Wednesday, October 23, 2019

October 23, 1920 -- Franklin Street Bridge Opens

October 23, 1920 – The new Franklin-Orleans bridge is opened to traffic amid a celebration of “Bombs, daylight fireworks, and a parade of thousands of gayly decorated trucks and automobiles …”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 24, 1920]  The $2 million bridge took four years to construct and is expected to divert much of the heavy truck traffic from the Lake and Wells Street bridges.  In the opening celebration trucks and automobiles assemble in Grant Park and wind through the Loop by way of Monroe, State, Randolph and Franklin Streets.  Nearly every large trucking company in the city is represented by one or more trucks in the procession.  At the bridge Mayor William Hale Thompson cuts a red, white and blue ribbon stretching across the approach to the bridge and the procession passes over the new span, headed north.

October 23, 1915 – Three thousand striking women and girls march through the city’s wholesale clothing district and down Michigan Avenue, led by the only man in the entire parade, Sidney Hillman, the head of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America.  Two hundred policemen, 48 sergeants, and eight lieutenants are assigned to the parade.  The strike by the Chicago garment workers would go on for more than two months, and over 1,200 workers would be arrested, most of them immigrants.  The strikers were asking for an eight-hour work day for women and a commission that would fix the lowest amount an employer would be permitted to pay the girls and women working in factories. Three days later the strike turns deadly when a 35-year-old tailor on picket duty is shot in the back of the head near Halsted and Harrison Streets.  Hillman says, “One is dead and about four are wounded — one of them a bystander who has nothing to do with the strike … Chicago citizens have to realize that all the laws for protection of life have been suspended during the strike and they must express their opinion for their own protection … Statements of alleged violence by strikers have not been proven.  The city must determine whether it is going to stand idly by while all this lawlessness exists in the city.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 27, 1915]  

John G. Shedd
October 23, 1926 – Funeral Services for John G. Shedd, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Marshall Field and Company, are held at Fourth Presbyterian Church.  Officiant is the Reverend John Timothy Stone of Fourth Presbyterian, assisted by the Reverend Albert Joseph McCartney, pastor of the Kenwood Evangelical Church, which Shedd attended.  Shedd was born on July 20, 1850, the youngest of eight children, in Alstead, New Hampshire.  At the age of 16 he walked away from the farm life, taking positions in dry goods stores in Vermont, New Hampshire, and, in 1872, Chicago.  A year after the great fire destroyed the city, Shedd began work for Marshall Field and Company as a stock boy, rising through the ranks to become president of the company in 1906 upon Field’s death.  Five years before his death the National Cyclopaedia of American Biography wrote of the man, “Mr. Shedd’s aim is to supply nothing but serviceable merchandise, when possible, of better quality than furnished elsewhere; always to satisfy his customers, no matter at what cost or inconvenience, so that they will become the best advertisers of the store, to treat employees with the greatest consideration and thus inspire their loyalty.”  Shedd was one of the founders of the Commercial Club of Chicago and instrumental in the organization’s underwriting of the Chicago Plan of 1909, the first large scale attempt at urban planning in the country’s history.  He contributed extensively to Chicago museums, charities, and institutions with perhaps the most important gift being the contribution that led to the construction of the aquarium named after him.  He is buried in Chicago’s Rosehill Cemetery.

Police Commissioner John McWeeny
October 23, 1913 – I will admit this up front -- every time I see a news report about the Chicago police commissioner of this era, I have to cover it.  I love this guy’s name.  It was on this day that the city’s top cop, John McWeeny, walks off the job after Mayor Carter Harrison fails to support him in a controversy that has developed between McWeeny and Major M. L. C. Funkhouser, newly installed in the department to take charge of morals investigations, efficiency reports and business affairs. Funkhouser’s seventh report, printed in the Chicago Daily Tribune, alleges that “. . . there were more than 100 objectionable houses operating openly.  In the old red light district there were more than thirty resorts running without concealment, although the district is supposed to be ‘closed.’  Along State street and adjoining thoroughfares ‘wide open’ conditions prevailed from Sixteenth street to Thirty-First street.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 24, 1913]  McWeeny’s response to the report was, “I have had Funkhouser’s report investigated.  Some of it is stuff we have known right along and some of it we can’t verify at all.  If I were investigating serious matters I wouldn’t tell the world about it, as some people do.  Funkhouser can’t give me any orders.”  That was probably the last straw for Mayor Harrison, who chose to back Funkhouser, prompting McWeeny to walk.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

October 22, 1961 -- Lake Shore Drive Keeps "Collapsible Curbs"

October 22, 1961 – The city’s Deputy City Commissioner of Streets, William Marston, says that the “collapsible curbs” on Lake Shore Drive between North and Belmont will be continued indefinitely.  He says, “We had hoped a year ago that the opening of the Northwest expressway would relieve the traffic demands on Lake Shore drive enough so we would discontinue the use of the mobile fins.  But after nearly 12 months of Northwest expressway operation, we find that there is still almost as much traffic on Lake Shore drive as there was a year ago.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 23, 1961]  The reversible lane dividers dated from the mid-1940’s, and, despite periodic breakdowns, were an innovative way of moving traffic along the lakefront.  They could be raised or lowered to provide six lanes in the direction of rush-hour traffic instead of the standard four lanes in each direction.  The curb-high barriers were removed in 1979.

October 22, 1974 – Shortly before noon a piece of decorative tile falls from the State and Madison building at 22 West Madison Street, killing a woman who is walking on the sidewalk.  A First District patrolman is about 15 feet away when the accident occurs, and he reports, “I heard a loud crash and turned around to see this woman and all the debris lying on the sidewalk.” [Chicago Tribune, October 22, 1974] Building Commissioner Joseph F. Fitzgerald, Jr. orders the building agents to undertake major repairs of the building’s fa├žade, noting that in 1972 his office had found “evidence of cracking and weakness in the building facing and ordered the agents to make repairs.” It would be another 22 years before the city adopted a comprehensive policy for the maintenance of exterior walls in older buildings.  Today a critical exam of building facades is required every 4, 8 or 12 years, depending on the building’s classification. If a building owner files an Ongoing Inspection and Repair Program report every other year, the critical exam is waived. The ordinance applies to all buildings 80 feet or more in height.  The tile fell from the area near the top tier of windows in the middle of the left side of the building pictured above.

October 22, 2004 – The Dave Matthews Band, under attack after a driver for the band’s touring bus is accused of emptying 300 pounds of liquid waste into the river through the grates of the Kinzie Street bridge on August 8, presents checks for $50,000 to the Friends of the Chicago River and the Chicago Park District.  A written statement from the band explains, “We have decided to take action now even though it may turn out the incident was not caused by one of our buses.  We simply want to begin the healing process.” [Chicago Tribune, October 23, 2004] In the incident of August 8 passengers of a passing river tour boat are deluged with the contents of the buses waste disposal tank, and five people are taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital for testing.  A witness is able to write down the coach’s license plate number, and the vehicle is identified as one chartered by the band, which is passing through the city on the way to a performance in Wisconsin.

October 22, 1887 – Standing Lincoln, Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ sculpture of the Great Emancipator, is dedicated at the entrance to Lincoln Park.  On the day after the dedication The Chicago Daily Tribune describes the scene, “Since the night of the great fire Lincoln Park has never contained within the same area so many human beings as thronged its plains, clustered under its trees, and in every variety of vehicle crowded its roadways yesterday afternoon.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 23, 1887]  The statue, one of two sculptures in the city (The other is Storks at Play in front of the Lincoln Park Conservatory) provided for in the will of lumberman Eli Bates, is dedicated on a gray afternoon.  Chicago Mayor E. A. Roche heads the dignitaries, and Abraham Lincoln II, the 15-year-old grandson of the late president, releases the flag covering the statue as upwards of 10,000 people watch.   The statue is a good place to seek out in the next few weeks as the trees to the north show their autumn colors.  Stand before the likeness of a politician who rose above the fray, made the hard choices, and ultimately paid for it with his life.  It gives one something to think about as we head toward November. 

