Friday, May 31, 2019

May 31, 1926 -- Grant Park's "Seated Lincoln" Is Unveiled
May 31, 1926 – “The Seated Lincoln” is unveiled in Grant Park at a location just east of Van Buren Street. It is the last work of Augustus St. Gaudens, who died in 1907.  Judge Charles S. Cutting delivers the principal address at the ceremony, saying, “Lincoln was in every sense a real human character.  Abraham Lincoln has become a world figure.  He is the symbol of law and liberty throughout the world.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 1, 1926]. All of the principal players involved in bringing the statue to Chicago have long since died.  Augustus Saint-Gaudens completed the first model for the sculpture in 1897, but it was destroyed by a fire in his studio.  He had another model ready for casting in 1906 and died a year later. John Crerar, who died in 1889, began the process by which the statue came to Chicago by leaving $100,000 in his will to create it.  Both of the trustees entrusted with Crerar’s Lincoln fund have died as has New York architect Stanford White, who St.-Gaudens named to design the architectural setting for the monument.  It has been 37 years, then, between the time Crerar funded the statue and its unveiling in Grant Park.  Originally, according to a design by architect Daniel Burnham, the monument was to have stood near a similar monument to George Washington near the proposed Field Museum in Grant Park.  Nothing was done for nearly two decades, though, as Aaron Montgomery Ward led the city into a series of law suits over the appropriate use of Grant Park, ultimately prevailing in his belief that the park should remain parkland. The final case was decided in 1910, and development of the park began.  During this time the sculpture was on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as well as the 1915 San Francisco Exposition.   In 1924 the South Park Commissioners allocated a permanent site on what they intended to be the Court of Presidents and the sculpture was dedicated on this date in 1926.  The commissioners’ intent to install a similar monument to George Washington opposite Lincoln’s seated form never materialized. 

May 31, 1900 – At noon a Northwestern Elevated Railroad train carrying invited guests enters the Union Loop and “the new road, the last one to be completed of those composing the great elevated railroad system of Chicago—the greatest in the world—was formally opened.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 31, 1900] Twenty minutes later the train is speeding northward, having circled the Loop, carrying 250 passengers, all guests of the company.  It takes 22 minutes to reach the northern terminus of the line at Wilson Avenue. On the way the train passes five trains headed south, all packed with paying passengers.  It is a BIG DEAL.  The Tribune reports, “Along the entire line of the road the windows were filled with people, who cheered and waved their handkerchiefs as the four cars composing the first train rolled by.  Tugs and factory whistles violated the anti-noise ordinances in the most flagrant way.”  The guests on the train disembark at the Wilson Avenue station and make their way to Sheridan Park, a station on the Milwaukee Road, where lunch is served. Afterward a ceremony is held on a temporary rostrum.  The Chicago Commissioner of Public Works proclaims, “The completion of the road marks an era in the history of the North Side and will tend to the development of this part of the city.”  The President of the railroad, D. H. Louderback, says, “We intend to make our road the best in the country. Its construction is perfect, and with its four tracks it is the best and most flexible in the city.  We will aim to accommodate all passengers.” This was the last hurrah for Charles Tyson Yerkes, the last line of his transit empire, and he spoke on this day only of the development that would come to the north side of the city because of the new railroad line.  After attempting to pass around a million dollars in bribes to get exclusive rights to operate a city-wide transit enterprise for a period of hundred years in 1899 – and failing to get the appropriate legislation passed – he was persona non grata in the exclusive social circles of the city and at City Hall.  By the end of 1900 he had sold the majority of his Chicago transit holdings and departed for New York.  The Northwestern Elevated Railroad still exists today – hop on the Red Line in the Loop and head north.  The above photos show the railroad under construction and as it appeared at about the time of its opening.

May 31, 1960 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that four Chicago architecture firms are joining together to plan “a glass and steels structure” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 31, 1960] that will replace the federal courthouse.  It will sit on the east side of Dearborn Street between Adams Street and Jackson Boulevard, providing more than 1.3 million square feet of space for somewhere around 5,500 employees of the United States courts and 19 federal agencies.  The paper reports that “The surrounding walks and plaza, as well as the lobby floors, will feature granite paving.  The lofty first floor of the 30 story building will be devoted primarily to the lobby, stairways, and 24 elevators.”  Plans include air conditioning and “if conditions warrant, atomic bomb shelters.”  Completion date for the building is slated for late 1963 with final drawings due by the end of 1960.  This will be the first of two tall government buildings that will replace the old courthouse across Dearborn Street, a building that will be razed as the courthouse is being constructed so that a new federal building can be constructed in its place.  The architectural firms involved in the project were: the office of Mies van der Rohe; Schmidt, Garden, and Erikson; C. F. Murphy; and A. Epstein and Sons.

