds forth, providing instruction in the taming of horses. The venue is so crowded that the doors are ordered closed to prevent any more people from crowding in. At the end of the lecture a grocer, one Mr. Minogue, brings a bay horse "which proved to be a vicious brute" [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 22, 1867], apparently hoping that the good professor could perform his magic on the beast. Before anything could be accomplished, though, the horse "sprang wildly" into the packed crowd. "A scream of terror rose from every part of the house, and this had the effect of still further maddening the infuriated animal, who struggled and pranced form one circle of seats to another among the thickest of the spectators, till he reached nearly to the roof of the circus." At that point the flooring gave way above a series of lion's cages and horse and spectators disappeared.. Predictably, someone cried, "The lions are loose," and terror reigned. "There were a few women among the audience, and, of course, they all fainted . . . what became of the horse no one knew for a while; but it appears he had succeeded in chasing the buffalo loose . . ." Before long the doors were opened, and the members of the audience were free. Soon after that Professor Hamilton sought out the "irrepressible horse" and "in a brief space of time the wild horse was as tame and peaceful as a lamb." All in a day's work in pre-fire Chicago.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

March 20, 1951 -- Illinois Central Served with "Jim Crow" Lawsuit
March 20, 1951 – The Illinois Commerce Commission receives a complaint filed by the State’s Attorney’s office on behalf of Miss Vera Johnson.  She charges the railroad with operating a “Jim Crow” car on its City of New Orleans passenger train.  The complaint states that on a trip to Canton, Mississippi on July 1, 1950 Johnson’s ticket was stamped “Car 2” and “she had to walk the length of the train to the last car where a ‘Jim Crow’ car had been provided for exclusive use of Negro passengers on a segregated basis.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 21, 1951]  The charge further states that she was “physically prevented” from sitting elsewhere on the train even though other cars had empty seats.  A spokesman for the railroad denies that there is any segregation on its trains.  The all-coach City of New Orleans, traveling at an average speed close to 60 m.p.h., is shown passing a coal train in 1954 near Kankakee, Illinois in the above photo.

March 20, 1890 – The City Council’s Finance Committee receives a report from the Secretary of the Board of Health, regarding the impact of the Chicago River on the health of the city’s residents.  It is not a source for optimism, beginning with the first line, “Owing to the increased quantity of sewage that empties into the Chicago River and the small amount removed by the Bridgeport pumps the river, during the last season, was as offensive as at any time before the deep cut in the canal was made, and, in fact, in the history of Chicago.  Not only is the river a nuisance in the present condition, but it is a positive source of danger to the health of the citizens of Chicago which will increase with its growth in population.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 21, 1890] The report paints a dire picture if nothing is done … “Delay in this matter by those in authority, so far as the people of Chicago are concerned, is simply criminal, and as regards the adjoining communities that are imposed upon by this nuisance, an outrage.”  The report recommends an immediate effort to increase the pumping capacity necessary to move the waters of the river and all of its sewage westward into the Illinois and Michigan Canal and Des Plaines River. Tests show that a minimum of 120,000 cubic feet of water must be moved westward each minute to keep the river in a condition that will not affect the health of the city.  In the summer of 1888 the pumps at Bridgeport moved no more than 45,000 cubic feet per minute and during the winter of 1888-89 that fell to 38,000 cubic feet per minute.  The report makes two recommendations, insisting that they be acted on as quickly as possible.  The first is that “pumping works for further relief should be immediately erected at some suitable point of discharge on the Des Plaines River, as recommended by the board in 1879.”  The city should also plan “an increase of the pumping plant at Bridgeport as may be practicable to provide for the present necessities and augmented amount of sewage that will discharged between the present time and the completion of the waterway from Lake Michigan to the Illinois River.”  It will be ten long years before that waterway, the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal opens, which makes the response of the Finance Committee to the report almost laughable, “The report does not say in what manner the expenditure for the improvements above recommended can be provided for, and the matter will no doubt provoke a lively discussion during the pendency of the appropriation bill.”

March 20, 1967 – The members of the Chicago Blackhawks are honored in the City Council chambers for bringing home Chicago’s first National Hockey League title.  Each player receives a certificate of merit and Mayor Daley presents team captain Pierre Pilote and chairman of the board Arthur M. Wirtz with the five-foot high Mayor Daley trophy.  Despite rain and slush, fans turn out to see the team’s parade which starts at State Street and Wacker Drive, led by the 88-piece Chicago Fire Department band.  Bobby Hull almost misses the festivities at City Hall when he is delayed by autograph seekers and barred from entering the council chambers by the sergeant at arms who tells him there is no more room. Fortunately, fans stationed near the door alert the official that the man trying to get in is the Golden Jet who scored 52 goals and assisted on another 28 during the season and notched another four goals in the play-offs.  The Hawks finished first in regular season play, but lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs, four games to two, in the playoff's semi-finals.

March 20, 1948 -- Marshall Field & Co. opens its restaurant in the passenger terminal building of Chicago Airport, now Midway International Airport. On the evening before the opening Mayor Martin Kennelly is the guest of honor in the new dining room, named the Cloud Room, a 3,600 square foot dining salon that overlooks the landing field of the new airport. Field's pays $90,000 to build out the second floor of the restaurant and $260,000 to equip it. The company agrees to pay the city $2,596 or five percent of its gross business and 40 percent of its net profit.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

March 19, 1900 -- First Ward Hosts 746 Saloons
March 19, 1900 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that the City Missionary Society has produced a map to scale which shows that there are 746 saloons in the First Ward of the city with one block in that ward hosting “twenty saloons in an almost unbroken string.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 19, 1900] Although there are a dozen churches in the ward, the society indicates that is offset by the fact that there are 18 theaters in the same district.  The map does not count hotel bars, and some restaurants and clubs have been omitted or overlooked.  The Reverend J. C. Armstrong, the head of the Missionary Society, has looked beyond the First Ward, noting that n an area bounded by Seventeenth Street on the north, Wood Street on the east, Twenty-Fifth Street on the south, and Western Avenue on the west, a map shows 110 saloons, two breweries, and two dance halls.  In the area lying north of Oak Street, west of Franklin and northwest on each side of Clybourn Avenue, Armstong’s map shows 100 saloons, seven dance halls and a theater.  Commenting on the number of saloons in the city, the Reverend Dr. William E. McLennan, the pastor of Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church, says, “Wherever these saloons are found, in just proportion that they exist crimes are committed … Not only is this class of saloon an incentive to crime through dispensing liquor, but as an institution it is a shelter for criminals.  It breeds crime as much by concealing the criminal as by nerving him for his acts through drink.”  The Fred M. Kantzler Jr. Saloon at 2101 South State Street is pictured above in 1903.

March 19, 1963 – Joining 1,400 Democratic party workers at a luncheon at the Morrison Hotel, Illinois Senator Paul Douglas and Governor Otto Kerner urge listeners to get Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley “the biggest majority in the city’s history” [Chicago Tribune, March 20, 1963] in the upcoming April 2 election.  Kerner describes Daley as “the best mayor Chicago has ever had,” and jokes that his wife, who is the daughter of former Mayor Anton Cermak, may not let him in the door when he comes home after giving such an encomium to Daley. The only negative in the praise-fest is when State’s Attorney Daniel Ward urges the elected officials, precinct captains and party workers gathered below the dais “to take a question into each home, and that is what happened to the $94,940 in cash from Mr. Adamowski’s contingency fund. [Adamowski’s campaign got off to a hobbled start when whispering began that he had used part of his office’s contingency fund on his own campaign.] He is vocal about many things, but silent about that.”  Daley frowns at the mention of his opponent’s name.  Later, those close to Daley say that Ward broke one of Daley’s “cardinal rules in politics: never mention the name of your opponent, but campaign solely on your own record without any ‘mud-slinging.’”

