Wednesday, July 17, 2019

July 17, 1941 -- Blighted Areas Identified for Renewal

July 17, 1941 – The executive director of the Chicago Plan Commission, T. T. McCrosky, designates three additional areas of the city as “blight districts” suitable for redevelopment by a private corporation.  The first area is on the North Side in an area bounded by Chicago Avenue, the alley between Rush Street and Michigan Avenue, Grand Avenue, and the alley west of Wells Street.  The second area is on the West Side in an area bounded by Congress Street, Racine Avenue, Roosevelt Road, Canal Street from Roosevelt north to Polk street, Polk Street west to a line with Union Avenue, and north to Congress Street.  The final area is on the South Side, an area bounded by Federal Street, Thirty-First Street, Lake Park Avenue, and Twenty-Sixth Street. McCrosky says, “All three of the districts I have designated would be suitable for apartment houses.  The one on the north side should be for the benefit of middle salaried white collar workers … The west side district which also would permit the worker to walk to the loop, would provide for the start of a general west side improvement.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 18, 1941]  McCrosky’s announcement comes a week after Illinois Governor Dwight H. Green signs the Neighborhood Redevelopment Corporation Act, which permits private corporations to condemn property for slum clearance … but only after the corporation has obtained 60 percent of the land needed for the project and has received approval from a municipal redevelopment commission. 

July 17, 1933 – A parade to honor General Italo Balbo and the aviators who accompanied him from Italy to Chicago begins at the Stevens Hotel on Michigan Avenue at 2:30 p.m. and proceeds north to the bridge across the Chicago River.  The Italians ride in United States Army cars and are escorted by cavalry troops from Camp Whistler on the grounds of the Century of Progress Exposition.  At the bridge the troops “present sabers and leave the flyers to an escort of army officers, who will take them to Fort Sheridan.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 17, 1933] At the fort the flyers review the troops at 3:30 p.m. and watch “an aerial demonstration by Army planes from Selfridge Field, Michigan, exhibition jumping by army riders and a polo game.” The afternoon ends with a reception at the Officer’s Club. This will be the last official act in honor of the Italian airmen.  On the following day, they will fire up their 24 Savola-Marcinetti seaplanes and head on the thousand-mile trip to New York City.  For more on the flight of Balbo and his men you can turn to Connecting the Windy City for this blog entry and this one.

July 17, 1977 – Paul Gapp, the architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, evaluates the new Apparel Mart at 350 North Orleans Street, observing that once the Joseph P. Kennedy family bought the land where the new building stands on Wolf Point, family members “began a leisurely study of what to do with it.”  Gapp continues, “After all this high-powered cerebration, one might have expected an imposing structure to rise on a precious patch of 7.5 acres.  Instead, we got the Apparel Mart, a disappointing, $56 million architectural performance that succeeds mostly in saving money … The Mart, inside and out, has that hard-edged crowd control look that speaks of hustling retailers racing up in taxis and airline limos; sprinting from showroom to showroom to buy brassieres and bush jackets; having a late dinner, then flopping into bed for a few hours before arising to catch an early plane back to Cleveland, Omaha, or Sarasota, Fla.”  Gapp seems willing to forgive the buildings “windowlessness” because it “does not intrude into an elegant environment, and thus is not as blatantly offensive as [Water Tower Place] the marble monstrosity on North Michigan Avenue.”  In the Skidmore, Owings and Merrill design Gapp sees “a watch-every-nickel structure of little distinction and absolutely no elegance, done by a first-rate firm.”  Gapp ends his assessment with a remarkably accurate prediction, by way of Skidmore architect Bruce Graham, whose assertion that the Apparel Mart buildings are “’background buildings’ that someday may be dwarfed into nothingness.  “The Mart must stand on its own demerits, even if Graham is right when he says that a skyscraper approaching the size of the Standard Oil Building may be built on the very tip of Wolf Point,” writes Gapp.  A 48-story apartment building, Wolf Point West, a bKL architecture design, opened last summer.  A 60-story commercial building is currently just coming up out of the ground.  And the tallest building on Wolf Point will almost completely obscure the Apparel Mart when it rises in the next few years.  The conceptual photo of the completed Wolf Point development project, shown above, seems to validate Graham's belief that the Apparel Mart would one day become a "background building."

July 17, 1881 – The Chicago Daily Tribune prints the report of William H. Genung, the chief tenement house inspector, who provides figures on the work of his department during the preceding week.  The report gives some idea of the size of the problem with which the city is faced as 180 houses are inspected, containing 2,086 rooms, inhabited by 559 families, consisting of 2,550 people.  Small pox will claim the lives of 1,181 people in the last months of this year, and the city is hard at work to eliminate the conditions that foster the disease.  In the Second Ward that today encompasses the east side of the Loop, part of the Gold Coast, and Streeterville, tenement houses such as the one Genung’s department inspected were places in which people lived in cramped circumstances in deplorable sanitary conditions.

No comments: