Tuesday, August 20, 2019

August 20, 1938 -- Douglas Corrigan, the "Wrong Way" Flyer, Mobbed by Chicagoans

August 20, 1938 – Police estimate that a half-million people line the ten-mile route from the Chicago Airport, today’s Midway International Airport, at Sixty-Third and Cicero Avenue to the Chicago City Hall, every one of them straining to get a glimpse of Douglas Corrigan, the young aviator who, weeks earlier, had completed a solo flight from New York to Dublin, Ireland. “I like it,” Corrigan says modestly. “But I don’t understand it.  I’ve been getting the same thing everywhere. It’s surely strange.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 21, 1938].  The crowd begins to gather at the airport two hours before Corrigan’s expected touch-down at 11:00 a.m.  The pilot arrives exactly on time as 50,000 spectators line Cicero Avenue outside the airport.  He is met in front of an American Airlines hangar by Chicago Mayor Edward Kelly, who welcomes him, saying, ”Son, we’re really glad to see you. I’m Mayor Kelly.  You’re the kind of folks we like to see.”   Corrigan responds, “Two months ago I didn’t expect ever to be in a situation like this.  I’m in your hands and whatever you say goes.”  With that the entourage is off to City Hall, where the aviator answers a few questions from reporters after spending a few moments with the mayor in his private office.  Then it is off to the Blackstone Hotel for a luncheon, followed by a tour of the city’s parks and a stop at the Edward Hines Hospital in Maywood where Corrigan is cheered by veterans.  A dinner in his honor is held at the Chicago Athletic Association where Corrigan is asked about the most money he has ever made in a year.  “Oh, about a thousand dollars,” he answers.  “Do you have any ambition to make any more,” another questioner asks.  “What’s the use,” answers Corrigan, who is rumored to have received offers from major movie sutdios as well as from airline companies.  “The government’ll take it all away anyhow, and, so far as I can see, it deesn’t put the taxes it collects to any good purpose.  I don’t want any more money.”  Corrigan caught the attention of an American public, starved for some good news in the throes of a world-wide depression.  In a plane he had virtually constructed himself, and with a fuel tank that he knew was leaking gasoline when he took off, he made the trip from Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, New York to Baldonnel Aerodrome in County Dublin after a 28-hour, 13-minute flight with provisions consisting of two chocolate bars, two boxes of fig bars, and a quart of water.   The plane had no radio, and the compass he used was 20-years-old.

August 20, 1936 – Before a crowd of more than 10,000 people, Mayor Edward Kelly and other city officials dedicate the new Ashland Avenue bridge over the north branch of the Chicago River at Elston and Clybourn Avenues.  The bridge is worth the $1,713,000 it costs to build it because it is the final link in the widening and extension of Ashland Avenue from Ninety-Fifth street to Devon avenue, a project that began in 1922.  A parade of cars begins at Sixty-Ninth Street and moves along Ashland to Milwaukee Avenue where it is joined by a series of floats that depict the development of the city’s traffic from horse cars to streetcars and buses.  Kelly says, “All of the city will benefit by this great improvement.  It required much planning and is a concrete expression of the ‘I WILL’ spirit of Chicago.  It is a credit to the community, a mark of achievement.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 21, 1936]

August 20, 1899 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports on a controversy surrounding United States government buildings at the upcoming Paris exposition.  The man in charge of settling the kerfuffle is Chicagoan Ferdinand W. Peck, who must somehow come to a decision regarding the huge issue of whether the letter “V” or “U” will be used on American buildings at the exposition.  Those who argue against substituting the “V” in words that normally would use “U” say that the substitution “is an unwarranted bowing of the knee to the French, an effort unduly to honor words already borrowed from them and a pledge that the United State by and by will make their entire language its own.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 20, 1899] Peck is the one man most responsible for seeing the great Auditorium Theater built a decade earlier, and that building on Congress Street and Michigan Avenue uses “V” in place of “U” in its nameplate.  One of the architects of the Auditorium, Louis Sullivan, says, “The letter “V’ has always been considered more artistic than the letter “U” … the letter is ugly, totally too heavy in the lower portion, and made of no artistic lines.  The “V” is copied from the old Roman and may be found in practically every inscription designed by an artist or an architect.”  In Rome the Latin language of antiquity had no “U,” so one could speculate that the use of the “V” in neo-classical design enhances the effect of the design style.  One could also ask a stone carver which letter he or she would prefer to carve and be fairly accurate in predicting the response. 

August 20, 1980 – Things become heated at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse on Dearborn Street as Judge Marvin Aspen sends 14 sweaty jurors downstairs to the offices of the General Services Administration to complain about conditions in the “sweltering courtroom.”  “Maybe they’ll listen to you,” the judge says.  “They certainly ought to, because you’re paying their salary.”  The Chicago Tribune reports that the assistant building engineer, Michael O’Connell, tells the jurors, “Don’t expect it any lower than 80,” as he explains President Carter’s energy guidelines, which call for the cooling of public buildings to no less than 80 degrees.  The real problem, though, seems to be with the engineering of the building.  According to the Tribune, “In recent years, some Dirksen Building courtrooms have been so hot or so cold that a number of judges have said they cannot conduct business and have threatened to cite the GSA for contempt of court for obstruction of justice.”  [Chicago Tribune, August 20, 1980]    

Monday, August 19, 2019

August 19, 1890 -- Michigan Avenue Mess

Chicago Tribune
August 19, 1890 – The Chicago Daily Tribune, under the headline, “It’s No Thoroughfare,” runs a lengthy article on the inadequacies of Michigan Avenue between Randolph and Lake Streets.  At the time the street is the only passage that leads to the Rush Street bridge, the sole public bridge across the river east of State Street. The passage is made difficult because of “the business firms which from early morn to eventide maintain an impassable blockade of wagons, trucks, baskets, skids, barrels, boxes, brooms, and crates from wall to wall on this thoroughfare, using the public street for their private need and denying its use to the public … forcibly severing one link from the chain that should stretch uninterruptedly from Stony Island avenue to Sheridan road.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 19, 1890]  On the previous day a Tribune reporter had canvassed the area, singling out the business of Sprague, Warner and Co. as a particularly zealous offender.  The reporter observed “the entire front of Sprague, Warner and Co. lined with wagons, loading or unloading.  A pair of skids was laid from each of the eight entrances.  Boxes, crates, and barriers were piled all over the sidewalk … No effort of any kind was made to keep the sidewalk even partially clear.”  The report exempts the firm of Reid, Murdoch and Company from the mess on Michigan, noting that “despite the volume of their business, [the company] does not preempt the street for it entirely and few complaints are received of them.”  If other businesses followed the practices of that company, the paper predicts, “the difficulty … would vanish into thin air.  But they have consulted their own convenience alone, and the exigencies of office room on the sunny side of the building weigh far more than the necessity or the rights of the public at large.”  

August 19, 1974 – Speaking before the Seventy-Fifth annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars at the Conrad Hilton Hotel, President Gerald Ford proposes leniency for the 50,000 American military “deserters and draft-dodgers” [Chicago Tribune, August 20, 1974] if they agree to some form of alternative service upon their return.  Ford says, “I want them to come home, if they want to work their way back.”  The President’s speech is greeted with “whistles, cheers, and loud applause” when he sets aside his scripted remarks to say that he opposes “unconditional blanket amnesty for anyone who illegally evaded or fled military service.”  The crowd cools off, however, when Ford says, “I acknowledge a power higher than the people, who commands not only righteousness but love; not only justice, but mercy … These young people should have a second chance to contribute their fair share to the rebuilding of peace among ourselves.  In the spirit that guided Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman, I reject amnesty and I reject revenge.  So I am throwing the weight of my Presidency into the scales of justice on the side of leniency.  I foresee their reentry into a new atmosphere of hope, hard work, and mutual trust.”

August 19, 1946 – Construction begins on the first major building project in the Loop in nearly a decade as a five-story building that will be occupied by the Baskin Clothing Company is begun. The new store, a design by Holabird and Root, is expected to be completed by May 1, 1947. The whole building will be air-conditioned and long strips of glass block will be featured on the Adams Street side of the structure. Exterior walls will be of Indiana limestone with a strip of polished granite framing the building from the roof line to a recessed space above the shop windows.  An entire floor will be devoted to women’s wear with men’s wear taking up the second and third floors.  Office and tailor shops will be placed on the top floor.  The new building will have a frontage of 76 feet on State Street and 148 feet on Adams Street.  The top photo shows the Baskin's Store at 137 South State Street.  The corner as it appears today -- with an EnWave Chicago cooling plant atop a C.V.S. drugstore -- is shown in the photo beneath that.

