Wednesday, May 15, 2019

May 15, 1880 -- Illinois Central Railroad Bridge Opens at River Mouth
May 15, 1880 – A new bridge opens on the Chicago River, one that carries Illinois Central railroad trains over the river near Elevator “A,” located on the south side of the river near its mouth.  A steam locomotive and one passenger car carries 30 men across the river to celebrate the completion of the project “which was conceived by the late William B. Ogden, and finally brought about by William F. Whitehouse, the Solicitor of the Dock and Canal Company.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 16, 1880].  The cost of the one-track bridge comes in at $27,000, and it is built “on a pier of solid masonry … the strongest and most substantial one of the river, and probably the Northwest.”  Various speeches are made at the offices of the Peshtigo Company (There still is a Peshtigo Court – one block long, the last street one crosses before heading under Lake Shore Drive on the way to Navy Pier on Grand or Illinois Street), including one by Mayor Carter H. Harrison.  Attorney B. F. Ayer, the general solicitor of the Illinois Central Railroad and the chairman of the Western Railway Association, offers a toast to the success of the bridge.  Illinois Central shareholder B. H. Sheldon observes that “in order to remain the Imperial City she is … it was necessary for Chicago to have afforded her every facility for the transaction of business cheaply and expeditiously,”  going on to say that before the bridge was completed “two great railroads, within 300 feet of each other, had not been connected before. Until now cars had to be transferred by the belt line nine miles around, which involved vexations delays and great inconvenience.”  The bridge is long gone … I have searched and searched and can’t find a single photo of it – just this 1893 rendering.  Elevator A is circled in red with the bridge just east of it indicated as well.  The tracks on the left side of the bridge belong to the Illinois Central.  The tracks on the right side of the bridge are the property of the Chicago and North Western Railroad, running along the north side of the river all the way from Kenzie Street on the North branch.  The elevator stands just about where the Hyatt Hotel is located today.

May 15, 1893 –It’s a big, big day in the city as the first of the World’s Fair Congresses kicks off at the spanking new Art Institute, a building that will for the next seven days be the “Place aux Dames” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 15, 1893] or the site of the Woman’s Congress, a colloquium that “is to be conducted by women, for women, and the subjects that will be discussed are all related to some phase of the life of modern women.” Preparations have been ongoing since May, 1892 and provide for four classes of meetings, the largest of which will consist of two daily sessions held in the Hall of Washington and the Hall of Columbus, each of which will accommodate 3,000 people.  Mrs. Potter Palmer and Mrs. Charles Henrotin will open the Congress on this day with a welcoming address.  One subject that the Woman’s Congress will cover in depth is “Woman’s Progress,” with discussion of such topics as “civil and social evolution of woman; the administrative ability of woman; woman the new factor in industrial economics; the ethics of dress; woman as an actual force in politics; woman as financier; woman in municipal government; the political future for woman and woman’s war for peace.”  One of the unique features of the Congress will occur on the final day, May 21, a Sunday, when religious services will be held at the Art Institute at which only women ordained as ministers will take part.  On that closing evening a “sacred concert” will be held “in which the line of sex will again be drawn, both as to composers and performers, both being, it is hardly necessary to say, women.”  The highlight of the concert will be the Columbian Ladies’ Harp Orchestra, “led by Mme. Josephine Chatterton, who has arranged for this harp orchestra a grand ‘Marche Triumphale,’ … the first time in this country so large a harp orchestra will be heard.

May 15, 1881 – With a fresh legal judgment giving the South Park Commissioners responsibility to improve and maintain streets that move people onto boulevards leading to or passing around parks, the Chicago Daily Tribune offers an opinion on what should be done with Michigan Avenue south of the river.  The editorial shines a spotlight on the one thing “which all the property-owners and residents along the line of Michigan avenue ought to agree to, and which will greatly enhance the beauty of the new boulevard.”  That is … getting rid of all the fences along the front yards that line the street.  “It is only by this means,” the editorial says, “that uniformity can be secured and protection guaranteed against rickety or incongruous fences.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 15, 1881]  

May 15, 1938 – An “autogiro” takes off from the Chicago Airport (today’s Midway) at 1:40 p.m., lands on the roof of the main post office at 1:45 and heads back to the airport 15 minutes later. This is a symbolic flight. The two-seater rotor craft will only carry 200 pounds of mail, and it can only fly about 100 miles per hour. BUT this event, as the Chicago Daily Tribune points out, “ . . . presages the day when all mail will be flown between these two points.” With pilot Johnny Miller in the cockpit, the autogiro takes off on the first day of National Air Mail Week, commemorating the day twenty years earlier when air mail service was initiated. The sacks of mail are delivered directly to Postmaster Ernest J. Kruetgenon who stands on the roof of the post office, 14 stories above the Chicago River. Only 200 guests are on the post office roof, but the event is seen and heard by many. The Field Building at 135 South La Salle opens its entire fortieth floor to spectators, and the Board of Trade opens its forty-fourth floor to the public. The event is also covered by W.G.N., WBBM, and the coast-to-coast Mutual broadcasting system. 

No comments: