Monday, September 16, 2019

September 16, 1949 -- Haymarket Theater is a Goner
September 16, 1949 – The Haymarket Theater at 722 Madison Street, near Halsted Street, is condemned to make way for a connection between the new Congress Street Expressway and the Edens Expressway with the city paying $215,075 to the building’s owners.  The Haymarket opened in 1887 as a playhouse with seating for 2,475 on an orchestra floor and three balconies.  After a time the playhouse became a vaudeville theater, and by 1916 it was one of the city’s best-known burlesque houses.  After 1932 it became a second-run movie house with its seating by 1945 reduced to less than 1,000.  In the spring of 1950 the theater was demolished to make way for the highway.  []

September 16, 1909 – The World Series Champion Chicago Cubs fall to the New York Giants in the West Side Park, 2-1, but that is not the real story of the day.  The game takes place with a special visitor in the stands, the President of the United States, William Howard Taft.  The Chicago Daily Tribune attests to the level of interest with which the Chief Executive views the game, reporting, “A leading constituent might be confiding an important party secret to the presidential left ear while another citizen, whose name appears often in headlines, might be offering congratulations on the outcome of the battle for revision downward to the right auricle, but while both ears were absorbing messages from friends both presidential eyes were steadily watching Christy Mathewson and the Giants revise downward the standing of the Cubs.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 17, 1909] Fans begin lining up before noon for the late afternoon game, and when the President appears exactly on time, he is escorted to the field where he shakes the hand of each Cub’s player, moving on “to mingle with the rooters … while the Giants were completing their preliminary practice.” Cubs manager Frank Chance starts his “three-fingered ace,” Mordecai Brown against the Giants’ Christy Matthewson … two future Hall-of-Famers.  Before the Giants are retired in the first inning, the team has scored all the runs that it needs to take the contest. 

September 16, 1915 – A dozen years after the Iroquois Theatre fire that claimed 602 lives on Randolph Street, disaster is narrowly averted as 200 patrons at the Alcazar Theater on West Madison Street are watching the conclusion of The Red Virgin at 10:30 p.m.  A small explosion is heard in the projectionist’s booth, and quickly the theater fills with acrid smoke.  The night manager, “possessor of a stern voice,” [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 15, 1915] appears and shouts, “Don’t crowd! There are plenty of exits.  See the red lights in front of you.  There’s plenty of time.  Don’t hurry!  Don’t push!” Ushers keep the crowd moving toward the exits in an orderly fashion, and not a single member of the audience is injured. Miss Mattie Lamb plays the theater piano until the auditorium is empty despite being nearly overcome by smoke.  The only casualty is the projectionist who receives burns on one hand when the film he is showing explodes, beginning the procession toward the exits.

September 16, 1925 – The South Park Commission inks a contract to cover the construction of the $2,000,000 John G. Shedd Aquarium.  It will be built in Grant Park about one-tenth of a mile east of the Field Museum.  Shedd began his career as a stock clerk for Marshall Field and worked his way up the corporate ladder, taking over as president of the firm when Field died in 1906.  The aquarium was his gift to the city, one designed to complement the great museum to the west named after his former boss.  Shedd did not live long enough to see the completion of the aquarium in 1930; he died just over a year after the South Park commission made its 1925 announcement.

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