Tuesday, June 4, 2019

June 4, 1962 -- Outer Drive East Breaks Ground

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June 4, 1962 – Ground is broken for a 40-story apartment building on the northeast corner of Lake Shore Drive and Randolph Street, a $27-million complex that will sit on air rights over Illinois Central Railroad tracks.  Jerrold Wexler, the president of the Jupiter Corporation, the building's developer, says that the new building “will represent the first step in building a new city over the approximately 77 acres of air rights.”  He continues, “I doubt if anybody can envisage what is to be built in the area in the coming years.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, June 3, 1962]. The building will house 940 apartments with rents ranging from $150 to $370 a month.  The $20 million mortgage on the property is the largest ever made in the city, according to Stephen Cohn, president of Greenebaum Mortgage Company, the lender.  It is also the first mortgage granted by the Federal Housing Administration for building over air rights.  Known as Outer Drive East, the building was converted to condominiums in 1973.  Today it is the largest condominium building in Illinois with nearly 1,900 residents.  The above photos show the building under construction and its present appearance.


June 4, 1977 –An explosion rocks the fifth floor of the County Building shortly before the Puerto Rican Day parade is set to begin on State Street.  Although no one is injured by the bomb which explodes outside the offices of County Board President George Dunne, two custodians are trapped in an elevator as a result of the blast.  Shortly after the explosion the FALN, “a Puerto Rican terrorist group” [Chicago Tribune, June 4, 1977] calls United Press International and WBBM radio to claim responsibility for the bombing.  The male caller tells WBBM that several bombs are set to go off and demands the release of Puerto Rican prisoners.  Shortly after the bombing Police Superintendent James Rochford meets with top aides after which he takes time to “lash out at critics of police spying on political groups.”  


June 4, 1965 – Thomas B. O’Connor, the general manager of the Chicago Transit Authority, says that the city’s first ten air-conditioned buses will be placed in service within three days on the extra-fare Vincennes – One Hundred-Eleventh Street route.  O’Connor says, “The 10 buses represent an experiment to determine the effects on patronage of air-conditioning, as well as operating cost.  This information is essential to determine if more air-conditioned buses should be purchased in the future.”  Together the buses cost a total of $322,000 and come from two companies – General Motors Corporation and Flxible Company.  The air conditioning in the buses will turn on when the temperature rises above 70 degrees and will also maintain humidity within a bus at between 50 to 55 per cent.


June 4, 1990 – The Chicago Tribune reports that the fate of the run-down Reliance Building at 32 North State Street looks bleak as an upcoming meeting between Manhattan-based AFS Intercultural Programs and city officials may be the last chance for saving the 1895 building. Preservationist Harvey Oppmann, who bought the land on which the Reliance stands for $250,000, says, ‘That building is a disgrace and it is a firetrap. Why it hasn’t been closed—I don’t know. I think it has the potential to harm people.” [Chicago Tribune, June 4, 1990] “Most of its cornice has been gone for decades,” the paper reports. “Its once-gleaming white terra cotta and glass fa├žade, which anticipated by half a century the steel-and-glass high-rises designed by Chicago architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, is encrusted with dirt.” The deal with AFS never made it past the discussion stages. Four years will pass before the city buys the property for 1.3 million dollars, and the McClier Corporation joins with the Baldwin Development Company to complete a 27.5 million dollar renovation of the building, opening it in 1999 as the Hotel Burnham. The photo above shows the brand new Reliance Building around 1900.

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