Sunday, July 14, 2019

July 13, 1955 -- Chicago Alderman Gives Thumbs Down to Garage Sculpture

July 13, 1955 – Alderman Weber of the Forty-Fifty Ward announces that he will use the day’s meeting of the City Council to protest a $25,000 sculpture that is to be placed on the exterior of a municipal parking garage at State Street and Wacker Drive. The three-ton sculpture, “Chicago Rising from the Lake,” by sculptor Milton Horn, gets a rise out of the alderman as he states, “These things should be examined more closely.  We don’t have money to clean our streets properly, yet we can buy statues.  That bird cage [the garage] already is losing money, and now we’re spending money to provide a place for the birds to roost.”  [Chicago Tribune, July 14, 1955].  The city’s public works commissioner, says that the sculpture was included in the original design of the garage, designed by the architectural firm of Shaw, Metz and Dolio.  Weber responds, “A 3 ton embellishment!”  The piece did end up gracing the garage until the structure was destroyed in 1983, the sculpture was removed, and over the years shuttled to increasingly more remote back-lot facilities in the city’s maintenance underworld.  Horn died in April 1995, thinking that the sculpture was irretrievably lost.  A Chicago firefighter discovered the work in 1997, and after $60,000 in repairs, it was placed on the northwest abutment of the Columbus Drive bridge.  For more about “Chicago Rising from the Lake,” you can turn to this entry in Connecting the Windy City.

July 13, 1966 –After spending the day drinking in taverns near his rooming house on the south side of the city, Richard Speck breaks into an apartment building near South Chicago Community Hospital.  Overnight he rounds up nine nurses, and, one-by-one, takes them to another room where he kills eight.  Only one of the nurses, Corazon Amurao, survives after hiding all night under a bed, emerging on the following morning to find the bloody scene. The nation is shocked by the horrendous crime, what some call the first mass murder of the twentieth century. Speck is caught after attempting suicide by cutting his wrists in a flop house three days later and is sentenced to death in a 1967 trial, a sentence that is later reduced to life in prison. The accused mass murderer dies in 1991.  The above photo shows Corazon Amurao, the long survivor of that unspeakable night, leaving the courthouse in Peoria, Illinois on April 6, 1967. 

July 13, 1903 – The Committee on Streets and Alleys recommends passage of an ordinance that turns over control of the city’s portion of Grant Park to the South Park Board.  The land involved is that part of the park west of the Illinois Central right-of-way and north of Jackson Boulevard.  The ordinance also reserves the rights of the Art Institute as well as the trustees of the Crerar Library in their desire to build in the area. Thrown into the mix is the possibility of locating a new city hall in the area.  The area in question is shown in the photo of the park shown below, a photo taken in 1911.

July 13, 1980 – Paul Gapp, the architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, opens a piece on the State Street mall with these words, “The State Street mall is an esthetic failure, and that comes as a particularly harsh disappointment in a city that has produced so many triumphs of urban design in this century.”  The article lists a number of weaknesses in the mall, summarizing the experiment that began in 1979 as “a collection of neutral, ambiguous design elements that are mostly boring, ugly, or both.”  Gapp points to the protective shelters built above the entrances to the State Street subway “destroying any feeling of openness, and blocking formerly unimpeded views.”  He sees the hexagonal asphalt blocks used for paving the pedestrian areas as “unspeakably depressing,” and the bus shelters as “absurd . . . with no walls to soften the bite of winter winds and ward off wind-blown rain.”  The only seating is “on the narrow, often earth-soiled rims of tree planters . . . because city officials have long rejected comfortable downtown benches on the theory that they attract unsavory loafers.”  Ending the article, Gapp writes, “Constraints notwithstanding, we could have had a handsome mall on State Street.  Instead, we have a civic embarrassment.” [Chicago Tribune, July 13, 1980]   

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