Wednesday, March 6, 2019

March 6, 1963 -- Alderman Leon Desires Points to Fire Department Discrimination

Leon Despees
March 6, 1963 – Fifth Ward Alderman Leon Despres introduces a resolution before the City Council, alleging racial discrimination in the Chicago Fire Department.  Despres alleges that out of a total of 4,514 Chicago fire fighters, there are only 187 African-Americans and that there is only one integrated fire company in the city.  Reaction is swift as Mayor Richard J. Daley and Fire Commissioner Robert J. Quinn deny the allegations.  “I have had conferences with the fire commissioner,” Daley says.  “He assured me they are running the fire department without discrimination of any kind.” [Chicago Tribune, March 8, 1963]  Quinn sidesteps questions about the total number of African-American men in the fire department ranks.  Instead he touts the number of African-American lieutenants in the department, noting that two are in the department’s drill school, three in the task force inspection team, two in preparation of cases for court, and four in the mobile inspections unit.  He also notes that there is an African-American division marshal, a battalion chief, and three captains.  This is the beginning of a long process that will continue for at least another three decades.

March 6, 1974 – Workmen set the first column of the extension of Wacker Drive east along the Chicago River to Lake Shore Drive.  The 1,800 foot elevated extension is part of the project to develop Illinois Center, an effort in which Illinois Central Industries and Metropolitan Structures have taken the lead.  The completion of the extension is expected by the end of the year.  The original timetable is a bit on the optimistic side.  Mayor Richard J. Daley dedicated the $15 million project on December 8, 1979.

March 6, 1959 -- The Chicago Tunnel company petitions to cease operation after nearly 60 years of running a narrow gauge electric railroad beneath the majority of streets in the center of the city.  George W. Lennon, a trustee for the company, asks in Federal District Court for permission to petition the interstate commerce commission to abandon the operation.  The company has been in bankruptcy proceedings since 1956.  Years before twenty of the largest building corporations in the city pledged $325,000 to keep the tunnel system in operation.  The end to the system is guaranteed when this group withdraws its offer on this date.  A plan to use the system in order to save the United States post office 2,958 truck movements through the crowded Loop each year also appears to be dead. At this point in its history the tunnel company operates only two of its original 117 electric locomotives and a small number of its original 3,000 freight cars with only 47 of the 65 miles of freight tunnels in use.  It was forgotten by all but a few until April 13, 1992 when it gave the city one of its most unique experiences after a portion of the tunnel collapsed, and it began transporting millions of gallons of river water into the basements of over 200 tall buildings in the Loop, paralyzing the city’s downtown.

March 6, 1884 -- The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad Company has filed suit in United States Circuit Court, seeking to prevent the Chicago and Evanston Railroad from entering the city by building a bridge over the north branch of the river. The C and NW claims that building such a bridge will require the crossing of C and NW tracks at grade, significantly impacting that railroad's entry into the city at Wells Street. The numbers the railroad cites as part of the suit are significant, especially when one looks at the lonely upraised bridge at Kinzie Street today. The C and NW used the bridge, according to the suit, an average of once every four minutes each day, and carried 111 passenger trains, 15,000 passengers, and 750 freight cars with an average tonnage of 7,200 tons. The upraised bridge and weed-covered tracks, pictured above, on the north side of Fulton House are the only reminders today of this whirlwind of steam, smoke, and clatter.

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