March 19, 1911 – Over two-dozen firemen are overcome by smoke and fumes on a day in which 71 fires are reported in the city as a fire rips though Warehouse “B” of the Monarch Refrigerating Company plant at 40 East Michigan Street.  The flames are fed by a million pounds of butter, and the thick walls of the plant, along with the small refrigeration cells within it and narrow hallways connecting them make it nearly impossible to get water onto the blaze in sufficient quantities to do much good.  Chief Arthur Seyferlich of the second battalion is among the first to reach the fire and helps to carry injured firemen down fire escapes. He is overcome by smoke in his second search of the building and has to be rescued by his brother.  Fourteen horse-drawn fire engines work on Cass Street, four more work on Rush Street and another four are placed at Michigan and State. The fire, which most probably results from frayed wires on the fifth floor, burns for days.  Lost in the fire are 764 cans of eggs that the United States government had seized as evidence on the ground that they contained “putrid matter.”  The eggs were to be presented as evidence before Judge Kenesaw Landis the following week.  Chief Seyferlich, who served as Chicago's Fire Marshal from 1921 to 1926, is pictured above. 

March 19, 1928 -- The Morrison Hotel, the first building outside of New York to rise more than 40 stories, is selected by Mayor William Hale Thompson's Radio Commission as the building on which the "Lindbergh Light" will be placed. The hotel agrees to pay for the cost of the 200 foot tower on which the light will sit and assume the responsibility for its maintenance. In 1927 Mr. Elmer G. Sperry, President of the Sperry Gyroscope Company, offered the beacon, which will be seen for 250 miles, providing that Chicago find a way to mount and maintain it. GREAT NEWS! But it didn't work out. A competition began between two great beacons, one proposed for the Roanoke Building on LaSalle Street and Mr. Sperry's Lindbergh Light. In the end a stationary beam was placed on the brand new La Salle-Wacker Building and the Lindbergh Light ended up at the top of the Palmolive Building, completed in 1929. It turns out that Elmer Sperry never saw his controversial beacon. He died two months before it cast its first beam into the Chicago night.  The Morrison Hotel was demolished in 1965 to make way for the new First National Bank of Chicago building, now Chase, at Clark and Madison.

Monday, March 18, 2019

March 18, 1938 -- Central Trust Company Building Is Razed
March 18, 1938 – Wreckers begin the razing of the Central Trust Company building at Monroe and La Salle Streets with the cleared site to be used as a parking lot.  The Central Trust Company, completed in 1900, housed a number of different financial institutions.  The Home Savings Bank and offices occupied the first floor.  On the second and third floors the Equitable Trust Company was located.  Offices of the Chicago National Bank, the Home Savings bank, the Equitable Trust Company and the Chicago Safe Deposit Company were scattered throughout the building.  There was a cafĂ© for the use of employees and bank officers on the fourth floor.  The basement was “fitted with the largest, most complete, and most luxurious safe deposit vaults in the world.”  []   It must have been a magnificent building with walls “made of the rarest and most beautiful marble that man has yet wrested from the bosom of the earth,” much of it Pavanazzo marble, imported from Carrara. The banking room on the first floor was also adorned with sixteen murals painted by Lawrence C. Earle, depicting scenes in the growth of the city from the winter quarters of Father Marquette in 1674 to the Chicago River at Lake Street in 1900.  A Skidmore, Owings and Merrill office tower rising 37 stories was completed on this site in 1974.  The former building and the new tower are shown in the photos above.

March 18, 2014 – Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Senator Dick Durbin announce that work will begin on an elevated lakefront path, stretching for 1,750 feet, near Navy Pier.  The $60 million, multi-year project will be called the Navy Pier Flyover, and it has been on the drawing board for over ten years.  The construction process will consist of three tricky phases in one of the most congested areas of the city.  In fact, part of the structure will run just nine inches to the west of Lake Point Tower, and engineers will have to remove part of the shoulder of Lake Shore Drive to  wedge the path into place. Phase one will begin on the lakefront trail just north of the Ohio Street Beach and move to the north bank of Ogden Slip with a spur for bicyclers and pedestrians leading toward Navy Pier.  Phase two will carry the flyover across Ogden Slip.  Phase three will bridge the Chicago River, alongside Lake Shore Drive before sloping down to DuSable Park.  The last phase is expected to finish up in the spring of 2018 (although that has now been changed to sometime beyond mid-2019).  In most places the new trail will be 16 feet wide, a superior trek for bikers and walkers who have been forced to vie with one another on a dark, narrow sidewalk across the lower level of the Lake Shore Drive bridge.