May 31, 1952 – Major Lenox R. Lohr, president of the Science Museum, today’s Museum of Science and Industry, announces that visitors will soon be able to walk through an 18-foot heart, part of a 3,000 square foot exhibit sponsored by the Chicago Heart Association. As part of the experience a human pulse will be audible. In another part of the exhibit the circulation of blood will be illustrated. The heart would fit into the chest of a 28-story human, which will make the museum an educational facility with a very big heart, indeed.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

May 30, 1889 -- Market Square Statue Unveiled
May 30, 1889 – Little Frank Degan, the son of a policeman who lost his life on May 4, 1886 at what today we call the Haymarket Riot, pulls a cord and unveils the statue that will commemorate the events of that day.  There are close to 2,000 spectators, more than one might expect for an event staged on a rainy day. Over 175 uniformed officers are in attendance.   Chicago manufacturer Richard Teller Crane, head of the commemoration committee, opens the ceremony, saying that the event “… commemorates an important event in the history of our city and our country.  It commemorates a sacrifice of life made in the interests of the people.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 31, 1889]. Then Mayor DeWitt Clinton Cregier accepts the monument on behalf of the city, ending with his speech with these words, “This is a free and lawful country, with plenty of room for the people of all the earth who choose to come here to breathe the free air and to obey these laws, but not an inch of room or an hour to dwell here for those who come for any other purpose.”  Following the mayor is Franklin H. Head, the president of the Chicago Historical society, who delivers a lengthy speech that traces the development of democracy in the country, leading up to the May day in 1886 when a bomb exploded in a protest march and 67 policemen are killed or maimed.  Head warns, “It should be borne in mind that apostles of anarchy do not propose a modification of existing laws and institutions, but a wholesale destruction by violence and throttling of all law.  History would, as always, repeat itself: violence would beget violence, and crime would beget crime.  All the powers and forces of evil would come again and inaugurate anew the reign of Chaos and Old Night.”  At the end of Head’s address, Mayor Cregier asks the crowd for three cheers “for the monument and the heroes whose brave deeds it commemorates.”  And then “… the crowd slumped away through the mud and the water.  The Haymarket Monument was unveiled.”  The statue dedicated that day in May of 1889 has had a nomadic existence.  It was dedicated in the middle of Haymarket Square on Randolph Street, just west of Desplaines Street.  Forty-one years later a streetcar, whose motorman claimed he was sick of looking at the statue, left the tracks and crashed into the monument.  It was patched up and relocated to Union Park.  Then, in 1956, with half of the old market square obliterated by the Kennedy Expressway, the statue was moved back, close to its original location, sitting on a plinth overlooking the highway.  In the turbulence of anti-war protests of 1969 a bomb targeted the statue, breaking over a hundred windows in the neighborhood and spraying pieces of the statue onto the Kennedy Expressway.  It was rebuilt only to be blown up again on October 6, 1970.  Once again the statue was rebuilt, and afterwards given a 24-hour police guard.  In 1972 it was moved to the lobby of the Central Police Headquarters and from there, in 1976 to the Chicago Police Academy.  Today it can be found behind a controlled access fence at Chicago Police Headquarters at 3510 South State Street.  There it was placed on a new pedestal and unveiled by Geraldine Doceka, the great-great granddaughter of Officer Matthias Degan, the officer whose son unveiled the original statue in 1890. The original work was designed by Frank Bathchelder of St. Paul, Minnesota and sculpted by Johannes Galert of New York with funds raised by the Union League Club of Chicago.  It was Galert’s first major commission.  The statue's first location and its present location are shown above.

May 30, 1939 – The Chicago and North Western Railroad rolls out a set of brand new diesel-electric locomotives, just off the assembly line of the Electro-Motive Corporation in LaGrange, to pull the “400,” its famous high-speed train, to Milwaukee. In the coming week the locomotives will be placed in service between Chicago and St. Paul, Minnesota.  The new locomotives are capable of running 117 miles an hour even though they are still pulling standard equipment.  Sometime in August new streamlined cars from the Chicago shops of the Pullman Standard Car Manufacturing Company will be added to the consist.  The new locomotives are powered by four 1,000 horsepower 12-cylinder diesel engines, which drive four generators that supply current to eight traction motors, four on each unit.  Finally, after nearly a half-century of trying to clear the smoke of steam locomotives from the lakefront and the southwest side of the city, it appears that a solution has arrived.

