Tuesday, August 6, 2019

August 6, 1978 -- Wolf Point Lags as River Landscapes Begin to Grow

August 6, 1978 – The Chicago Tribune reports that even though developers promised to landscape the shore line of Wolf Point in the original deal for special zoning status made with the city to build the Apparel Center, the area “remains a tangle of high weeds and unpruned trees several years after owners promised to landscape the area.”  [Chicago Tribune, August 6, 1978].  Architectural renderings show a 25-foot wide park with a paved pathway winding around the quarter-mile of riverfront property to the south of the Apparel Center, which was completed in 1976.  James Bidwill. The spokesman for the developers, the descendants of the late Joseph P. Kennedy, says, “There are several alternative aspects of planning that will result in beautification of the park in the near future.”  There is good news along much of the river, though.  The 1974 “Riverside Plan of Chicago” is beginning to reap benefits as four small parks with a row of linden trees and park benches have been established on the south side of the Main Stem.  Two of these small parks, between Wabash and Dearborn, have been created with $139 million that the IBM Corporation gave the city for trees, lighting, granite paving, and concrete walls to block out the noise of lower Wacker Drive from the firm's 1971 headquarters building across the river.  Still to come is a long strip of green space between Michigan Avenue and the lake, a strip of land which the developers of Illinois Center gave to the city.  Development there must wait until the Columbus Drive bridge is completed and infrastructure work for the Deep Tunnel project is wrapped up.  The top photo shows the area around Lake Street -- note the elevated train crossing the river -- in the 1970's.  The second photo shows the same area, looking at it from the opposite direction.  Things have changed ... for the better ... although it's hard not to miss the Wild Turkey signboard.

August 6, 1946 – Edward J. Sparling, the president of Roosevelt College, tells of the school’s plans to restore the newly purchased Auditorium building to its original beauty.  Sparling says that “old paintings will be restored, remodeling of the hotel into classrooms and offices will follow the original structure as nearly as possible, and the theater will be operated by the college or leased to someone who wants to bring back music and theatrical productions to the 57 year old stage.”  Mrs. Julius Weil, the daughter of architect Dankmar Adler, the architect of the Auditorium building along with Louis Sullivan, says that General Sherman’s march to the sea in the Civil War was instrumental in her father’s plans for the auditorium.  “In every house that was looted,” says Mrs. Weil, “my father eagerly searched for books on architecture.  When he returned to Chicago he cooperated with Theodore Thomas in working out arches and types of construction for better acoustics.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, August 7, 1946] Sparling says that the renovated building will allow the college to serve 2,000 more veterans. The $400,000 purchase price of the building, he reveals, is the result of “loans by friends, gifts, efficient administration, and profit from the sale of the building at 231 South Wells Street.”

August 6, 1971 – The largest crowd in the history of Ravinia Park comes to the outdoor venue on the North Shore to see Jesus Christ Superstar.  The crowd of 18,718 people breaks the previous record, set by Judy Collins, of 18,491, a week earlier.  More than 150 police officers are on duty, dispatched from five suburbs to patrol a mellow crowd.  “Despite the religious theme of last night’s event,” the Chicago Tribune reported, “The thousands of young listeners looked and acted little differently than at more mundane outdoor rock concerts.  Botttles of wine were passed freely, along with the ever-present marijuana cigarets.” [Chicago Tribune, August 7, 1971] The performance company that provided the show had previously performed in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Toronto.  The Ravinia show attracted at least 5,000 more people than any of the troupe’s previous performances.

August 6, 1974:  The Queen of Andersonville, a tour boat operated by Wendella Sightseeing Boats, sinks just south of the Coast Guard station at the Chicago lock where the Chicago River meets Lake Michigan.  Hero of the Day is Bob Agra, the captain of a Mercury sightseeing boat, who maneuvers his boat, loaded with about 70 people, alongside the stricken Wendella craft and helps evacuate all 23 passengers, many of them wearing life jackets.  “Some of the rescued people were a little shook up,” Agra states.  “But they weren’t hysterical.”  [Chicago Tribune, August 7, 1974]  Agra attaches the foundering boat to his own with three lines and tows it to an area behind the breakwater, southwest of the lock.  All three lines eventually break, and the Queen of Andersonville sinks before the hoist at the Coast Guard station can be lowered to secure the vessel.  Agra's son, Bob, who was on board that day as a deck hand, is shown above.  Today he is head of Chicago's First Lady, partners with the Chicago Architecture Center's premier architectural tour on the Chicago River.

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