August 19, 1963 – Imagine this one happening today!  Coast Guard officials detain five men and a woman aboard a 75-foot boat after the leaking boat is stopped at the Chicago lock because it has no safety equipment and is judged to be unseaworthy.  After removing the crew from the boat, officials discover 500 pounds of dynamite on the top deck and remove the leaking vessel to a point 1,000 feet offshore.  Miss Kiiri Tamm, 21, one of the crew members, tells officials that the group planned to use the dynamite to blow up a sunken barge off Eighty-Third Street in an effort to salvage the metal, which they hoped to sell in order to start a salvage firm of their own.  The bomb squad removes the explosives and the boat is returned to its berth at Goose Island.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

August 18, 1969 -- Chicago Plan Commission Approves Illinois Center Proposal

August 18, 1969 – The Chicago Plan Commission approves a zoning ordinance for the 80-acre air rights site of the Illinois Central Railroad south of the river and east of Randolph Street.  Lewis Hill, the Commissioner of Development and Planning, says, “Successful planned development here will greatly affect the future of the whole central area and much of the city and metropolitan area.  It is in both the public and private interest that this development proceed beyond a mere meeting of minimal standards to the achievement of an environment of high quality.”  [Chicago Tribune, August 19, 1969]   Illinois Center today occupies the upper left section of the railroad yard below the river in the above photo. 

August 18, 1935 –A double bill of “Cavalleria Rusticana” and “Pagliacci” opens at 8:15 p.m. in the auditorium at Navy Pier.  This will start an eight-week series of opera at the pier with performances being offered at a cost of 50 cents and a dollar.  Part of the program is underwritten by the city council through an appropriation of $2,500.  Prior to the evening’s program an announcement is made that opera-goers will be admitted in their shirt sleeves and that patrons will “enjoy the advantages of the natural cooling system provided by Lake Michigan.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 18, 1935] The above photo shows the pier in 1936 in a view taken from Oak Street.

August 18, 1960 – James F. Tobin, president of Wieboldt Stores, Inc., announces that the firm will take over full control of Mandel’s stores at State and Madison Streets as well as in Lincoln Village Shopping Center at 4041 Milwaukee Avenue.  “Wieboldt’s will bring to State street the same high standard of merchandise and customer service policies which has spearheaded the Wieboldt progress and steady growth in the Chicagoland area for the past 77 years,” says Tobin. [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 19, 1960] Werner A. Wieboldt, the chairman of Wieboldt says, “I have great personal admiration for State street and for the many reputable merchants who have made it great.  We are dedicated to add to its strength of attraction and hope to make it an even greater retail center.”

Saturday, August 17, 2019

August 17, 1982 -- Chicago Public Library to Occupy Goldblatt's?

August 17, 1982 – Preliminary plans for transforming Goldblatt’s closed store on State Street into the Chicago Public Library are unveiled at the Library Board of Director’s meeting.  City architect Joseph Casserly declares that a plaza at the Jackson Street entrance to the building is part of “a design that will give a new, highly imaginative identity to the building.” [Chicago Tribune, August 18, 1982] The plan also has the city demolishing the Kee Department Store on the corner of Jackson Boulevard and State Street, thereby making a Jackson Boulevard entrance to the library feasible.  It is anticipated that the main library will begin moving its collection into the renovated department store sometime in January of 1984.  The top photo shows an artist's rendering of what the converted department store would look like once it became the new main library.  The photo below that shows how close the new library on State Street south of Van Buren is to the proposed Goldblatt's conversion.

August 17, 1950 – A homeless Navy veteran, James Wagster, 45, leaps into the Chicago River from the Lake Shore Drive Bridge, setting in motion a remarkable series of events that ultimately saves him from death.  Birdell Grant, 28, comes upon Wagster as he stands on the bridge, looking down at the water.  Grant, just released from the prison at Statesville and having been rejected for jobs at 25 places, asks Wagster for directions to an office where he can apply for work as a stevedore.  Wagster’s answer is a question . . . he asks Grant if he has a drink on him.  When Grant replies that he dioes not, Wagster announces that he is going to get one and jumps from the bridge.  Grant, who suffers from a bone ailment for which he has undergone five operations, runs down the bridge stairs to the water’s edge, removing his shirt and shoes on the way, and jumps in the water, suffering cramps just as he reaches Wagster.  Two passing motorists hear the commotion and they, too, jump in the water and swim 60 yards to the two men.  By that time the two bridge tenders, Jack Northrup and Leo Loughran, toss life preservers to the men and a Coast Guard boat arrives to help all four men ashore.  In his efforts Grant loses his last 15 cents;  one of the bridge tenders gives him money for his transportation back home.  Wearing only shorts and wrapped in a police blanket, Wagster, when asked in South State Street Court why he had jumped, tells the judge, “Judge, I must be crazy.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 17, 1950]

August 17, 1976 –A sniper opens fire on a crowd in front of the Conrad Hilton Hotel, wounding two people.  Witnesses say that as many as five shots may have been fired from an elevated sidewalk across the street in Grant Park.  William Charnota, an elevator starter at the hotel at 720 South Michigan Avenue, is grazed in the back of the leg by a bullet, and a minister from San Diego, in town for the Convention of the International Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, is wounded in the hip.  The minister’s wife says, “I wasn’t too keen on coming here in the first place.  I’ve heard all about Chicago and unfortunately it all came true, too true for me.”  Charnota says, “Everybody was falling down, hitting the sidewalk.  When you see all that, you know it’s not just firecrackers. It was pretty crowded.  I guess he figured he had a good target.  It happened in seconds.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 18, 1976] Although a witness describes the assailant to police, darkness and confusion allow the gunman to escape.  In the above Chicago Tribune photo, police search the area in Grant Park across the street from the Conrad Hilton Hotel.