May 30, 1968 – It has only been a year that the Medusa Challenger has been at work on the Chicago River, but the big lake freighter will continue to make her presence known for years, indirectly causing enough traffic problems during her time sailing through the city to cause Chicagoans to refer to her as the “jinx ship.”  On this night the 562-foot ship is halted in her trip up the river when the Clark Street bridge short-circuits and refuses to open.  With the Dearborn and State Street bridges open to allow the ship to approach Clark Street, the malfunction causes traffic on all three streets to stop for an hour and 15 minutes.  Finally, at 7:30 p.m. the Clark Street bridge is made operable and “with a blast of its horn, the ship was under way as was the traffic, including one car driven by a man who had a permanent solution to the whole problem … ‘You know what they should do with this river?’ he said.  ‘They should have it paved.’” [Chicago Tribune, May 31, 1968] For all you might ever want to know about the ship and its ill-fortune in Chicago, you can head to this section of Connecting the Windy City.

May 30, 1893 – The laying of the cornerstone of the new Memorial Hall on the southwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street takes place under the direction of the Grand Army of the Republic. Both streets are crowded with veterans and ordinary citizens “all anxious to behold the ceremony and listen to the addresses incident upon the formal commencement of the creation of a magnificent structure, which will be a credit to the city and take high rank among the costly edifices already so numerous in Chicago.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 31, 1893] The plot of ground, known as Dearborn Park, was originally part of the southern boundary of Fort Dearborn, part of the “public ground” that extended east to the lake and south to Madison Street. It required a coming together of the Directors of the Chicago Public Library and the Grand Army of the Republic to get a bill through Congress that would allow construction on the land. It took persistence . . . the legislation only passed after three attempts over the course of ten years. In a simple ceremony the flag is run to the top of the flag pole, a band plays the Star Spangled Banner and dozens of artifacts are placed in a copper box that will lie below the cornerstone. Then General E. A. Blodgett, the Commander of the Illinois Grand Army of the Republic, closes the ceremony, saying, “In the name of the soldiers and sailors who have saved our nation we thank you for the honor. We rejoice that our city thus proclaims to the world that patriotic self-sacrifice is not to be forgotten. We trust that our beloved land may never again be deluged in blood. Yet we remember that the perils of peace are scarcely less than the perils of war. The demands for loyalty are as great upon the sons as they were upon the sires. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” The Memorial Hall with its great dome occupies the northern half of what is today the Chicago Cultural Center. The photo above shows the site at the time with Randolph Street on the right and Washington Boulevard on the left. The second photo shows the area as it appears today.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

May 29, 1916 -- Rush Street Stand-Off
May 29, 1916 – The tugboats Iowa and Gary tow the hulk of the steamer Eastland down the north branch and into the main stem of the river, headed for South Chicago, where the vessel will be converted into a training ship for the Illinois naval reserve.  As the Eastland passes through the draw of the Wells Street bridge, homebound citizens, standing in the rain and remembering the 812 people carried to their deaths on the ship just ten months earlier, jeer at the sight.  “Take ‘er out into the lake and sink ‘er,” shouts one man.  “Blow’er up!  Scuttle ‘er! Put her at the bottom where she put her passengers,” shout others.  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 30, 1916]. The crew on the tugboats and the few deckhands on the ghostly Eastland seem “to be a sort of ghost crew, ashamed to be caught aboard such a craft.” The taunting crowds bring the employees of the Reid, Murcoch & Co. to the windows of the building on the north side of the river that been used as a temporary hospital and morgue for the hundreds of victims of the disaster.  At each bridge – Clark … Dearborn … State … and Rush … several hundred people “stood in the rain and watched until it disappeared in the mist.” 

May 29, 1991 – After defeating the Detroit Pistons in the N.B.A. playoffs a day earlier, the Chicago Bulls learn that Detroit defender Dennis Rodman, who pushed Chicago forward Scottie Pippen out of bounds in Game 4, opening up a six-stitch gash under his chin, will be fined $5,000.  N.B.A. operations director Rod Thorn, says “We looked at the facts and made a judgment. We had our security people investigate, and we feel he was seriously contrite.  The fine was for pushing Pippen.”  [Chicago Tribune, May 30, 1991] On the same day a letter of apology from Rodman is received by the Bulls, N.B.A. officials, and members of Detroit, Chicago and national media outlets. Addressed to “Mr. Scottie Pippen,” the letter reads, “Dear Scottie, I am writing this letter to apologize to you for the incident that happened in Monday’s game.  You are a great player and I’m glad you weren’t hurt by the incident.  It was merely one of frustration.  I am not the type of player of which I have been accused.  The situation was one of those thnigs which should not have happened.  I am ready and willing to accept any fines or consequences set by the league for my actions. I sincerely apologize to you, your teammates and the entire Chicago Bulls organization.  I also hope that there are no hard feelings between you, your teammates and me.  Good luck in the NBA finals—its’ a tough road ahead of you. Sincerely, Dennis Rodman.” Bulls coach Phil Jackson responds, “We accept his apology, but we won’t forget the incident. You accept the apology at face value.”  Michael Jordan also jumps in, saying ”As a team, we’ve forgotten about that.  We beat them and achieved something.  We’ll deal with Detroit when we play them again.”  The Bulls went on to beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the championship series in five games.  The confrontation between Rodman and Pippen, who would become teammates, was intense as can be seen in this YouTube clip.

