Friday, May 24, 2019

May 24, 1919 -- Street Car Carries 40 on Wild Ride toward River

May 24, 1919 --  West bound Harrison street car No. 1818 leaves the rails of a temporary bridge at Harrison Street just west of the river and slides down a 25-foot embankment as 40 passengers experience a terrifying plunge toward the river.  The hero of the day is a city fireman, Cornelius E. Burke, who stands at the front of the car, straining to hold the hand grips, breaking the fall of passengers tumbling toward the front of the car.  Burke is battered and bruised and faints while helping passengers through the front doors and windows of the streetcar.  Motorman Richard Pierce says, “As the car lunged most of the passengers believed we were falling into the river.  They all tried for the back of the car, but couldn’t make it.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 25, 1919]. The car comes to rest at a 45-degree angle as fire wagons, ambulances and boats converge on the scene.  Everyone gives fireman Burke credit for his actions, saying that his shouting “that there was no cause for fear seemed to still the fears of the passengers.”  One passenger, Edward Leppl, sums up the ordeal, saying, “It was more like a football scrimmage.  After the first panic every one tried to find his hat.”  Fireman Burke is inset in the Tribune's photo of the wreck.

May 24, 1927 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that “A bridge at the mouth of the river and a new stretch of Wacker drive along the bank are suggested in the Chicago Plan commission’s recommendations for linking the outer drive in Grant park with Lake Shore drive.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 24, 1927] The commission recommends that “the bridge and its boulevard approaches should follow the classic architecture of the boulevard link and Wacker drive.”  The proposed route would have the approach to the bridge start at Randolph Street, where “a raised avenue, at least 140 feet wide, would be built over the Illinois Central railroad yard in a direct line to the river. There the drive would curve to the right and extend along the river to is mouth, becoming an extension of Wacker Drive.”  James Simpson, the chairman of the Chicago Plan Commission, says, “The early construction of the remaining portion of the Wacker Drive extension will enable the outer drive to function to even greater traffic advantage because it will permit vehicles bound to and from the west side to use the wide streets that form the quadrangle, thereby avoiding congested loop streets.”  Contrast the two pictures above and you can see that the original plan, which was built, has changed dramatically since.

May 24, 1954 – The Illinois Supreme Court rules that Chicago may proceed with construction of its 96 million-dollar water filtration plant just north of Navy Pier. Near north side property owners are huddling to determine whether to ask for a rehearing or take the case against the city directly to the United States Supreme Court. In his opinion Judge Harry B. Hershey finds that the 85-acre filtration plant will not be an “unreasonable interference” to navigation and will not violate an 1891 series of contracts in which lake front property owners gave up their rights to submerged lands with the understanding that the park district would use the property for park purposes. The court finds that the property in question is beyond the 250 feet over which the park district has control. “. . . the reclamation of this submerged land and the construction of a filtration plant thereon can constitute no violation by the park district of its covenant with the property owners,” the court’s opinion states. [Chicago Tribune, May 25, 1954] In the above photo to the right of the long Municipal Pier, today's Navy Pier, extending out into the lake is the location of the site of the proposed water purification plant. It took nearly a half-dozen years of court battles to get the project finally prepared for take-off.  Thins have changed a bit since 1954 as the above two photos clearly show.

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