March 18, 1903 – The Chicago Daily Tribune editorializes favorably about a bill that will be discussed in Springfield allowing “the commissioners in charge of parks and boulevards bordering on public waters to extend them over and upon the bed of such public waters.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 8, 1903] One result of the bill, if approved, will be the ability of the south park commissioners to gain title to the submerged land several hundred yards off shore from Jackson Park north to the Lake-Front Park.  “There is no room for differences of opinion as to the wisdom of an enabling act of this kind,” the editorial writers state.  “It will save for public use and enjoyment what may otherwise be lost to the city.  Chicago has what few other great cities have, a frontage upon a large body of water.  That natural advantage has been utilized thus far for esthetic purposes in Lincoln and Jackson parks … There is no reason why there should not be in the future a lake front open to the people between Grant and Jackson parks.”   The editorial admits that the ability to take advantage of the city’s riparian rights will be hindered by a lack of financing to fund a project of this size.  Despite this the editorial concludes, “The bill to give the park commissioners title to the submerged lands should pass without opposition.  Then the lands will be preserved for the city to be utilized by it when it shall be in a position to do so.”  The above photo, taken in 1907, shows the ongoing project of creating made land in the area that is today Grant Park.

March 18, 1895 -- Twenty paintings by Claude Monet are placed on display at the Art Institute of Chicago. They are described by the Chicago Daily Tribune as "much more rational than those of his followers and imitators. They form an interesting showing of the rapid noting of illusive appearances in nature upon which the fame of the painter rests." Monet had been painting since 1856 and had completed his "Grain Stacks" series, a kind of visual manifesto for Impressionism in 1890. He had painted his series of Rouen Cathedral in 1892 through 1894. It would be interesting to know what 20 paintings went on display in the new building that the Art Institute had occupied for only two years when Monet's works went on display.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

March 17, 1910 -- St. Patrick's Day Visitor -- William Howard Taft
March 17, 1910 – President William Howard Taft arrives at the Pennsylvania Railroad’s temporary Thirty-Third Street station from where he is transported to the La Salle Hotel at the corner of La Salle Street and Madison Avenue. Along the route the president is “the recipient of a continuous round of cheering and other salutations from the tens of thousands of men, women, and children who flanked both sides of the boulevards along which the parade moved.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 18, 1910]  Several groups form independent greeting parties for the president who is in town for the St. Patrick’s Day celebration.  The Webster School at Thirty-Third Street and Wentworth Avenue had its students out in front of the school building, and the youngsters “waved flags, cheered, and sang patriotic songs.” As Taft passed, he remarked, “I like that – I like that.  I love to see the children.  It does me good.” 

March 17, 1937 – Mayhem reigns in the Loop as “organized mobs of striking taxicab drivers, led by professional sluggers, attacked cabs at a score of points … Drivers were knocked senseless and passengers were threatened and thrown from their seats.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 18, 1937] Police arrest 23 during the violence that lasts for an hour downtown and continues in other areas of the city as night falls.  A Checker cab is rolled over at Wells and Randolph Streets, and another one is turned over on Randolph between Wells and LaSalle.  Two other cabs are overturned in the vicinity, and a mounted policeman is pulled from his horse and beaten.  The reports continue to come in … “One driver who abandoned his cab and ran for refuge to the city hall was caught at the Randolph street entrance and slugged by ten men … Twenty strikers rushed a Checker cab near the Garrick theater and overturned it as the driver fled … At Randolph and LaSalle streets Policeman Pat Neylon dispersed some rioters by leveling a shotgun at them … In front of the Woods theater hundreds gathered as a Yellow cab met the same fate … Rioters struck again in front of the Burnham building, 160 North LaSalle street, overturning a Yellow cab … Joseph Ellers, 28 years old, a Checker driver, was beaten by a gang of eight men who overturned his cab in Washington street near Michigan avenue …”  The riot begins after 1,700 strikers attend a meeting early in the afternoon at Atlas Hall, Milwaukee Avenue and Noble Street.  At the conclusion of that meeting some 200 men begin walking east in small groups toward the Loop, looking for trouble.  The police department floods the Loop with all of the men it can find – 75 student policemen from the East Chicago Avenue station, 19 squads from other districts, and six detective bureau squads.  All leaves and days off for police are cancelled until the taxicab strike, now into its twelfth day, is over. The strike goes on for another week before it finally ends.

March 17, 1960 -- A Northwest Airlines plane with 63 passengers and crew members explodes above the Ohio River between Indiana and Kenturcky and spreads wreckage over a five-mile wide area.  The plane is less than an hour out of Midway Airport enroute to Miami when two explosions blow it apart.  Air experts are quick to point out that the accident is almost exactly like an earlier Lockheed Electra explosion less than a half-year earlier over Waco, Texas.  An eyewitness, Ted Wilson, a farmer living about three miles from Tell City, Indiana, pins the time of the disaster at around 3:20 p.m.  “There was an interval of about 5 seconds after the first explosion when there was a second one,” he says.  “I’d not quite reached my porch.  When I got there I looked one way but saw nothing.  Then right out in front not over 200 yards away in a neighbor’s soybean field there came down the main cabin.  It hit the ground and there was a terrible sound—like another explosion, but no fire.” [Chicago Tribune, March 17, 1960] Among the victims sre Judge John A. Sharbaro, a 71-year-old judge, Marty Collins Chalfen, the producer of the Holiday on Ice skating shows and her three children, and Mrs. Andy Frain, the wife of “the nation’s top expert on controlling crowds.”  Subsequent investigation determined that the probable cause of the accident was the in-flight separation of the plane’s right wing while cruising at 18,000 feet.

March 17, 1921 -- Dr. Frank W. Gunsaulus dies at his home at 2919 Prairie Avenue at the age of 66. J. Ogden Armour, who gave generously to fund the Armour Institute, over which Dr. Gunsaulus presided for its first 27 years, said of the man, "His life was one of achievement; his success lay in helping others to help themselves . . . No one associated, as I have been all my life, with such a lovable character could be other than bowed down with grief at his untimely passing." Gunsaulus came to Chicago in 1887 as a Methodist minister and quickly became a civic leader of the first degree. His sermons and lectures constantly reminded the members of the city's elite of their responsibility toward the poor and uneducated. His philosophy led directly to the establishment of the Armour Institute of Technology, a trade school for the practical arts and sciences, endowed by Phillip Armour and nurtured by his son. He was the author of 15 books and was a key figure in pushing Chicago as the site of the 1893 World's Fair.  His commitment to art and culture prompted railroad equipment tycoon William Miner to donate $50,000 to the Art Institute for new galleries on condition that the addition be named for Dr. Gunsaulus. Gunsaulus Hall, of course, spans the railroad tracks, as it connects the original institute to the eastern campus on Columbus Drive.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

March 16, 1909 -- University of Chicago Announces Two Rockefeller Gifts

Harry Pratt Judson
March 16, 1909 – University of Chicago President Harry Pratt Judson announces at spring convocation ceremonies that the school has received two large gifts from John D. Rockefeller. The oil baron makes a cash donation of $76,000 to be used for the maintenance and improvement of the physical plant.  The second gift, a yearly sum of $20,000 is to be paid for five years so that a School of Education can be developed.  The convocation speaker, Professor Paul Shorey, makes it clear that the university will maintain its independence, despite the generosity of its donors.  Shorey says, “There is a notion in many quarters that speech is not so free in an endowed school as in those institutions which the state provides for its inhabitants.  Just let me say here that the University of Chicago is the freest place in the world. Here a man may not only say what he wills but he may be the thing he wills.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 17, 1909]