Friday, August 16, 2019

August 16, 1963 -- Landmark Ordinance Initiative Approved by City Council

August 16, 1963 – The Commission on Chicago Architectural Landmarks appoints a committee to draft an ordinance that will provide a framework for the city to preserve its important architectural and historical places.  At the meeting, held at the Art Institute of Chicago, the commission also designates Hull House an architectural landmark and initiates an inquiry into the status of the vacant Sullivan house at 4575 Lake Park Avenue.  Its last order of business is the decision to submit a request to the building department as well as the department of city planning, asking that the commission be notified if a proposal is made to demolish the Reliance building at 32 North State Street, a building that has already been designated a landmark.  It is too bad that the initiative was launched so late, after many historic city treasures had been lost and many more were soon to be gone.  The Sullivan home on Lake Park Avenue is an example.  Originally built for architect Louis Sullivan's mother, it was finished about the time of her death in 1892.  Sullivan, himself, lived in the home until 1896 when his brother, Albert, took up residence with his family.  Despite being designated a landmark in 1960, the home was razed in 1970.  It is pictured above.

August 16, 1965 – United Air Lines Flight 389, carrying 24 passengers and a crew of six, disappears from radar screens only five minutes from its scheduled arrival at O’Hare International Airport.  Boats searching the lake about seven miles off Highland Park are hampered by darkness, but twisted pieces of wreckage are reported.  The last communication with the flight occurs at 9:18 p.m. as the O’Hare control tower gives directions for approach to the airport, receiving a “Roger” from the pilot.  Search planes and helicopters drop flares in an attempt to illuminate the search area, and by 1:00 a.m. more than 20 vessels are there, many of them private boats from yacht clubs along the North Shore.  A temporary morgue is also set up in the gymnasium of Highland Park High School. The plane had only been in service for three months at the time of the crash.  Three months later another Boeing 727 crashes on approach to Cincinnati, killing 62 of the 66 passengers on board.  Three days after that United Airlines Flight 227, another 727, crashes on landing at Salt Lake City International Airport, killing 43 of 91 on board.  There is widespread concern that the Boeing 727, first flown in 1963, is an accident waiting to happen.  Extensive review, however, reveals that the airplane is airworthy and properly certified. Those reviews also reveal that pilots, accustomed to flying DC-6’s and other propeller planes, were having trouble adjusting to the rapid descent of the new plane.  The Federal Aviation Agency subsequently required airlines to make changes in training procedures to emphasize the importance of stabilized approaches. The above Chicago Tribune photo shows the crowd gathered on a Highland Park beach, awaiting word from the search area.

August 16, 1893 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that the Art Institute of Chicago and the Armour Institute have joined forces “for the purpose of establishing in Chicago a full and thorough course of study in architecture.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 16, 1893] W. M. R. French will direct the Art Institute coursework, and the Reverend F. W. Gunsaulus will handle the work for the Armour Institute.  The Art Institute library in 1893 had 1,300 books and 19,000 photographs with 200 books and 1,000 photographs relating directly to the subject of architecture.  The Armour Institute had 10,000 volumes in its library as well as physical and chemical laboratories and courses of study in electricity, mining, and mechanical engineering.  Director French says of the decision, “The Armour Institute, under the Presidency of the Rev. F. W. Gunsalulus, has laid out courses of technical study of the highest order. The departments of mechanical engineering, electricity, civil engineering, etc., are equal to those of the Institute of Technology of Boston, and the laboratories, shops, library, and appliances are in accord with the most approved and modern practice in technical schools.  There are already 500 applicants to enter the various departments upon the opening of the first school year, Sept. 14.”  William French is shown above at the easel. Reverend Gunsaulus is the man at the desk in the photo below that.

August 16, 1978 – In an editorial the Chicago Tribune states its opposition to a recommendation by the Chicago branch of the American Association of Architects that a way be found to preserve Chicago’s Loop elevated structure.  The paper asserts, “Anyone who finds a resemblance between Chicago’s elevated and San Francisco’s cable cars must have been standing at Lake and Wabash so long that the screeching has softened his brain.  No way can the “L” be considered charming, quaint, fun, or attractive to visitors . . . There is no good reason, either sensible or sentimental, to preserve the “L” one day longer than is economically unavoidable.  The noisy, dirty eyesore is of no architectural value and will interfere with the practical and esthetic pleasures and profitability of both the State Street mall and the North Loop renewal plan.”     

Thursday, August 15, 2019

August 15, 1873 -- More Milk Problems

August 15, 1873 – A letter to the editor of the Chicago Daily Tribune points out one of the many perils of living in the city – the difficulty of obtaining unadulterated milk.  “I was engaged in the milk-business three years, and gave it up in disgust,” the writer begins, “inasmuch as I could not sell pure milk and compete with other milkmen.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 15, 1873].  The writer points out that fixed costs for milk dealers include not just the milk, but the “wear and tear of wagons, harness, and horses, the wages of men … the cost of ice, etc. etc.”  Placing much of the blame on customers who refuse to pay what the product is worth, “Old Milkman” writes, “When a milkman finds his customers are not willing to pay a reasonable price for good milk, he naturally concludes he must make the milk to suit their price.”  To accomplish this, a dealer may, for example, skim the milk, “… taking from two to four quarts of cream from every eight-gallon can.”  To mask the missing cream the dealer adds a tablespoon of burnt sugar to each can and “restores the rich, creamy color to such an extent that the most experienced dairy-woman would be deceived.”  The writer does offer a number of suggestions on how to change the situation, beginning with paying milk dealers a fair price and then appointing a milk inspector “whose duty it will be to inspect, at intervals, all the milk that enters the city.”  Publishing the names of all dealers who adulterate their product as well as those who sell a “good product,” the writer believes “will soon find a complete revolution in the trade, and will also find that very few of the farmers are guilty of watering their milk.”  Adulteration of milk was just one problem citizens faced; another more dangerous aspect of milk distribution can be found here in Connecting the Windy City.  

August 15, 1893 –A mass-meeting of unemployed workers is held at 2:30 p.m. at the Columbus Statue in the Lake-Front Park, today’s Grant Park.  The gathering, organized by the Allied Woodworkers’ Trades Council, is made up of delegates of various trades, among them cabinet makers, piano varnishers and finishers, upholsterers, carvers, box makers, and sash, door and blind makers. The call to the meeting suggests it will deal with the questions: (1) Why are we idle and how can we be furnished employment; (2) Is it men or conditions we have to deal with; and (3) Shall we warn the unemployed of other cities, towns and States to stay away from Chicago or shall we let them come? [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 15, 1893] The Depression to which the workers are responding could possibly have been the worst in the country’s history. Even as the great World’s Columbian Exposition was drawing millions to Chicago, the nation’s gold reserves fell steeply, touching off a financial panic that closed four thousand banks by the end of the year.  Some fifty railroads failed in the crisis, a fact that hit Chicago, the railroad capital of the nation, particularly hard.  Unemployment climbed to 20 percent, and Chicago police were stationed at railroad stations to keep the unemployed from coming into the city. It would not be until 1897 that things would begin to improve. 

August 15, 1860 – The Chicago Press and Tribune provides its annual review of the city’s fire department, introducing its inventory with a homage to “the gallant wearers of red shirts and fire hats, that on the occasion of a jingling of wild bells in an alarm of fire, used to start up from all corners and nooks, and come dashing up areas and round corners …”  [Chicago Press and Tribune, August 14, 1860] The fire department took a leap forward in 1858 when it purchased the first steam-powered fire engine, dubbed the “Long John” after the nickname of the mayor, “Long John” Wentworth.  In the two years that followed, “… hand machines have been sold to other cities, costly hose carts have sought the rural districts to be the wonder of the smaller communities, the steam machines with a few hand engines and hose carts located in different remote sections of the city …” constitute the fire department, manned by paid professionals.  With just a few strokes of a bell, the paper reports, “… in less than two minutes steam engines with attendant hose carriages … all drawn by over thirty powerful horses are in the streets moving at a hard gallop toward the scene of conflagration.”  A partial inventory of the department includes: (1) The Long John, drawn by four horses and housed on LaSalle Street near Washington.  The engine has a force of eleven men, including an engineer, a fireman, two drivers, five pipemen, and an engine house watchman.  (2) The Enterprise, a Seneca Falls machine housed on State Street near Harrison, drawn by four horses with the same complement of personnel as the Long John.  (3) The Atlantic, a Seneca Falls machine housed on Michigan Avenue near the river with four horses and a force of eleven.  (4) The Island Queen, a third Seneca Falls machine, housed on West Lake Street with four horses and a crew of eleven.  (5) The U. P. Harris, a Philadelphia machine, housed on Jackson Street near Clinton on the west side with four horses and eleven crew members.  (6) The Little Giant, a moskeag machine, housed on Dearborn Street near Washington with two horses and eleven crew members.  The Long John, with forty pounds of steam pressure, could produce four streams of water through 100 feet of hose horizontally 150 feet; with sixty pounds of steam pressure two streams of water could be thrown 160 feet horizontally. The machine weighed five tons and cost about $5,000.  The Long John is shown in the above photo.

August 15, 1911 – As 50,000 watch the third day of the Aero meet being held in Grant Park, two accidents take the lives of aviators and silence the crowds.  Mike Badger of Pittsburgh, flying a Baldwin biplane, dies as he executes a low-level flyover of Grant Park, ending with a dramatic climb that tears his plane apart.  The plane falls 50 feet and the wealthy daredevil dies at St. Luke’s Hospital.  St. Croix Johnstone, flying a Moisant monoplane, dies as his plane falls into Lake Michigan a little after 6:00 p.m. about a mile off shore opposite Twelfth Street.  He is attempting to do a corkscrew maneuver when 800 feet above the lake the “spidery monoplane tipped a bit, shot downward with a sickening swoop, overturning just before it splashed In the water.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 16, 1911]   Before he goes up on that day, Badger holds a wide-ranging interview with a Tribune reporter, saying, “That’s the nuttiest idea people have about aviators.  They think they don’t mind death at all.  Why, I set just as much store by my life as you do.  I love life.  They think we go out of our way to invite death.  They say we don’t take ordinary precautions.  I don’t consider that I take one chance in 10,000 with my life . . . You must be sure of your machine.  I am sure of mine.  You must be sure of your good muscle and your clear brain.  I am sure of mine.”

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

August 14, 1972 -- Bridgeview Tragedy Narrowly Averted

Chicago Tribune photo
August 14, 1972 – During the evening rush hour, the temperature in the Chicago area drops quickly from 94 degrees to 71 as winds from the west at over 60 miles-per-hour kick up.  As the dark storm clouds move quickly toward the city, 800 people in Bridgeview are gathered in a circus tent, watching the elephant act of the Rudi Brothers Circus. Fortunately, officials at the site spot the storm moving toward them, and order the tent cleared before winds topple four 50-foot poles onto the empty bleachers, covering the area with torn and twisted canvas.  Bernard Mendelson, one of the managers of the circus, says, “When you’ve been around a circus as long as I have, you develop a sixth sense about these things.  I told [my partner] Rudy, ‘Get those people out now, right now.’”  [Chicago Tribune, August 15, 1972]  The ringmaster, Charles Cox, is alerted and announces, “Ladies and gentlemen there’s a little wind blowing up.  Would you please leave the tent by the front entrance because the elephants will be going out the other way.  Please walk, don’t run.”  As people file out, the musicians continue to play as the tent begins to shudder in the wind.  Circus performers spend most of the night, clearing the debris so that the circus, sponsored by the Confederation of Police as a fund-raiser for drug abuse information programs and a legal defense fund for its members, can go on the following day in an improvised setting.

August 14, 1936 –Nathan Goldblatt signs a contract for the purchase of the residence built by Benjamin Marshall in Wilmette on Sheridan Road opposite the Baha’i Temple. It is reported that Marshall, the architect who designed the Drake Hotel, the South Shore Country Club and the Blackstone Theater and a host of other impressive buildings, had reportedly spent over a million dollars on the home and its furnishings.  The Spanish-influenced home commanded a view of Lake Michigan … the Sheridan Shores Yacht Club used the home’s basement as its clubhouse. Marshall’s work studio had a space for 45 draftsmen.  The home had a 50-foot-high, 75-by-100-foot tropical garden with palm and banana trees. The home’s swimming pool was lined with turquoise tiles from Algiers. Goldblatt reportedly paid $60,000 for the home but did not stay there long, and in 1950 Wilmette had the home razed.  Only the wrought-iron gates remain on the property, which is today owned by the Baha’i Temple.

August 14, 1960 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that a building at 739 North State Street has been raised, and the rubble is made up of the remains of the flower shop that Dion O’Banion ran, a place “where murders, boot-legging, and hi-jackings were planned amidst flowering plants and the scent of roses.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 14, 1960] Ironically, at the time “the same building that once served as the headquarters of a bloody band of killers during the guzzling decade of the twentieth century” was most recently used as a meeting place for the Young People’s club of Holy Name Cathedral.  In April of 2017 it was disclosed that JDL Development had agreed to pay $110 million to the Archdiocese of Chicago for the 90,000 square-foot property three blocks west of North Michigan Avenue.  On January 18, 2018 the Chicago Plan Commission approved a project to build two towers on the site, the taller of which will be the eighth Chicago "supernal" building at 1,011 feet. The killing of Dion O’Banion in the shop in 1924 touched off a gang war that lasted for five years, pitting the north side gang of O’Banion against Al Capone’s gang from the south side.  The black and white photo shows the flower shop.  The second photo shows the future of the site -- it will hold the sixth tallest building in the city, One Chicago Square.

