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.

No comments: