April 25, 1946 – In the early afternoon tragedy comes to Naperville, at the time a town of about 5,000 residents, as two Burlington passenger trains come together at Loomis Street, The first train of nine cars, carrying about 150 people, leaves Chicago and heads for Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska about two minutes before the second Oakland-bound train which carries 175 passengers in 11 assorted coach and sleeping cars. Somewhere near Naperville a crew member of the first train observes something shooting out from the train’s undercarriage, and the engineer stops his train so that it can be inspected for damage. The unexpected stop triggers signals behind the train that should have warned the second passenger train’s engineer of the blocked track ahead. A flagman from the first train also is dispatched up the line as an additional means of warning the approaching train. The engineer of that second train, 68-year-old W. W. Blaine, brings his train through a yellow caution signal and a red stop signal and past the flagman and just 90 seconds after the first train had rolled to a stop, Blaine’s train rips into the stopped train at a speed estimated to be about 45 miles-per-hour. Blaine later says that he put his train into emergency braking as it was travelling at 80 miles-per-hour, but there was not enough time to bring the speeding train to a stop. The front truck of Blaine’s EMD ES-A locomotive is sheared off on impact, and the engine travels through three-quarters of the rear car of the stopped train, killing most of its passengers. The locomotive continues forward for 205 feet, bending a light-weight dining car like a crushed aluminum can, causing more deaths. The fireman on the second train dies instantly as he jumps from the cab a split second before the impact. Immediately adjacent to the tracks is the Kroehler Furniture Factory and within minutes 800 employees respond to the disaster, along with 60 students from Naperville’s North Central College. There is no hospital in rural Naperville at the time, and rescuers work throughout the day to free the injured and the dead from the mangled wreckage of the two trains. The railroad dispatches a special train to the scene with doctors and nurses, but it is more than eight hours before the last car is opened with acetylene torches. It would be 27 hours before trains began to roll through Naperville once again. Altogether, 47 people die in the wreck and another 125 are injured. Subsequent investigation by the Interstate Commerce Commission and a DuPage County grand jury culminate in no action being taken against the crews of either train or the Burlington Railroad. In April, 2014 a sculpture, “Tragedy to Triumph,” was dedicated as a memorial to those who died on that spring day in 1946.
April 25, 1972 – More than a hundred businessmen and city officials gather to celebrate the ground-breaking for the new 1,000 room convention hotel developed by Hyatt Corporation, the Prudential Insurance Company of America, Metropolitan Structures, and Illinois Center Corporation, a subsidiary of Illinois Central Industries, Inc. Mayor Richard J. Daley lauds the project as “a great asset for Chicagoans who want to work, live and play in the city.” [Chicago Tribune, April 26, 1972] Sited on Wacker Drive just to the east of Michigan Avenue on the south side of the Chicago River, the 36-story hotel is one of the first buildings in a massive project to develop the 82-acre site of Illinois Center, formerly a railroad yard. The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of I. C. Industries, William B. Johnson, says the Illinois Center project “will be a blend of buildings, of river, and of lake with open, green space, creating an altogether new and highly livable environment.” The hotel is shown under construction in the photo above. The photo below that shows approximately the same view today. The Hyatt Regency Chicago is the reddish-brown tower to the left just beyond the Columbus Drive bridge.
April 25, 1875 – With memories of the city’s destruction four years earlier, Chicagoans understandably loved their beer, especially with a large share of the milk watered down and the drinking water suspect. On this date the Chicago Daily Tribune ran a feature on the principal beer manufacturers in the city. They included:
Conrad Seipp – located east of Cottage Grove Avenue at the foot of Twenty-Sixth Street with a main plant “probably the largest used for the manufacture of lager beer in the United States.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, April 25, 1872] Seipp founded the brewery in 1856 and admitted a partner, Fred Lehman, in 1858. Lehman died in 1872 after being thrown from a buggy. The firm employs 100 men with 60 horses “constantly in use and 16 teams delivering beer in the city and suburbs. The establishment consumes 300,000 bushels of malt and 300,000 bush
els of hops each year, producing “the enormous amount of 100,000 barrels of beer.” The above photo shows the scale of the concern.
Downer and Bemis Brewing Company – located on South Park Avenue, overlooking the lake between Twenty-Third and Twenty-Fourth Streets and founded in 1861. The brewery makes only lager beer and in 1871 sold 65,000 barrels.
Busch and Brand Brewery Company – located on Cedar Street near the lake and founded in 1851, “one of the first firms to make lager-beer in this city.” Although it was destroyed in the fire of 1871 it was rebuilt within three months and produces 40,000 barrels annually with room in storehouses and ice houses for another 20,000 barrels.
Chicago Union Brewing Company – located on Twenty-Seventh Street and Johnson Avenues, just east of Cottage Grove Avenue, the brewery was founded in 1869 for the manufacture of ale “since which time their products have achieved a reputation that places them first in the estimation of all.” The company supplies “almost exclusively … all first-class saloons in the city” as well as the Palmer House and the Grand Pacific Hotel “and in fact every first-class hotel in the city.”
Doyle and Co., Brewers -- located at 423 North State Street (1243 North State today), producing only ales and porter. The firm produces 24,000 barrels of ale and porter annually and “keeps four teams delivering and several others hauling.”
Fortune Brothers – located on West Van Buren Street near Halsted, founded in 1866, and producing ale and porter. The brewery produces 80 barrels of ale a day with “a large corps of skilled workmen and keeps four delivery teams constantly going”.
T. D. Stuver – the agent for Porter’s Joliet Ales and Porter, located on Randolph Street, an agent for “the celebrated Joliet malt liquors … begun at Joliet by Mr. Ed. Porter some twenty years ago, and, though first-class at first, have improved in excellence as in quantity these many years, until now they fairly rival the more costly English stocks of Bass and Burton and are acknowledged to be ahead of any other body ales in the United States.” Four wagons deliver pale stock ale, “one of the healthiest and most palatable beverages, ever used or invented to refresh thirsty humanity.”
April 25, 1914 -- In a conflict that began with a relatively minor incident in which neither Mexican authorities or United States sailors could speak one another's language, hostilities loomed between the two countries, and young men began heading for the nearest recruiting posts, volunteering for the military. On this date the Chicago Daily Tribune reports that 1,000 applicants have made their way to the city, including Harold Witherspoon from Whiting, Indiana. The 17-year-old walked all the way from his home to enlist -- a distance of 23 miles. Within a block of the naval recruiting station at 205 Fifth Avenue (today's Wells Street) a packing case falls off the back of a truck and crushes his foot. He is accepted conditionally and sent to Lake Bluff to recover. If he fails to regain full health, he will go back to Whiting . . . but not on foot. Of the thousand men who show up less than a hundred are accepted.