August 14, 1933 – Joseph Hastings, a Chicago policeman married for only four months, is shot to death during a gun battle with two thieves who rob a city office on Navy Pier.  He is the eleventh policeman to die in the line of duty during 1933.  The money that is stolen was intended for men on emergency relief who were employed by the city to do work at the pier.  Thomas B. Rawls, an official of the West Englewood Currency exchange, used it to cash checks from the workers at a fee of 15 cents a check.  It is unclear why a representative of a private enterprise is cashing checks in an office of the city street department.  Hastings, hearing a shot fired, runs into a second floor office at the west end of the pier. One of the dozen clerks in the office, Charles Eddy, outlines the ensuing events, “Hastings came in the door with his revolver drawn . . . The man at the side wall opened fire.  The policeman fell to the floor and fired two shots in return.  The robbers ran to the door.  Hastings got up, and one of the robbers turned and shot him as he rose.  The robber then grabbed Hastings’ gun and ran out. . .” [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 13, 1933]  Morris Cohen a barber, is captured 30 minutes later at 1331 North Clark Street.  His two companions remain on the lam.  The above photo depicts Navy Pier as it appeared in 1933.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

August 13, 1883 -- Ivan Mestrovic Is Born

August 13, 1883 – On this day Ivan Mestrovic is born in Slovania, an eastern section of what is today Croatia, the son of a sheep-breeder.  At the age of 16 he began working under the guidance of a master stonemason in Split, and by 1905, after studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, he offered his first exhibit of sculpture.  By 1908 he had developed an international reputation. Auguste Rodin hailed him as “a phenomenon among sculptors.”  [sniteartmuseum.nd.edu].  Between 1925 and 1928 he was invited to stage exhibitions at 18 different museums in the United States and Canada, a time during which he also oversaw the installation of his Native American equestrian figures at the Congress Street entrance to Grant Park.  In 1955, at the age of 62, Mestrovic came to Notre Dame University from Syracuse University in New York, where he had taught wince 1947.  He lived in South Bend with his wife, Olga, until his death in 1962. At one point in his life Mestrovic observed, “Throughout my life I carried with me an incomparable inheritance: poverty; poverty of my family and my nation.  The first helped me to never be afraid of material difficulties, for I could never have less than at the beginning.  The second drove me to persevere in my work, so that at least in my own field my nation’s poverty would be diminished.”

August 13, 1969 –The chairman of Illinois Central Industries, Inc., William B. Johnson, announces the formation of Illinois Center Plaza Venture, the corporation that will develop the 83-acre site east of Michigan Avenue, between Randolph Street and the Chicago River.  Jupiter Corporation, Metropolitan, Inc., and the Illinois Central Corporation will be equal partners in the plan, which will see the new company purchasing the property from the Illinois Central Railroad for a base price of $83,625,000 with an escalation rider over a 15-year development period.  The site on which the proposed Standard Oil building will be constructed as well as the site of the 111 East Wacker Drive building, which is under construction, along with two adjacent sites, are excluded from the sale. The Prudential building and the Outer Drive East apartments were constructed on air rights in which the Illinois Central did not share in the profits of the buildings.

August 13, 2009 – Bank of America initiates a suit against Shelbourne Development Group Inc., the developer that began construction of the 150-floor Chicago Spire, construction that was subsequently halted after foundation work was completed.  Bank of America claims that the developer has defaulted on its loan.  The bank says that it is filing a suit in United States District Court in Chicago, seeking $4.9 million in principal and interest from Shelbourne and its chairman, Garrett Kelleher. The complaint alleges that the firm has failed to obtain an “irrevocable construction loan commitment” from a lender, leading the Bank of America to declare a default. [Chicago Tribune, August 14,2009] The photo above shows the remains of the project as they look today.

August 13, 1928 – Construction begins on the Merchandise Mart on the site of the old Chicago and North Western station on the north bank of the Chicago River between Wells Street and Orleans.  A force of 5,700 workers will speed the construction, using cement brought from Wisconsin by boat, and by May 1,1930 the first 200 tenants will begin moving into the 4,000,000 square foot building.