May 29, 1966 – The Chicago Tribune reports that the first steel has been erected above ground for the 120 South Riverside Plaza office building that is being constructed over the air rights of the railroad tracks of Union Station just west of the South Branch of the Chicago River.  The steel, produced at the South Works of United States Steel and fabricated at the Gary plant of the American Bridge division of U. S. Steel, is part of 9,100 tons of steel that will be needed to complete the 22-story structure, a duplicate of the building at 10 South Riverside Plaza.  Tishman Realty and Construction Company has plans for a total of four buildings in the area that will be called Gateway Center, a project that will cost an estimated 100 million dollars.

May 29, 1906 – A fire breaks out in Armour Elevator “D,” located on a slip on the west side of the Chicago River at approximately Twenty-Second Street and Morgan, smoldering undetected until it blows out the north and south ends of the elevator and lights the night sky enough to be seen from Ravenswood to South Chicago. Sixty-two fire engines, some of them from as far north as Lakeview, and three fireboats are called to fight the fire in a massive structure containing a million bushels of wheat, corn and oats. The first firemen on the scene have to haul their equipment down a bank to the slip to get close enough to the fire. There are no nearby fire hydrants, so all of the water has either to be pulled from the slip or else come from fireboats. The massive Commonwealth Electric company plant northwest of the elevator is repeatedly ignited by burning embers, so the fire department’s efforts are devoted chiefly to saving it as well as lumber yards that lie to the west. Acting Fire Chief McDonough states, “It was impossible to save the elevators, and all the efforts of the department were directed to saving the millions of dollars’ worth of property in the vicinity. The recent rains soaked the lumber in the adjacent yards and probably did considerable toward stopping the spread of the flames.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 30, 1906] The photo above shows the elevator as it appeared before the fire, which must have been a spectacular conflagration.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

May 28, 1981 -- Manhattan Building Undergoes $5 Million Renovation
May 28, 1981 – The Chicago Tribune prints a feature on the renovation of the Manhattan building at 431 South Dearborn Street, which a real estate company, Strobeck and Reiss, is rehabilitating at a cost of $5 million.  The vice-president of the firm, James Lindeman, begins the article by asserting, “We’re going to take good care of the old gal.”  [Chicago Tribune, May 28, 1981]. Demolition of the interior of the building began two months earlier in an operation that will convert the building into 105 rental apartments.  The Manhattan, designed by the “Father of the Skyscraper,” William LeBaron Jennings, who, among other innovations, was the first architect to include wind bracing in his designs, prompts Lindeman to observe, “This is the granddaddy of them all.  The structural engineers really groove on this stuff.”  William Hasbrouck, the architect on the project, says of the building, “It’s a handsome example of early Chicago-school architecture. The Manhattan was enormously modern at the time.  It had a curtain (nonload-bearing) wall; it was just a brick curtain wall rather than then the metal curtain walls that became famous later.”  A listing on the National Register of Historic Places means that federal law prohibits any tinkering with the exterior of the building, and Hasbrouck says, “The building deserves to be seen in its best light. The owners owe that to the public. This is a public trust.”  Inside the 1891 building an inadequate central stairway and five antiquated elevators presented a difficult problem, but the architect solved it by using the two outer elevator shafts as space for new stairways with the middle shaft providing an entry to each floor’s utility room.  All the kitchens and bathrooms were stacked over one another in the plan, and each apartment was given its own heat pump.  The Manhattan works especially well for a conversion from an office building to a residential building because Plymouth Court on the east side cuts the block behind the building in half, restricting the plan for the building to an uncommonly narrow configuration.  This means that, unlike the problem many office conversions pose, apartments in the Manhattan can be located with ample access to windows and light.  Lindeman’s hope is that the build-out will provide more residential opportunities in a place that does not have enough “walk-to-work housing.”  Hasbrouck believes that the conversion will ultimately connect to the ongoing work at Printing House Row and Dearborn Park.  He says, “If the city is going to start over, it should grow out from the center. I think sociologically the Manhattan will do wonders for the Near South Side.”  These days the average list price for a unit in the building is a bit over $235,000.  Rentals average $1,550 a month. []

