Sunday, June 16, 2019

June 16, 1891 -- Canal Street Bridge Inspection

June 16, 1891 – City and U. S. government officials take a ride on the Chicago River to inspect the shipping hazard posed by the Canal Street bridge.  At 2:15 p.m. the captain of the steamer Saranac guides the vessel away from the dock opposite La Salle Street, guided by the tugboats O. B. Green and T. T. Morford. There are a number of delays, “sometimes to avoid a collision, at other times to let a vessel pass through a bridge, and once or twice to have a boat at a dock moved away in order to let the Saranac proceed.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 17, 1891]  Finally, the ship reaches the bridge at Canal Street, a structure that has been widely condemned by vessel men as a dangerous hindrance to river traffic.  The Saranac proves the opinion as, in moving past the bridge, “her side scraped the bridge and her stern rubbed the lumber dock.”  The general opinion on the Saranac was that the bridge should be removed, one passenger stating, “There is no use for a bridge there at all.  The road from it eastward leads across an alley with railroad tracks covering it, and it ends in a sand bank.”  The bridge measured 223 feet, 6 inches from end to end and was put in service in 1883.  The bridge that replaced it, the only vertical lift bridge remaining in the city, was opened on July 19, 1914.  When the replacement bridge was completed, it had the heaviest lift span in the United States. Today, it serves a variety of trains including Metra, Amtrak, and Norfolk Southern and stands as a Chicago Landmark just off Ping Tom Park on the South Branch of the river.  The above photo shows the new bridge, under construction in the foreground with the dangerous swing bridge to the south.  Notice the curve in the river beyond the older bridge ... it took delicate hands in the wheelhouse to squeeze through the bridge and make the bend in the river just beyond.

June 16, 1936 – One of the two trunnions that will support the two north leaves of the Outer Drive bridge over the Chicago River is lowered into place.  Weighing 80 tons, the trunnion is set in place by two huge cranes.  Everything about the bridge is massive.  It will bridge 220 feet of open space across the river with two 40-foot wide roadways and 14-foot sidewalks on either side.  The sidewalks on the upper deck are gone today, but that does not diminish the monumental undertaking of completing the link bridge for which the city had been desperately hoping as traffic filled its downtown streets with little space to head north or south across the river.  When the bridge was finished in 1937, it was the longest and heaviest bascule bridge in the world.  The above photo shows the bridge as it progressed in the fall of 1936.

June 16, 1909 – Work on the People’s Gas Light and Coke building on the northwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Adams Street interrupts a trial in the adjoining Municipal court building just to the north.  The Chicago Daily Tribune reports, “An iron girder weighing more than a ton and which was being put in place on the new building of the Peoples Gas Light and Coke company … crashed against a window of Chief Justice Harry Olson’s court on the twelfth floor yesterday and interrupted a trial.  Jurors and attorneys rushed to the other side of the room where they remained alarmed until the cause of the accident was learned.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 17, 1909] One might conjecture, I suppose, that the courtroom bailiff was tempted to cry out, “Girder in the court!”  But probably not.  In the above photo he People's Gas Light and Coke building, designed by the office of Daniel Burnham, is shown as it is being constructed.

June 16, 1932 – George “Red” Barker is gunned down as he walks in front of 1502 North Crawford Avenue.  An abandoned machine gun and spent cartridges are found on the floor of a room at that address.  Indications are that there were shots fired from across the street as well.  Two men and a woman walking with Barker are unharmed. They drag Barker into a car and speed to the Keystone Hospital on North Kostner Avenue where they find the doors locked.  Kicking in the door, they command the night nurse, Miss Elizabeth Curran, to attend to their companion, but he has already died from his wounds.  Barker had a criminal record going back 16 years and had served time in the prison at Pontiac, Illinois.  There was little mystery behind the execution.  As the Chicago Daily Tribune observed, “Underground rumors for some months had indicated that Barker, with Jack (Three Fingers) White and Murray Humphreys, former Capone gangsters, had formed a triumvirate with the intention of taking over extensive liquor and gambling territories held by the Sicilian survivors of the Capone regime, who had control of practically the whole of the county.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 17, 1932]  The son of a policeman, Barker heads to his grave at Mt. Carmel Cemetery in style.  4,000 people observe his final ride as 18 carloads of flowers follow the hearse.

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