Monday, August 12, 2019

August 12, 1863 -- Bridgeport Gets Sympathy from Tribune Editorial

August 12, 1863 – Two years before the Union Stock Yard and Transit Company opens the Union Stockyards on 375 acres of marshland in an area bounded by Halsted Street on the east, South Racine Avenue on the west, Thirty-Ninth Street on the north and Forty-Seventh Street on the south, the Chicago Tribune is already editorializing about the conditions in the area around what is today Bridgeport.  The paper observes, “It is said that the stench that is now complained of as arising from Bridgeport, or in that direction, is from several slaughterhouses which continue to spread their putrescent matter broadcast, inflicting the nauseating and unhealthy atmosphere upon the inhabitants.”  [Chicago Tribune, August 12, 1863].  The piece constitutes, “No man should be considered a good citizen who will thus outrage the feelings and endanger the health of others.”  For good measure the editorial states in full the law governing businesses such as the ones creating the nuisance:  No person shall hereafter, throw, place or conduct, or suffer his or her servant, child or family to throw, place or conduct into any street, alley or lot, any putrid or unsound beef, pork, fish, hides or skins, of any kind, or any filth, offal, dung, dead animal, vegetables, oyster shells, or other unsound or offensive matter whatever or anything like to become offensive.  Nor shall any person allow such filth, offal, dung, or other offensive matter as aforesaid, to be or remain upon any premises, or n any out-house, stable, privy or other place owned or occupied by them, or in any alley or street in front of such premises, in such manner as to be offensive to the neighborhood.  And every person who shall violate any of the provisions of this section, shall be fined in a sum not exceeding twenty-five dollars.”  The conditions against which the writers protest would get much, much worse as the Union Stock Yards would eventually hold 2,300 separate livestock pens with enough room, at a single time, to hold 75,000 hogs, 21,000 cattle, and 22,000 sheep.

August 12, 1900 – A few carriages are seen making the entire circuit of Chicago’s boulevard system after the bridge on Diversey Boulevard is completed and the boulevard project is finished.  There are only two breaks in the 30-mile “ring of parks” that runs around the city on three sides – one between Humboldt Boulevard and Humboldt Park and the other south of Douglas Park leading to the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.  The latter is particularly notable … “a drive of more than a mile over rough cedar pavements, car tracks, through unpaved streets filled with mudholes and through a big ditch near the drainage channel would almost dispel the favorable impressions gained.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 13, 1900] Lake Shore Drive in Lincoln Park is the least impressive part of the completed system, a route on which “A carriage lurches along through holes that are half a foot deep, wheelmen dodge in and out to avoid them.  Water from sprinkling collects in the holes and splashes carriages and riders.”  There are only ten railroad crossings in the entire 30-mile system.  Although there are rough patches along the way, the Tribune concludes, “A trip over the system now that it is made possible serves to show most of all at what a comparatively slight expenditure the whole thing might be put in shape … When it is finished Chicago will have the longest boulevard drive in the world.”

August 12, 1999 – A power failure leaves the city’s Greek Town neighborhood and 30 square blocks of the Loop from the center of downtown southward in the dark, sends workers tumbling from high rise office buildings and busses packed with people trying to get home moving slowly through intersections where the traffic lights are not working.  Mayor Richard M. Daley says, “I firmly believe this company better get down to ground zero.  Someone should tell [utility executives] about that infrastructure.  Infrastructure is the key.  They’ve neglected it for too long and it’s come home to roost.”  [CNN.com, August 13, 1999] The Board of Trade stops trading because of the service disruption.  Banks in the heart of the city lose power, and the downtown police headquarters operates on emergency generators.  Weather is not involved in the blackout.  Three of four transformers at a downtown substation go offline.  One had been undergoing repairs in the preceding week, and another two shut down while, at the same time, two high voltage cables also fail.  This problem comes less than two weeks after a power failure on July 30 that left 100,000 people in the city without power on the hottest day of the year as temperatures climbed to 104 degrees.  Commonwealth Edison spokesman Keith Bromery engages in an epic feat of understatement when he says, “Basically, we know that we have a reliability problem.” [Los Angeles Times, August 26, 1999] The substation at 868 South Jefferson, shown above, is the area in the south Loop at which three out of four transformers failed.

August 12, 1952 – Ground is broken for the 35-million dollar Prudential building on Randolph Street, east of Michigan Avenue.  Mayor Martin Kennelly and Valentine Howell, the executive vice-president of the Prudential Insurance Company of America scoop up the first shovels of earth for one of the 260 caissons that will support the 41-story building as Holman D. Pettibone, president of the Chicago Title and Trust Company, officiates at the ceremonies.  For an in-depth look at the origins of the Prudential building and what it take to get the thing built, you can turn to this blog entry from 2012.  The above photo shows the area east of Michigan Avenue before Prudential was begun.  It would stand just about where the Pabst Blue Ribbon sign is located.