May 28, 1906 –Colonel S. R. Whitall, the commanding officer at Fort Sheridan, issues orders that prohibit soldiers from entering Highwood, the disobedience of which will lead to 14 days in solitary confinement on a diet of bread and water for any offender.  Whitall’s order comes as part of a chorus of cries against the saloonkeepers in Highwood, a call for reform that has reached a peak after the suicide of a 17-year-old Lake Forest girl a day earlier after a night spent in Highwood.  The Reverend E. R. Quayle, the head of the Law and Order League, says, “The midnight closing law is ignored on every hand, at least three of the resorts keep open on Sunday, and nearly all of them operate gambling tables in full view.  Three of them operate ‘back rooms’ that are equivalent to wine rooms.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 29, 1906] Even the Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad becomes involved, announcing that it will no longer sell liquor on its trains.  Over the preceding weeks the scales slowly tipped against the saloonkeepers as convictions were secured with five establishments forced out of business. The suicide death on May 27 of Ms. Georginna Bower, the daughter of a Lake Forest house painter, increases the intensity of the crusade. The above photo shows a strip of Highwood saloons a year earlier in 1905.


May 28, 1894 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that Hugh M. G. Garden has been awarded the gold medal of the American Institute of Architects for the best architectural design, a plan that the architect worked up for the New York Herald.  The Herald’s plan to replace its offices at Broadway and Ann Street resulted in a competition to which Garden contributed his design, “a nineteen-story office building, the planning of which was rendered extremely difficult on account of the extreme irregularity of the lot.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 28, 1894] The paper continues, “The design is radically different from the office buildings of the day and is remarkable for its picturesque sky line, the top being a delightful grouping of gables, balconies, towers and turrets … If built [it will be] the highest commercial structure in the world.”  Garden, the president of the Chicago Architectural Sketch Club and one of the designers of the Montgomery Ward warehouse building at 600 West Chicago, was an active member of the Prairie Style designers who inhabited Steinway Hall not long after the conclusion of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.  His design for the New York Herald did not win the competition.  The winning design by George B. Post is shown above along with the sketch of Garden’s vision. 

May 28, 1926 – It is announced that the Builder’s Mart, with a design by Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, will be erected at the southwest corner of Wacker Drive and La Salle Street. This will be the first improvement on the brand new Wacker Drive west of 35 East Wacker, completed in 1926. A. E. Coleman, President of the Building Construction Employers’ Association, says, “[This building] will tend to unite the business interests identified with the building industry. The popularity of such a proposition has been signified by building interests, as more than fifty per cent of the space already has been applied for.” In addition to Coleman’s association, it is anticipated that the structure will also hold the Chicago Master Steamfitters’ association, the Builders’ Association of Chicago, the Iron League of Chicago, the Illinois Highway Contractors’ association, and the Illinois branch of the Associated General Contractors of America. There will also be 10,000 square feet of space set aside for the Builders’ Club. Off the lower level of Wacker Drive will be a garage with space for 150 vehicles. The 1927 building stands on the right side of La Salle Street in the photo above with a glassy addition designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill completed in 1986.

Monday, May 27, 2019

May 27, 1933 -- One La Salle Building Files for Reorganization

May 27, 1933 – A creditors’ petition for reorganization is filed in the United States District court for the One La Salle Street building.  According to the suit the building’s owners are in default $5,250,000 on a first mortgage and have accrued taxes of $500,000.  The petition puts forward a plan to seek a new mortgage of $750,000 to pay off taxes and establish solvency to an operating fund while issuing 52,500 shares of stock to first mortgage holders.  The attorney for the building’s bondholders claims that the half-million in taxes have been paid and a cash surplus exists.  The attorney, Bernard Nath, says, “Eighty-nine percent of the bondholders and the owner of the building, the One La Salle Street Building corporation, have approved the reorganization plan.  We expect to go through with the reorganization foreclosure proceedings now under and bid in the property for the bondholders.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 28, 1933]. For 35 years this 49-story building, designed by the architecture firm Vitzhum and Burns, was the tallest building in the city.  It was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. 

May 27, 1930 –The President of the 1933 Century of Progress, Rufus C. Dawes, pulls a lever on a steam shovel and scoops the first dirt from the site where the administration building will be erected for the Century of Progress world’s fair, to be held along Chicago’s lakefront in the summers of 1933 and 1934,.   The Vice-President of the South Park commissioners, Philip S. Garver, addresses a gathering of fair directors and public officials, officially turning over the use of the park property to the fair’s trustees.  In accepting the site, Director Dawes says, “We pledge ourselves to the use of this land for the enjoyment, education, and entertainment of the people of the world.  The exposition will fittingly portray the history of Chicago and be worthy of the city’s proud position among the cities of the world.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 28, 1930] In the top photo President Dawes moves the first bucket of dirt, which will give way to the Art Deco Administration building shown in the second photo.

May 27, 1917 – Seven weeks after the United States Congress approves a declaration of war on Germany, the Chicago Conference Committee on Terms of Peace holds a rally at the Auditorium Theater in which protestors rail against the country’s entanglement in the war an ocean away.  There are 2,000 people outside the building for which there is no room, and they instigate what the Chicago Daily Tribune calls the city’s first “war riot.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 28, 1917] The paper reports, “The scene was Grant park, just across from the Auditorium hotel.  Michigan avenue’s thousands of Sunday promenaders came to an amazed halt.  A steady flowing stream of automobiles pulled up short, blockading the boulevard for many blocks in each direction … Then a huge, bearded and mop headed Russian thrust himself above the heads of the others … ‘Why should American workmen fight the workmen of Germany for any _______   _________ in the White House?’ he bawled.”  It took an hour to put down the riot as “The air was filled with clubs, that cracked down upon the heads of the rioters.  The members of the meeting shrieked imprecations, women bit and scratched the police, bull throated malcontents bawled threats and ‘Down with the government!’ “Free speech!’ and “No war.’”  At first 40 officers show up, followed by 35 detectives.  In ten minutes there are another 400 policemen trying to maintain order.  The Tribune reports, “’Free speech!’ screamed the women. ‘We want free speech!’ ‘You’ll get it,’ bellowed back a square shouldered policeman as he whacked another disturber over the head.”  The Reverend Irwin St. John Tucker, chairman of the peace terms conference, issues a statement in which he separates the meeting in the Auditorium from the disturbances across Michigan Avenue.  It reads, “The Chicago permanent conference on terms of peace is responsible only for the mass meeting held in the Auditorium and for the resolutions officially presented therein … The conference is determined, while exercising all our rights under the law, strictly to observe all our obligations under the same.”

May 27, 1975 – After a City Council subcommittee approves $7.2 million for the rehabilitation of Navy Pier, a project that the Department of Public Works estimates may take closer to $34 million, the Chicago Tribune weighs in with its opinion. “Either it will be revived somehow,” the editorial states, “or it will be a big black eye on Chicago’s face as long as it remains. We hope a practical way can and will be found to make Navy Pier once again used, attractive, well served by public transportation from end to end as well as to it. The site is one of the most scenic and interesting urban sites in the country. Surely some time Chicago will find a means of turning Navy Pier’s unused potential into reality.”

Sunday, May 26, 2019

May 26, 1894 -- Loop Elevated Line Begins with Court Battle
May 26, 1894 – The Lake Street elevated line begins proceedings in the Superior Court to condemn a portion of its “alley line” east of Market Street (what is today Wacker Drive) and a portion of its North Side line.  In the suit the company claims a right of way from Market Street through the alley between Wabash and Michigan Avenues, through the alley between Wabash and Michigan Avenues (today’s Garland Court ), from there east to the alley between Lake and South Water Streets and west to Market Street.  The suit proposes to condemn 22 feet of the rear of all lots facing north on Lake Street between Franklin and Fifth Avenue (today’s Wells Street), and the same number of feet on the rear of all lots facing north on south Water Street between La Salle and Fifth Avenue.  Additionally, the company sues to have a 60-foot strip that begins 100 feet east of Fifth Avenue and continues along the alley between Randolph and Lake Streets condemned.  Buildings occupy all of the ground that is sought, the value of which is thought to be near $600,000.   The condemnation suit seems to be an attempt to head off the Northwestern elevated company in its desire to complete a downtown “Loop” that circles the business district and connects with other lines running from the north, south and west. The attorney for the company says, “Satisfactory progress has been made towards securing signatures of property-owners, but the Lake street company does not intend that structures which may be erected interfering with that projected loop shall stop it from running its trains further into town.  That is why we have decided to build east through the alleys immediately.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 27,1894]. Prior to completion of the Loop elevated line, or the Union Loop, there were three elevated railway lines in the city – the South Side Elevated Railroad, the Lake Street Elevated Railroad and the Metropolitan West Side Railroad, each with its own terminal on the edges of the central business district.  The Lake Street Elevated line’s extension, referenced above, was completed along the north side of the business district in 1895.  The Union Elevated Railroad, controlled by Charles Tyson Yerkes, was constructed under less than above board financial arrangements and was completed in 1896 and 1897, running north and south on Wabash Avenue and Wells Street.  The south leg along Van Buren Street was also completed in 1897.  The Library of Congress website states, “The Union Elevated Railroad is one of only a few extant examples of transit systems that have remained in continuous operation for [over] a century.”  [] 

