Tuesday, March 26, 2019

March 26, 1954 -- Fort Dearborn Project Study Begins

March 26, 1954 – The Chicago Land Clearance Commission authorizes a special study of the $400 million Fort Dearborn redevelopment project proposed for the Near North Side. The study will determine whether the project can be funded with public money as well as investigating the scope of condemnation allowable under state and federal law.  The project as planned will cover 151 acres along the north bank of the river and will include a new $165 million civic center, a University of Illinois campus, and 5,000 units of middle-income housing in privately-funded apartment buildings.  Developer Arthur Rubloff initiated the project five years earlier as an urban renewal effort to revive the old industrial and railroad property north of the river.  The proposed development was met with controversy as two organizations in the area led a resistance effort, claiming that the very prospect of the project had radically destabilized real estate values by creating uncertainty about the area’s future.  [McGowan, Stephen.  Urban Politics:  A Reader] Opposition also came from key business leaders and merchants in the Loop, primarily because of the civic center proposal.  With the publication in 1958 of the Development Plan for the Central Area of Chicago, the opponents won the battle, and the Fort Dearborn project was dead.  The black and white photo captures the area that would be developed under the Fort Dearborn plan.  The second photo shows the area as it looks today.

March 26, 1962 – Six police squadrols are called to the Front Page Lounge at 530 Rush Street where 39 men and a woman are arrested after two detectives find two men kissing each other at the bar and several other men dancing.  The two men are charged with public indecency.  The other 36 men and the woman, a server at the bar, are charged with disorderly conduct.  Before the raid at the Rush Street bar, charges are also filed against a dozen men arrested in a raid at the Patio Theater 6008 Irving Park Road.  The men are arrested inside the theater on March 25 after police detectives allegedly witness “lewd acts.” [Chicago Tribune, March 27, 1962]

March 26, 1888 – The formal opening of the North Chicago Street Railroad takes place with “speeches, music, enthusiasm, and a crowd, not to mention bunting, flags, and flowers.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 27, 1888] As early as 10:00 a.m. people begin to gather outside the power house at the corner of North Clark and Elm Streets.  At 11:15 a.m. company president Charles Tyson Yerkes appears with dignitaries that include Mayor John Roche, who makes a few brief remarks. The band plays America and there are other speeches and more music before Yerkes finally rises to say, “I find that there is nothing left for me to talk on.  The pervious speakers got hold of my notes and I am practically left out.  I thank the people of the North Side for their patience in waiting for the fulfillment of the promises which are made.  They now see the great work upon which we were so long engaged.  I thank the city officials for the aid they have given us.  I wish to thank the press for their uniform kindness.  They have always been on our side.” After the band plays The Beautiful Blue Danube at 12:05 two thousand people rush the tracks, trying to get on the first car.  At 1:05 p.m. the cars make it through the crowds and reach the entrance to the La Salle Street tunnel.  Teams of horses are used to pull the cars over the crossing of tracks at Clark and Wells, and a horse pulling Car Number 186 is spooked by the crowd and dashes into it, throwing several onlookers into the mud and slush.  The first car to return passes out of the tunnel at 1:22 p.m., having made the tour of La Salle, Monroe and Dearborn streets in 17 minutes.  The first serious problem occurs at 5:30 p.m. when an accident with the grip on one car at Wisconsin Street ties up the cars behind it for 45 minutes.

March 26, 1867 -- Dwight Heald Perkins is born in Memphis, Tennessee. If a Chicago architect -- if an architect anywhere -- has been more forgotten by history, it is this guy. So skilled that he was asked to serve as an instructor at M.I.T. after only two years as a student, he returned to Chicago in 1888 and went to work with Burnham and Root in February of 1889. After the conclusion of the 1893 fair Daniel Burnham was forced to downsize the office and regretfully part with Perkins. But he gave him the commission to design the Steinway Building, a gesture that says much about both men. It was in Perkins's offices in the Steinway building that Frank Lloyd Wright came to work after parting with Louis Sullivan as did a number of other architects who came to prominence in the following decades. The Chicagoland area would be a far different place today if it were not for Perkins. He co-wrote the 1905 Metropolitan Parks Report, a document that began a campaign for planned open space, set aside from development, a report that preceded the great Chicago Plan of 1909 by four years. It was also in 1905 that he was named Chief Architect for the Chicago Board of Education, a post he occupied for five years. In those five years he designed 40 school buildings. If in an entire career an architect could design one building as beautiful as Carl Schurz High School at Milwaukee and Addison, pictured above, he or she could end that career assured of having made an incalculable contribution.

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