Saturday, August 3, 2019

August 3, 1879 -- Stockyards Growth Takes Off
August 3, 1879 – The Chicago Daily Tribune provides details of the tremendous growth that is occurring in the area around the Union Stock-Yards, first opened 14 years earlier.  The paper calls the population that has gravitated to the area “the largest industrial population gathered in any single industry in any one square mile in the world.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 3, 1879]. The three major producers in the Stock-Yards – Armour, Hutchinson, and Fowler – each employ more than 2,000 people working at 32 packing houses.  As many as 20,000 workers are employed as laborers, clerks, bookkeepers, and managers at the sprawling facility, some of these workers traveling four miles to get to the job.  Two new streets have been opened up and sidewalks and water distribution lines have been added to Paulina, Laflin, Loomis, Forty-Eighth and Forty-Ninth Streets.  A new church has been built at the corner of Laflin and Loomis, and a new brick school is going up four blocks north of the church.  Houses can be purchased for around $500 … the area lies outside the fire zone established after the 1871 fire, so the new homes are built of wood and cheap. Lots sell for between $150 and $170 with most of the property and homes built with a workers’ available cash, free from any loans.  “The development of this industrial army,” the Tribune reports, “is the growth of Chicago in only one direction, and for only thirteen years.”  The above photo shows a typical neighborhood near the stockyards at the time of the Tribune article.

August 3, 1999 –Destruction of the Chicago Amphitheatre at 4220 South Halsted begins.  The huge exhibition arena opened in 1934 as a venue to exhibit and showcase the sheep, cattle and hogs that came through the Union Stock Yards.  The building was a miracle of construction.  When a disastrous fire, fed by 60-mile-per-hour winds destroyed six square blocks around the stockyards on April 18, 1934, architect Abraham Epstein and his staff were asked to have another building in place by December 1 of the same year.  Using 11 solid steel arched trusses, at the time the largest in the world, the team had the building finished, complete with air conditioning and press and broadcast media facilities, just seven months after the disastrous fire. When the stockyards closed in 1971, the livestock shows moved south, and the aging building lost bookings to other, more modern – and far less pungent – facilities.  Over the years, though, events went far beyond livestock exhibitions.  The 1952 Republican National Convention chose General Dwight D. Eisenhower as its presidential nominee in the building.  That same year the Democratic Party chose Adlai Stevenson to oppose Eisenhower and repeated the decision in the Amphitheatre in 1956. The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus brought its act to the arena for 18 years.  Musical acts from Roy Rogers and Dale Evans to The Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead entertained crowds there.  The Beatles played at the arena on September 5, 1964 and returned to the big barn to perform before 13,000 fans on August 12, 1966. In May of 1999 the city announced that it had acquired the 12-acre-lot on which the building sits and would be using the space to expand the Stockyard Industrial Corridor, stretching from Ashland Avenue to Halsted Street and from Pershing Road to Forty-Seventh Street. The International Amphitheatre’s chief engineer for 31 years, 65-year-old Dutch Trentz, said, “I’ve had a lot of deaths in my family. But when they tear that place down, that one’s really going to hit me.  It’s history to you, but that’s life to me.” [Chicago Tribune, August 3, 1999]

August 3, 1884 – The Chicago Daily Tribune prints a letter from a Professor J. H. Long in which he describes the results of an “elaborate examination” [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 3, 1884] of the city’s drinking water.  “Our water is bad enough,” writes Professor Long, “but it might be a great deal worse.  Any one interested in the subject will find in Bridgeport eight large pumps at work night and day drawing water from the river and throwing it into the Illinois and Michigan Canal at the rate of 60,000 cubic feet per minute. By this means a current is created which carries the sewage of the south and main branches of the river away from the lake and into the canal running toward the Mississippi.”  The professor says that chemists usually consider three parts of “free” ammonia and five parts of “albuminoid” per hundred million parts of water “as limits beyond which the nitrogenous matter should not go” in water that is to be used for consumption.  At the State Street bridge a test found seven parts per million of free ammonia and seventy parts per million of albuminoid.  At the Bridgeport pumps there were found 200 parts per million of ammonia and 100 parts per million of albuminoid. The area that came to be known as Bubbly Creek yielded 500 parts per million of ammonia and 140 parts per million of alubuminoid. At this site the analysis revealed “a great variety of specimens of lower animal and vegetable life. The north side was not exempt. At the Fullerton Avenue bridge there were found 240 parts of free ammonia per million parts of water and 84 of albuminoid per million. “From whatever standpoint we take,” the professor writes, the North Branch appears to be an evil.” The conclusion of the study suggests that boiling and then filtration of water should be undertaken to ensure the health of the city’s populace.

August 3, 1906:  The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that at a recent meeting the trustees of the Art Institute of Chicago approved the purchase of El Greco’s “Assumption of the Virgin” for the price of $40,000.  The canvas, measuring 13 feet by two inches high and seven feet by six inches wide, will be the largest painting on display at the Art Institute.  It was commissioned by Don Diego de Castilla in 1577 as an altar piece for the convent church of San Domingo El Antiguo in Toledo, Spain.   The Art Institute today describes the priceless work in this way, “The artist’s use of flickering, high-keyed colors and broad brushwork further lend the work an ecstatic feeling sought after by Catholic Church patrons during the Counter-Reformation.  El Greco used such bold colors and figural arrangements to arouse a spiritual fervor in the viewer and impart the deep sense of faith he himself felt.”  The work may be found In Gallery 211 in the European Painting and Sculpture section.

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