May 26, 1900 –An invasion of the “District of Lake Michigan” from land and water is planned as 600 police officers, 16 patrol wagons, and two unarmored tugs carrying three-inch field pieces advance on territory held by a rag-tag band who pledge allegiance to Captain George Wellingtonn Streeter.  The whole affair is put on hold, though, as one Lincoln Park policeman, William L. Hayes, spoils everything “by calmly ambling into the district alone and arresting the entire army of invasion, [taking] their cartridge belts away from them, [kicking] their mud fortifications down, and marched them off to the East Chicago Avenue Police Station.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 27, 1900] For over a dozen hours the 13 men of the invading army defied the police, but their numbers dwindled as the day wore on and only five remained when Hayes walks into the encampment. The group had earlier formed an invading party as a boat carried them from South Chicago to the area on the lake just north of the river now known as Streeterville.  After the “invasion” at 2:00 a.m., a proclamation was issued that reads, “Now, therefore, we, the property-holders of the District of Lake Michigan, do declare the District of Lake Michigan to be free and independent from the State of Illinois, the County of Cook, and the City of Chicago, and that we will maintain our independence by force of arms to the best of our ability, and all armed forces except those of the United States military, coming into this district, will do so at their peril.”  Early morning strollers along the new Outer Drive near Superior Street are surprised to hear a sentry’s order to halt and identify themselves.  Things progressively become more serious. Captain Barney Baer of the Lincoln Park police retreats after his horse is shot and killed, the bed of his buggy splintered, and a bullet “bounced … with great nicety off the top button of the Captain’s coat.”  After a lengthy conference at City Hall it is decided that “the State, the county, and the city should move out to attack the insolent foe hand in hand.”  The tugboat John Hay is outfitted with two field guns as is the fire tug Illinois as 600 policemen from all over the city form ranks in front of the Chicago Avenue pumping station.  But … “Just as the long line of blue heroes was beginning to throw out skirmishers down Chicago avenue, and just when Admiral Fyfe was wondering whether he should open fire from the field guns, with brick bats or six cans of sweet corn” Hayes, the lone Lincoln Park cop, decides things have gone far enough. He walks into the fortifications of the enemy and says, “Say, fellers, cut it out.”  As “the long line of blue heroes” continues east along Chicago Avenue toward a glorious battle, the defenders of the District of Lake Michigan stand down and are marched west on Superior Street to the East Chicago Avenue police station where they are charged. "A" in the above graphic pinpoints where George Streeter's boat, the Reutan, went aground in 1886. "B" shows where it was hauled ashore in what is today Streeterville.  Note that at the time the Chicago water tower, just to the right of "B," sat on the edge of the lake.

May 26, 1943 – The capacity to train aircraft pilots in the Great Lakes doubles as the U. S. S. Sable joins the U. S. S. Wolverine, which has been carrying out carrier operations off the Chicago lakefront since August of 1942.  The Sable, converted from a sidewheel passenger vessel known as the Greater Buffalo of the Detroit and Cleveland Navigation company, is somewhat larger than the Wolverine.  She is outfitted with a 12,000-horsepower engine that can deliver a speed of up to 20 knots and has a length of 550 feet and a beam of 100 feet.  As a passenger ship the Sable had room for 2,120 passengers and 1,000 tons of freight.  Since all of the planes that practice landings and take-offs on the ship will be based at the Glenview Naval Air Station, there is no need for a hanger deck and money is saved in re-fitting the ship by retaining much of the fine furniture, china and linens that were a part of the ship’s previous life.  Captain W. K. Berner, a Navy pilot since 1924 and a 1922 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, will command the Sable.  The Executive Office will be Commander H. H. Crow, a Naval reserve officer since 1909, a veteran of World War I, during which he served aboard the U. S. S. Tacoma and the U. S. S. Buffalo.  The photos above show the Greater Buffalo and the U. S. S. Sable.

May 26, 1952 – The Chicago Park District unveils a $2,500 model of the underground garage that it is preparing to build in Grant Park. Anticipated plans have the garage situated between Randolph and Monroe Streets and between the Illinois Central railroad tracks to a point within 40 feet of buildings on the west side of Michigan Avenue. The two-level garage, 23 feet below Michigan Avenue, will occupy 400,000 square feet and will hold 2,500 cars. Fees will be 45 cents for the first hour and 15 cents an hour after that. The first hour today will cost you 23 bucks.  The photo above shows the 1954 opening of the garage with the Prudential building, finished a year later, under construction in the background.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

