Monday, January 7, 2019

January 7, 1980 -- Art Institute Selects James N. Wood as Director

James N. Wood (
January 7, 1980 –The Board of Trustees of the Art Institute of Chicago announces the appointment of James N. Wood as the museum’s new director.  For the preceding five years Wood has served as director of the St. Louis Art Museum. Along with the decision concerning the position of director comes a change in the organizational structure of the institution as Wood and the museum’s president, E. Laurence Chalmers, will share equal positions, both reporting to the trustees.   During his tenure in Chicago Wood “oversaw the renovations of every single department, as well as the massive restoration of the museum's original beaux-arts building.” [Chicago Tribune, June 12, 2010]  He also founded the museum’s Department of Architecture.  His biggest achievement, though, was bringing about the long-heralded construction of the institution’s Modern Wing.  Upon his death in 2010, James Cuno, who served as president and director of the Art Institute at the time and had worked with Wood for more than 20 years, said, “I think we, all of us who work at the Art Institute today, feel that we are working to advance his legacy at the museum.  It’s a legacy that all of us who work at the Art Institute are proud to serve, and I think most of us think of it as carrying on his legacy.  I certainly feel that that’s my job, and I think we all feel it’s an honor to do so.”

January 7, 1952 – Dedication services are held at Temple Emanuel at Thorndale Avenue and Sheridan Road.  Dr. Felix Levy, Rabbi of the congregation since 1908 and his wife, Celia, are honored at the ceremony as the sanctuary is dedicated to them.  The Emanuel Congregation was founded in 1880 by 14 Jewish and Czechoslovakian families with its first meeting place on the second floor of a dry-goods store at 338 North Sedgwick Street.  In 1886 thirty families contributed $10,000 to buy a Swedish church at 280 North Franklin Street.  As Jewish families joined the general movement of folks to the north side of the city, it became clear that a more suitable place of worship was needed, and a new synagogue was dedicated on June 23, 1907 on Buckingham Street near Halsted.  The synagogue had grown so much by the 1920’s that congregants had to use the People’s Church-Uptown Temple for High Holy Days.  Land was purchased for a new synagogue at Surf Street and Sheridan Road in 1944, but demographic trends again saw Jewish families moving northward, so that lot was sold and a new lot was selected at 5959 North Sheridan Road, the site of the present Temple Emanuel.  Today Rabbi Craig Marantz leads the congregation and Cantor Michelle D. Friedman leads music at services.  The religious school of the synagogue has 160 students.

January 7, 1955 – The Art Institute of Chicago goes to Circuit Court seeking to change the definition of a word – monument.  In 1905 a wealthy Chicago lumber man, Benjamin Ferguson died, with his will providing for a million-dollar trust fund to be used to beautify the city’s parks with monuments.  In the ensuing fifty years the original trust fund has generated a million dollars in interest income, and the institute wants to use the money to construct an addition that would stand just north of the original 1893 building, fronting on Monroe Street.  The Art Institute has already filed a suit similar to this one back in 1933, but because the plans for the building have changed as well as its location, it’s back to court again for the art folks and their legal representatives.  The suit that the Art Institute files names the attorney general of Illinois, Latham Castle, as the defendant.  Castle is the member of the fund’s trustees representing the public.

January 7, 1929 -- With the application for the necessary construction permits pending in the war department, the U. S. Senate and the House of Representatives pass identical bills granting consent to the Lincoln and South Park Boards to build an outer drive link bridge at the mouth of the Chicago RIver. It would be close to a decade before the Lake Shore Drive bridge would be completed, but the process had begun. Look just to the left of the west end of Navy Pier in the above photo and you can see what the shoreline at the mouth of the river looked like before the Lake Shore Drive Bridge was completed in 1938.

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