Tuesday, February 5, 2019

February 5, 1888 -- Chicago in the Early Days

February 5, 1888 –The Chicago Daily Tribune publishes a letter from A. D. Field, in which he describes the hamlet of Chicago in 1836, the year that his family moved into a small one-room house on the northwest corner of Clark and Madison Streets.  Field notes that on the east side of Clark Street “there were buildings form Madison street to the river … scattered along on the separate lots.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, February 5, 1888] On the west side of the street there were woods with no building on the west side of Clark Street south of Madison Street.  Later that year the family moved to a one-room log house on what would become the corner of Kinzie and Canal Streets. Field writes, “As it was open prairie it is difficult to tell just where the house stood.”  His father was transporting brick from F. C. Sherman’s brick yard on the North Branch of the river to the town, and the move made for easier access to the business.  Field says that there were “a few scattered houses along West Lake street and down along the river as far as Washington street.”  In June, 1843 Field went to live with his brother, who built a house at Halsted and Madison Streets.  Field writes, “We began on the open prairie, where there was not a ditch or a furrow.” Between Washington and Randolph Streets there was “a small frame house.”  East of Halsted on Monroe Street “there were a few scattered dwellings and one or two on Desplaines street.”  Charles Cleaver’s soap factor was on Jefferson Street, east of Halsted.  West of the Field’s new house “there was no house for ten miles.”  In 1843 lots in the vicinity sold for $50 apiece.  A little over 20 years later, Field observes, his nephew sold a “bare lot” for $40,000.  In the whole summer of 1843, Field writes, “I do not remember seeing a single human being out our way.  We were too far out of town!”  In 1844 Field moved to the corner of Clark and Kinzie Streets.  The house stood on a lot on which “the stumps of the forest trees were so plenty it was difficult making a garden.”  There were buildings on the west side of Clark Street as far as Illinois Street.  Beyond that there was open country all the way to Lincoln Park.  Field recollects wandering along Rush Street in October of 1848 toward the water- works through land that was “nothing but wooded sand hills … It was so far out of town even the adventurous boy had never ventured so far.” Field remembers that the North Side had “one lone church in 1849, one grocery, not a hotel, perhaps a few liquor holes, Lill’s brewery, a slaughterhouse – and this was the sole business then of the North Side.  The South Side had won, and the North and West Sides were deserted by business.” It was a rough, rugged frontier town … Field concludes his letter, “There was not enough people of the sort needed in the whole city to keep up one stylish house.”

February 5, 1923 – Buck and Beauty, along with Dan and Teddy, gallop out of the fire station at 10 East Hubbard Street, on this day, responding to a false alarm at Chicago Avenue and State Street.  It turns out that the alarm has been pulled purposely as part of a celebration of the retirement of horse-drawn firefighting equipment in Chicago.  With the retirement of the Hubbard Street horses, the city becomes the first city in the country with more than 500,000 residents to claim a completely motorized fire department.  In April of 1921 there were still 350 horses pulling fire equipment in the city.  That was when the fire department’s business manager, John F. Cullerton, led a city council subcommittee through a dozen cities to see if motorized fire equipment was workable.  The answer was clear.  Cullerton estimated that the changeover would save the city a half-million dollars in maintenance fees alone since each horse cost the city an average of $3,621 a year to maintain while motorized vehicles cost $1,000. [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 17, 1983]  Buck and Beauty were sold to a country pastor.  No one knows what happened to Dan, but Teddy ended up pulling a milk wagon. While on that job he was hit by an auto at Forty-Seventh and Michigan, and was thrown to the ground with his hip and leg smashed.  As the Chicago Daily Tribune reported, “… Ted lay still as a police patrol wagon sped to the scene.  As the wagon approached – its bell clanging – Ted, conditioned to the fire bell, responded.  He rose to three legs, plunged ahead a few feet, and then toppled.  A veterinarian, tears in his eyes, ended Ted’s misery with a bullet.”

February 5, 1921 – Formal action is taken on this date to obtain a state charter for the Chicago Zoological Society which plans to build a zoo and gardens on 300 acres of land that Mrs. Edith Rockefeller McCormick has donated to the forest preserve.  The president of the county board and the head of the forest preserve commissioners, Peter Reinberg, who is also one of the incorporators of the society, writes, “Though only in its tentative stage, the prevalent idea is that the organization shall follow closely that which has brought the Art Institute of Chicago to its acknowledged high standard.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, February 6, 1921] Commissioners of the new society will include:  Frank J. Wilson; William Hector MacLean; George A. Miller; Charles L. Hutchinson, president of the Art Institute of Chicago; Charles H. Wacker, chairman of the Chicago Plan Commission; and Judson F. Stone, manager of the McCormick family realty interests.  The location of the anticipated zoo is between Thirty-First Street and Thirty-Fifth Streets and is bordered by the Des Plaines River and Salt Creek.  It is anticipated that Pershing Road will lead to the grounds and that the Chicago Plan Commission will “lend its aid toward beautifying the approach to the gardens.”  The story explains why the street that runs past the south lot of Brookfield Zoo is Rockefeller Avenue.

February 5, 1998 -- The Canadian National Railroad Co. announces that it is in negotiations to acquire the Illinois Central Railroad, the "Main Line of Mid-America," a railroad that began in 1849 when Senator Stephen Douglas secured a federal land grant for the start-up, the first such grant ever awarded to a railroad. Douglas was also instrumental in a deal that allowed the I. C. to purchase a 200-foot right of way through the South Side for $21,310. Later, the line built a trestle in the lake opposite the center of the city that carried trains to a freight yard on the river. The fill that was over the years placed between that trestle and the edge of the city is now Grant Park. Mark Twain worked as a steamboat pilot on an Illinois Central boat that connected the railroad to the south. A young engineer named John Luther "Casey" Jones began his career operating trains that carried passengers form the Loop to the 1893 fair in Hyde Park. With Canadian National's announcement a love-hate relationship between Chicago and the Illinois Central that has lasted for close to 150 years is nearly at an end.

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