Friday, February 22, 2019

February 22, 1919 -- Monroe Street Bridge Dedicated
February 22, 1919 – The new Monroe Street bridge is opened to traffic as ceremonies are held in a heavy snowstorm.  Mayor William Hale Thompson, joins Charles H. Wacker, the chairman of the Chicago Plan Commission, in opening the new span.  The first vehicles to cross the bridge are the streetcars that bring city officials to the site.  The ceremony begins when Thompson is made an honorary member of the Bridge Operators’ Local Union No. 102, after which the mayor turns a lever to place the bridge in operation.  He says, “This shows the Chicago ‘I Will’ spirit.  The completion of this bridge was delayed by court litigation.  But the bridge was needed and now we have it.  It is these things which take Chicago out of the provincial class and place in the great city class.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, February 23, 1919]  The bridge is an interesting engineering project for a couple of reasons.  It marks a transition between earlier bascule bridges on the river, designs that placed a premium on cost and efficiency of construction and operation, and subsequent bridges – structures that took to heart the “City Beautiful” concept that arose as a result of the Chicago Plan of 1909.  It is clearly a more graceful structure than the bridge at Grand Avenue, for example; yet, it does not match the graceful symmetry of the Franklin Street bridge, finished a year later.  Engineers were challenged in designing the Monroe Street bridge by a set of railroad tracks that ran along the west bank of the river at Monroe Street and took up the space where a counterweight pit would normally be located. [historic] Additionally, allowances had to be made for the construction of tracks and infrastructure for the new Union Station on the west side of the river that was being designed at the same time the bridge was being built.  Engineers came up with a plan that saw two different designs for the east and west sides of the bridge.  The counterweight arm of the west leaf is “unusually short, with a cast iron counterweight instead of the concrete one typically used in counterweight pits of larger dimensions.”  Therefore, there is no counterweight pit on the western bank while the eastern end of the bridge has a conventional pit and concrete counterweight.  [Historic American Engineering Record, National Park Service]

February 22, 1892 – All of the officials of the World’s Columbian Exposition, due to open in a little over a year, meet at the Van Buren Street station for a trip to Jackson Park where they will show off the progress of the grounds for the fair to officials from Washington, D. C.  Those with special passes gather at the Woman’s Building on a damp day, the first stop for the Congressional delegation.  At the east entrance of the building a platform stands with a huge map showing the grounds and the different buildings that will be a part of the fair.  At 10:30 a.m. the train carrying the visitors arrives with at least a thousand persons entering the grounds.  At 10:45 a.m. the President of the World’s Columbian Exposition board, William Taylor Baker, begins to speak, saying, “On behalf of the World’s Fair management I welcome you to this the scene of active operation.  Eight months hence I hope to welcome you again.  Today is but a promise of future things.  What has already been done is a guarantee that the twelfth day of October these buildings will be ready for occupancy … It is hard to derive inspiration from a foggy morning.  But we promise you all better weather when you come again.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, February 23, 1892] With that the Chief of Construction, Daniel L. Burnham, using the large map mounted on the dais, explains the grounds and the buildings.  He gives “a startling array of facts and figures.  He described the attractive features of the waterways, the different displays, and the buildings in such a way that the dullest imagination could not help framing a picture of wonderful proportions.”  At the conclusion of Burnham’s speech, the delegation heads to the roof of the Woman’s Building.  It was a “picturesque assemblage … tall Western Representatives, dapper New York politicians, Southern belles, and chivalrous Colonels.” The Tribune reports that “A common remark among the Congressmen was: ‘It’s a big thing isn’t it?’”  The above photo shows construction of the great fair, looking east across the Illinois Central Railroad tracks at Sixty-First Street.

February 22, 1922 – The Chicago Daily Tribune prints an editorial in praise of the 6,000 Chicago club women who have successfully petitioned the South Park Commissioners for the Illinois chapter of the American Society of Architects to restore one wing of the old Fine Arts building, a building that would eventually be fully restored and see new life as today’s Museum of Science and Industry.  The editorial states, “Unquestionably the building is one of the most beautiful architecturally in the world.  It is a credit to Chicago, an inspiration to modern builders, and a monument to the World’s Fair which marks an epoch in the city’s history.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, February 22, 1922] At this point, no one knows what will become of one of the only survivors of the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893.  The paper proposes some possibilities:  a branch of the Art Institute; a space for loan exhibits of Chicago artists; a school of industrial art; a park field house with gymnasiums, swimming pools, and assembly halls; even a public library branch.  The investment of just $7,000, the editorial observes, is a good one and will “furnish a striking contrast with the remainder of the building and reveal most effectively the real and potential beauties of the structure.”  The above photo shows the condition of the building that would become the city's Science Museum, today's Museum of Science and Industry, in 1925.

Emil G. Hirsch
Mary McDowell
February 22, 1914 -- Chicago comes by its role of Sanctuary City honestly as can be seen by an event that took place over a century ago.  Despite a blinding snowstorm, 2,200 out of the 4,700 citizens who have been naturalized since July 1, 1913 gather together at the Auditorium Building at the New Citizens' Allegiance Celebration. Dr. Emil G. Hirsch, who was born in Luxembourg, and is the rabbi of the Chicago Sinai Congregation, gives the address. He tells the audience, "Let us be on our guard against tampering with our Americanism by hitching it to a hyphen . . . Let us see to it that our conduct disarms this anti-alien prejudice and show that American civilization has been enriched by reason of our being here." Mrs. Mary McDowell, head of the University of Chicago settlement, the "Angel of the Stockyards," speaks especially to the women of the audience, saying, "We must learn things from you. You must give us your sentiment and ideals, for they belong to us now, and we need them. If you like this city, you can help us make it fit to live in." Dr. Hirsch and Mrs. McDowell are pictured above.

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