May 25, 1946 -- Chicago Plan Commission Looks Ahead to a 1965 Chicago
May 25, 1946 – The Chicago Plan Commission, after seven years of study, reveals a projection of what Chicago is expected to look like in 1965.  The plan “envisions a city of 514 neighborhoods surrounded by a framework of thorofares, edges of industrial areas, and public lands.  The neighborhoods, in turn, will be incorporated into 59 communities, each a small city of 50,000 to 80,000 residents.  Each will contain a high school, a large park and athletic play field, and a major shopping center.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 26, 1946]. Each community area would be separated from the others by industrial belts, railroads, waterways, expressways, or other barriers, providing a locally controlled population for the high school. In addition, each community would maintain a distinct central business district.  H. Evert Kincaid, the executive director of the plan commission says, “This mapping of the preliminary comprehensive city plan is a guide that should be of aid in all constructive efforts directed toward the physical development and redevelopment of the city … Property owners can proceed with capital improvements with a greater degree of security.  Tenants can be assured of a more attractive living environment, and public officials can proceed with increased confidence to provide the essential public works needed in the realization of the greater Chicago charted by the plan.”  In building the plan the commission used data collected by the federal Works Progress Administration, detailing more than 1,000,000 residential units, along with over 50,000 commercial units, and 10,000 industrial enterprises.  According to the Newberry Library, the plan “presented copious maps to show widespread ‘blight’ dominating the central area of the city.  It concluded that nine square miles – including most areas occupied by African Americans – needed to be cleared and rebuilt in the near term.”[]. The Newberry summary goes on to state, “… the Plan Commission proposed pursuing two incompatible goals: the high-speed mobility and residential sprawl of the automobile-suburb era as well as the dense, urban life of the streetcar-neighborhood era.  In the decades to follow, the incompatibility would become increasingly evident as Metropolitan Chicago grew and sprawled, while the city proper’s municipal population peaked and began to decline for the first time.” 

May 25, 1966 –Half of the Chicago Fire Department turns out to fight a fire that destroys an abandoned nine-story grain elevator at Thirty-Second near Throop Street on the South Fork of the South Branch of the Chicago River. Six firefighters are injured as more than 500 firefighters and a hundred pieces of equipment guard against the flames as they threaten a nearby residential area and adjacent commercial buildings.  Despite the efforts, the flames, which at their height reach 300 feet, still ignite the roof of the Denver-Chicago Trucking terminal across the river on the west bank.  Fire boats are able to quench those flames before they do serious damage.  Flames also attack an eight-story industrial building a half-block down the east bank of the river, but hook and ladder crews douse those flames as well.  Ten railroad box cars on nearby tracks cannot be saved from the flames that are so intense that onlookers wear protective clothing to watch the inferno.  The first alarm at the former Continental Grain Company elevator comes in at 7:10 p.m. and within 20 minutes five more regular and four special alarms are called.  

May 25, 1950 – A normal run on the newest of Chicago streetcars, the “Green Hornet,” turns into tragedy at the intersection of State Street and Sixty-Third Street when the streetcar slams into a gasoline tank truck, causing an explosion and fireball that kills 34 people and injures another 50.  Proceeding south on its State Street route, the streetcar with driver Paull Manning at the wheel is whizzing along at about 35 miles per hour, approaching the intersection of Sixty-Third Street.  Throughout the day, though, streetcars have been routed east onto Sixty-Third Street because of a flooded viaduct a block ahead on State Street.  At Sixty-Second Street a flagman frantically signals Manning to slow down for the open switch, but the driver either does not see him or ignores the signal.  Then the unthinkable happens.  A gasoline truck pulling two tanks is travelling north on State Street and enters the intersection just as the speeding streetcar lurches violently through the open switch, throwing passengers to the floor as it hits the cab of the truck, rupturing its gas tank.  The streetcar spins around in a half-circle, and as the truck’s gas tank erupts, the cab jackknifes, slicing open the first tanker of gas.  Four thousand gallons of gasoline flow from the tank, spilling over the curb and engulfing seven buildings on State Street.  Everything is a mass of flame.  Somehow, 30 people manage to escape the packed streetcar, but 34 people, including the driver of the streetcar and the driver of the truck, die in the inferno.  A coroner’s inquest shows among other things, that the doors of this model of streetcar would not open in either direction if just one person was applying pressure to them.  That afternoon yielded a scene that was as horrendous as a mass transit accident could ever be.  If you have ever wondered why you never see a gasoline tank truck in the city during the day, you can look back on the tragedy of this Thursday afternoon in May of 1950 and understand why.

May 25, 1930 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that the design for the $10,000,000 outer drive “link bridge” will be the city’s first use of “modern architecture . . . expressive of its function.” [Chicago Tribune, May 25, 1930] President Warren Wright of the Lincoln Park park commission says of the design, “The approved design is a restrained modern treatment, simple, dignified and massive. It is not only in keeping with the present day trends but it is thoroughly practical. Flat stone weathers better, looks better and needs less attention and repair than ornamented surfaces. Incidentally, the design gives ample room for the operators’ houses and excellent visibility from them, while its bold and concentrated ornamentation eliminates the need for much overall treatment.” When completed in 1937 the Lake Shore Drive Bridge, one of the most important Depression projects of the Works Progress Administration, is the longest, widest, heaviest bridge in the world. Each of the bridge's 6,240 ton leaves is heavier than any bascule in existence. Today it is a massive example of industrial Art Deco design.