Friday, September 6, 2019

September 6, 1970 -- Chicago Beach Hotel Site Moves toward New Life
September 6, 1970 – The Chicago Tribune reports that construction crews have moved to a site at East Fiftieth Street and South Shore Drive where once stood the exclusive Chicago Beach Hotel, “a symbol of Gay Nineties and Roaring Twenties affluence.”  [Chicago Tribune, September 6, 1970]  Warren Leland, who came from a family of hoteliers and made his way to Chicago in the 1880’s, built the original Chicago Beach Hotel in 1892 to serve the huge crowds that came to the city to visit the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893.  It had 450 rooms with 175 bathrooms with frontage on Lake Michigan. The beach was lost in the 1920’s when landfill moved the shoreline eastward to make room for the southern portion of what would become Lake Shore Drive.  In 1921 a 12-story addition was built on the eastern side of the property, and the original hotel was demolished.  Today the Algonquin Apartments, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, completed in 1950, stand on the site of the original hotel.  Like many other properties in the city, the hotel became a victim of the Depression, and in 1930 a court-appointed receiver was appointed to oversee the payment of $615,000 in delinquent real estate taxes.  In 1942 a federal court turned the hotel over to the United States Army, and in just three months it was converted into Gardiner General Hospital, serving military personnel wounded during World War II.  After the war the Army converted the hospital to an office building and based Fifth Army Headquarters there until 1963 when the headquarters was moved to Fort Sheridan on the North Shore.  This is where my father, a career officer in the Army, went to work in the early 60's.  I still remember the tremendous holiday party thrown each year for those of us kidswho were military dependents.  The original hotel, demolished in the early 1920's is shown in the top photo.  Its replacement is shown in the second photo. 

September 6, 1926 –The Chicago Real Estate Board submits its views on the air right development of the Illinois Central property north of Randolph street to the members of the City Council’s Railway Terminal Committee.  The report attempts to answer a series of aldermanic questions concerning the development of the extensive site between the Chicago River on the North, Randolph Street on the south, and Michigan Avenue on the west.  Looking at a portion of the questions and answers provides an interesting look at the foresight given to a project that would take another half-century to put into motion.

Q: How long in your opinion will it take to obtain a substantial air development in this territory?
A:  Not less than twenty years.

Q: Is the I. C. property as well located as the so-called Streeter district?
A:  Potentially better.

Q:  What, in your opinion, is the highest and best use of this I. C. property?
A:  Hotels and office buildings.

Q: Approximately how much frontage has this property on the Chicago river? On the yacht harbor? On Grant park?
A:  Frontage on the Chicago river, 2,800 feet; on the yacht harbor, 1,200 feet, and on Grant park, 1,750 feet.

Q:  Do you recommend one or two north and south boulevards through the Illinois Central property?
A:  One.

Q:  Should all of the east and west streets north of Randolph be extended eastward?
A:  Yes.

Q:  Is there a necessity for restricting the height of buildings on the I. C. property which obtains in the loop?
A:  Yes

The above photos show the area as it looked then and as it looks now.

September 6, 1918 – The first mail between New York and Chicago to be delivered by airplane arrives in Grant Park at 7:04 p.m. as Max Miller of the United States aerial mail service lands his plane at the end of a trip that took 23 hours and 55 minutes.  Thousands of people are in Grant Park attending the “France and Allies Day,” at a war exposition commemorating the anniversary of the first battle of the Marne.  Pilot Miller hands over the mail sacks to Captain B. B. Lipsner, the superintendent of the United States aerial mail service, and less than 90 minutes after the plane lands, the editor of the Chicago Daily Tribune receives a letter from Henry Woodhouse, a member of the board of governors of the Aero Club of America. It reads, “This epoch making first trip of the New York-Cleveland-Chicago aerial mail line affords us a splendid opportunity to express our hearty appreciation of the energetic and patriotic efforts that you and THE TRIBUNE have been making on behalf of national preparedness and to develop the aerial service.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 7, 1918] Pilot Miller has never landed in the city before but makes a “perfect descent” and is “cheered by the crowds lining the field and by the people who packed the Monroe street viaduct.”  Regular air mail service between New York and Chicago will begin in October with letters mailed in New York scheduled to reach Chicago ten hours later with relays of flyers stationed 150 miles apart ferrying the mail between the two cities.  In the above photo Superintendent of the Air Mail Service Benjamin Lipsner, with American flag in hand, passes it to airmail pilot Max Miller prior to an airmail flight in November 1918.

September 6, 1939 – The fiftieth anniversary of Jane Addams’ founding of Hull House is celebrated as several thousand of the men and women who came to the settlement house as children fill Grant Park for a two-hour tribute to Addams who died four years before.  The principal speaker is Judge Florence E. Allen of the United States Court of Appeals who says, “And this should be her memorial, not that we repeat her name, but that we write upon our hearts her principles, that we carry them into concrete action.  For this woman opened to American new paths of spiritual life.  She lived her faith that all blessings must be made universal if they are to be made permanent.”

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