Monday, October 21, 2019

October 21, 1950 -- Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal ... Bad Neighbor?
October 21, 1950 – A Chicago Daily Tribune reporter reports on a trip he took on the previous day in an effort to determine living conditions along the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.  Reporter Harold Smith heads downstream as far as the Argonne Forest Preserve below Willow Springs.  Within the city Smith describes the waters of the Chicago River as “not particularly odorous,”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 21, 1950] but below the treatment plant of the Chicago Sanitary District at Stickney “the stench began in earnest”.  The reporter “barged in” on football practice at the Lincoln Elementary School in Cicero, asking about the odors from the canal.  “How about em,” exclaims one 15-year-old player.  “Say, when my ma hangs her wash outdoors it comes back smelling of garbage, she says.”  A 14-year-old player says that he hasn’t noticed the smell so much … until he returns home from another neighborhood.  “it’s worst when you come back from where the air is fresh,” he says.  A Berwyn housewife tells Smith southerly winds are particularly offensive, saying, “It’s especially bad on rainy days.  We live a half mile from the canal now.  But even when we lived a mile farther north it used to bother us.”  At Lemont Smith turns around and heads back to the city, “reflecting on the wide uninhabited swath which lies along the big ditch.  This could be highly desirable farm, home, industrial and recreational territory, and planners say it would become that if Lake Michigan’s abundant waters were flushed more adequately to cut the canal smells.”  The above photo shows the canal today as a far less offensive body of water.

October 21, 1946 – Governor Dwight H. Green and Chicago Mayor Edward J. Kelly preside over the dedication of the Chicago branch of the University of Illinois at Navy Pier.  Along with George D. Stoddard, the president of the university, they raise the American flag over the complex that the United States Navy had lowered upon vacating the pier it had used for training electronic and radio personnel throughout World War II.  Green tells the assembled students and dignitaries that the G.I. Bill of Rights is “a monumental achievement, in which, for once, America has taken care of its own.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 22, 1946] The makeshift college is set up to handle about 4,000 students, seventy-five percent of whom will be veterans. Almost every student wiil be a commuter who holds a part-time job.  And almost all of the students are first-generation college students. The school is only a two-year college, which poses a problem for many students who will eventually have to decide between continuing their education at a more expensive private school in the area or transferring to the main university downstate. As the initial group of veterans moved on, the Navy Pier institution became more and more impractical.  In a letter to the editor of the Chicago Tribune in 1960, one student wrote, “We students at the U. of I. branch at Navy Pier are shoved into a warehouse that stinks of dead fish in the summer, and in winter is so cold that teachers tell their students to bring jackets to class.  Are we to take a back seat to politics and pigeons?” [Chicago Tribune, July 8, 2016] In 1961 Mayor Richard J. Daley brokered a site for a U. of I. at Chicago campus on Chicago’s near west side, a campus that opened in February of 1965.  It would be decades before Navy Pier would find a way to work its magic on Chicago once again although it did serve for many years as a key location in attracting Great Lakes shipping to the city.

October 21, 1965 – The Chicago Tribune reports that Lake Point Tower, “a broadly curved three-winged high rise of 900 apartments” [Chicago Tribune, October 21, 1965] will be built east of Lake Shore Drive not far from Navy Pier.  It will be the world’s tallest reinforced concrete building.  The paper reports, “The tower, sheathed in glass and aluminum, will dominate a landscaped base structure covering the block bounded by Grand avenue, Streeter drive, Illinois street, and Lake Shore drive on the west.”  Two developers – Harnett-Shaw & Associates, a New York firm and Fluor Properties of Los Angeles – will back the project.  The land on which the building will be built is leased property from the Chicago Dock and Canal Company, a company that traces its origins all the way back to Chicago’s first mayor, William B. Ogden.

October 21, 1974 – The largest cash robbery in the history of the universe is discovered early in the morning on this date at the Purolator Armored Express vaults at 127 West Huron Street.  Over $4.3 million in unmarked bills is taken from one of the vaults. Gasoline bombs are left to explode and cover up any evidence, but a lack of oxygen in the vaults causes the fires to burn out quickly.  Detectives say that there are no signs of forced entry to the vault, which has concrete walls that are over a foot thick, a pretty obvious indication that this is an inside job.  It doesn’t take long for the crime to unravel.  Tony Marzano, a 33-year-old scam artist, enlists his cousin, Charlie, to go in with him on the robbery.  They get their pal, Ralph Marrera, to hire on as a night watchman on weekends, and through him are able to paw through the offices of a senior officer of the company, where they find the combination to the vault’s lock.  Things begin to break bad when another hood, Pete Gushi, fails to arrange for the boat intended to take the robbers from Miami to Grand Cayman, where they plan to stash the cash in a “no questions asked” bank.  The Marzano’s eventually get the cash to Grand Cayman, but the bank won’t accept it because it doesn’t have the staff necessary to count 700 pounds in unmarked bills.  Gushi sings, Marrera attempts suicide, and the whole case is wrapped up within a month.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