March 16, 1993 – The first firefighters arrive at the Paxton Residence Hotel at 1432 North LaSalle Street to find dozens of people “perched on ledges or dangling out of windows trying to escape the smoke and flames.” [Chicago Tribune, March 17, 2007] “We had people hanging out on every side,” one firefighter says.  The Paxton that night is filled nearly to capacity with 160 residents, most of them poor, elderly or both.  The blaze, which starts in Room 121 in the southwest section of the structure, roars up stairwells, fed by strong winds that whip into the building as people open windows to get relief from the smoke filling their apartments.  The first call reporting the fire comes in at 4:05 a.m., and two engines, a tower ladder, an aerial tower, a paramedic squad and a battalion chief are dispatched, arriving five minutes later.  The initial evaluation of the scene reveals heavy smoke coming out of the top three stories and people hanging out of windows on the upper floors.  A full box alarm is ordered, and two additional engines, a ladder truck and two battalion chiefs are sent to the scene.  The first firefighters find the first-floor hallway to be clear of smoke, but in the southwest corner of the building they find the stairway on fire as well as two first-floor rooms.  With a 2 1/2-inch hose line they are able to extinguish the fire in the rooms but are unable to control the fire rapidly spreading up the stairway, part of which has already collapsed.  They are forced to withdraw from the building, and as they depart, arriving units see that things are becoming increasingly dire as the amount of smoke coming from upper story windows is increasing continuously and more and more occupants are hanging out of those windows, calling for help.  Five alarms are ultimately struck with 30 pieces of fire equipment and 20 paramedic vans on the scene.  At first, though, there are more occupants in need of rescue than there are firefighters and ladders.  Buildings, power lines and trees make the use of aerial ladders nearly impossible, so ground ladders are deployed as quickly as possible.  According to an analysis of the response, “… firefighters sometimes gauged the need for rescue by the stress in the occupants’ voices … Sometimes firefighters could hear, but not see, an occupant due to the heavy smoke that remained close to the ground engulfing the building; as a result, they placed ladders close to the voice as they attempted to locate the person.” [] The National Fire Protection Association’s investigation reveals a number of factors that lead to the loss of 20 lives and over two dozen injuries in the Paxton fire.  The report concludes that the factors include (1) fire spread in combustible concealed spaces; (2) stairways without doors; (3) the lack of subdivisions in corridors; (4) the lack of an operating building-wide fire alarm system; and (5) the delay in fire department notification due in part to the absence of fire detection equipment.

March 16, 1966 – Prince Philip races through a packed 14-hour schedule in Chicago, ending with a $100-a-plate fundraising dinner in the Grand ballroom of the Conrad Hilton Hotel attended by 1,000 guests, with most of the proceeds from the event going to La Rabida sanitarium in Jackson Park.  The prince flies into O’Hare on the preceding evening and is taken to the Drake Hotel where he stays the night.  The next day begins with an entourage leaving the Drake, headed for City Hall on La Salle Street, where the Chicago fire department band and Omar, its Saint Bernard mascot, greet the prince.  Mayor Daley meets his royal guest in front of the building, and the Chicago Highlanders kilty band leads them into the City Council chambers, where the prince is made an honorary citizen of Chicago.  The Mayor says, “The city remembers July 1959, when the sky smiled down and Chicago opened its arms for the queen and you; it was an unforgettable occasion.  No individual so genuinely reflects the most admirable qualities of modern England in trade, in science, in sports, and culture as you do.” [Chicago Tribune, March 17, 1966] The prince then meets with executives at Marshall Field and Company and Sears, Roebuck and Company and delivers a speech at a business men’s luncheon at the Ambassador West.  From there he is taken to La Rabida where he “chatted casually with the youngsters, all dressed in their best finery.”  A stop is also made at the University of Chicago campus where Prince Philip is greeted by the university’s president, George Beadle, and his wife and Mrs. Laura Fermi.  The above photo shows the prince talking to Robert Sorenson, a C.T.A. motorman during his short stay in Chicago.

March 16, 1937 -- Workmen begin driving 1,600 piles that will form a coffer dam a third of a mile east of the outer drive bridge. Ultimately 32,000 tons of concrete will rest on the piles, serving as support for the steel gates that will lie at one end of the lock intended to control the flow of water from Lake Michigan into the Chicago River. The work comes as a result of a 1930 U. S. Supreme Court decision that ordered installation of such a lock with a deadline of December 31, 1938. Today an estimated 50,000 vessels and 900,000 passengers go through the lock each year. It is one of two entrances to the Illinois Waterway system from the Great Lakes. The other is the Thomas J. O'Brien lock on the Calumet River.