Friday, August 23, 2019

August 23, 1890 -- Midway Plaisance Handed over to World's Fair Directors
August 23, 1890 – The South Park Commissioners offer the Midway Plaisance to the World’s Fair directors, giving the planners of the fair 600 acres of land with the Plaisance at its center, a tract that is 600-feet wide and one-mile long with a roadway in the middle.  With that action the location of the World’s Columbian Exposition appears to come down to two sites, one on the south side and the other in the Buena Park area on the north side.  Landscape architect Charles Law Olmstead has surveyed both sites and found them equally capable of hosting the fair, although Olmstead finds the Jackson Park site as “being especially adapted for some of the principal buildings.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 23, 1890].  The directors of the fair adopt a resolution that allows them to “proceed on the basis of comparison and select the site that can register the greatest number of good points.  It reads:

WHEREAS, It is necessary that this committee shall have full information of the physical features of the sites offered for the Columbian Exposition, the approximate cost of preparing them for occupancy, their susceptibility of proper drainage, the approximate cost of suitably adorning them and of erecting the Exposition buildings thereon, and the hygienic conditions accompanying them,

RESOLVED, That competent engineers be employed to report as soon as possible upon the physical features of each site and the approximate cost of preparing in each case an area of 400 acres suitably diversified in land and water; and that competent drainage and sanitary engineers be employed if necessary in addition to the foregoing to suggest plans and estimate the approximate cost of drainage and water supply and the disposition to be made of the sewage; that a board of three responsible and well-known physicians, one from each division of the city, be selected to report upon the hygienic conditions of the grounds proposed as sites and of their surroundings, with a view to determining the probable healthfulness of each if occupied during the summer of 1893 by from 40,000 to 50,000 exhibitants and assistants, beside 100,000 to 200,000 visitors daily; that the consulting architect be required to report a general plan for and an approximate cost of constructing buildings suitable for the Exposition and covering an area of, say, 100 acres, it being understood by this committee that said estimates may be based upon the Philadelphia and Paris Expositions, due consideration being given to changes in prices of labor and materials.”

The photos above show the Midway Plaisance as it appeared during the 1893 fair and as it appears today, running through the campus of the University of Chicago.

August 23, 1933 – A stone from San Antonio’s Alamo is dedicated at 11:00 a.m. in a ceremony held at Tribune Tower to coincide with Texas Day of the Century of Progress World’s Fair on the lakefront.  The stone is presented to the Chicago Tribune by Miss Emma Kyle Burleson, whose brother was the Postmaster General in President Woodrow Wilson’s administration and whose grandfather, General Edward Burleson, served as the third Vice-President of the Republic of Texas. Mayor Edward Kelly serves as the master of ceremony with a prominent Texas newspaper editor, Peter Molyneaux, offering thoughts on the stone that will join stones from other historic structures from around the world in the tower on Michigan Avenue.  There are a total of 149 rocks embedded in the exterior of the tower, down from 150 after NASA reclaimed a rock from the moon.

August 23, 1985 – Under the headline “Tattered Navy Pier Finds Dance Card Empty,” the Chicago Tribune describes the sorry condition of the municipal pier at the end of Illinois Street and Grand Avenue, finished in 1916 for $4 million.  According to the paper, “…the unique 3,000-foot pier has deteriorated to the point that its sewer system has been plugged up and its roofs are sieves.  The upper walkways are too dangerous, and the floors of lower storage rooms can barely support their own weight.”  The pier has no adequate fire protection system, so that any event held there must keep a fire engine standing by.  With one exception, a major event has not been held at the pier since the inauguration of Mayor Harold Washington two years earlier.  Joe Wilson of the Department of Public Works says, “I don’t think $60 million would give you much more than the basic structure, but it depends on what you want.”  Wilson says that an average of 20 people visit the pier on weekdays and about 75 on weekends.” The above photo shows the east end of the pier in the 1980's.

August 23, 1914 – Henry Korthagen, an unemployed painter, pays the 25-cent admission to the observatory of the Masonic Temple Building on State Street, crawls through a window to the northwest corner of the building and then jumps.  His body strikes the crowded sidewalk on State Street at noon on a Saturday.  A dentist on the twelfth floor of the building, Dr. A. Jay Blakie, sees the body fly past his window, with a black derby hat following 20 feet behind.  “From my position above,” Blakie says, “the sidewalk looked like the surface of water after a stone has been thrown in.  A circle of humanity just eddied back from the crumpled object in the middle of it.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 24, 1914]  Korthagen had visited the Painters and Decorators District Council at 300 West Madison Street earlier, seeking to pay back dues and gain reinstatement to the union.  Those at the union headquarters describe him as cheerful at the time.  The observatory at the Masonic Temple is pictured above, all the way up there at the top of the building.

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