October 20, 1900 -- Montgomery Ward Gives Up a Statue

October 20, 1900 – Progress Lighting the Way for Commerce, a statue over 21 feet in height, is lowered into place atop of the Montgomery Ward headquarters at 6 North Michigan Avenue.  It is not intended merely to sit atop the building; it will function as a weather vane that “obeys every change of the wind.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 21, 1900]  Richard Schmidt, the architect who designed the building, oversees the placement of the statue.  The figure is that of a young woman who holds a flaming torch in her right hand and a caduceus, or a short staff intertwined with two snakes, in her left.  In Roman mythology Mercury, who was the messenger of the gods, and the protector of merchants, shepherds, gamblers, liars and thieves, is often seen carrying a caduceus in his left hand.  Scottish-American sculptor John Massey Rhind was the artist who created the piece.  The statue was taken down in 1947 and cut into nearly three-dozen pieces.  Some of those pieces may still sit in parlors all over the city.

October 20, 1929 – A crowd of 35,000 packs the new Curtis-Reynolds Airport in suburban Glenview as the $3,000,000 facility is dedicated.  A hundred airplanes are on display as spectators are treated to an afternoon of “parachute jumping, aerial bombing and a short course race”. [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 21, 1929]  Roads in the area are not equipped to handle the crowds, and four hours after the event ends, there are still cars stuck on the 18-foot gravel of Harms Road.  Wiley Post, flying a Lockheed Vega, is the first to finish in the afternoon’s air race, followed by Art Davis in a Waco biplane.  John Livingston, a pilot from Aurora, flying another Waco, is also among the leaders, and he also leads in a 5,000-mile competition that will end the next day in Detroit.  The race is the first such contest to be held in the area since the great air show on Chicago’s lakefront in the summer of 1911.  Amelia Earhart also attends the dedication, landing early in the afternoon. She says, “I was in Columbus attending a meeting when I heard about the airport opening here today so I flew on over—it’s a peach, isn’t it?”  The new airport is composed of two flying fields.  A 125-acre field on the south end will facilitate instruction of the 103 students enrolled at the Curtis flying school. Unfortunately, the dedication takes place a little over a week after the 1929 stock market crash.  The field continues operation, though, even hosting the International Air Races and the Graf Zeppelin that comes to town in 1933 as part of the Century of Progress Exposition.  By the mid-1930’s, the United States Navy found its quarters too small at the Great Lakes Naval Base and leased part of the hangar for a Naval Reserve air base.  The Navy dramatically expanded its presence at the base during World War II.  In 1942 “1,300,000 square yards of concrete mats and runways were poured in only 121 working days,” [] and in August of that year the Carrier Qualification Training Unit began operating out of the field, using two converted side-wheel excursion ships as carriers on which to practice landings off the shore of Chicago.  In April of 1993 the Base Realignment and Closure committee recommended the base for closure, and the last fixed-wing plane took off from the base in February of 1995.  The former airport is now the site of a planned community with shopping, restaurants, and over 1,500 homes.

October 20, 1975 – Branches of Marshall Field and Company and Lord and Taylor open for business on the first eight levels of the new Water Tower Place, the 74-story skyscraper on North Michigan Avenue.  Lines begin forming at 8 a.m. at the doors of the “vertical shopping center” [Chicago Tribune, October 21, 1975] and crowds inside both stores are so large employees have trouble getting to their posts.  “We couldn’t be more pleased,” says Arthur E. Osborne, Vice-President and General Manager of the Marshall Field’s stores in the Chicago area.  “We’re just as excited about this as anything we’ve ever done.  There are wall-to-wall people …”  Charles Siegmann, Vice-President and Regional Managing Director of Lord and Taylor, says, “I’m running out of superlatives.  We knew it was going to be great, but never anything like this. I’ve never seen such great-looking people, the way they’re dressed and how friendly and gracious they are.  This is probably the biggest thrill our company has ever had.  And it’s just amazing the number of men who are here.”  The complex is a joint development of Urban Investment and Development, a subsidiary of Aetna Life and Casualty Company, and Mafco, a subsidiary of Marshall Field and Company.  Architect Edward D. Dart of Loebl, Scholssman, Bennett and Dart is the leading architect on the project.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

October 19, 1890 -- Illinois Central Railroad and the Battle for the Lakefront

October 19, 1890 – In an editorial the Chicago Daily Tribune takes on the Illinois Central Railroad over its use of lakefront property.  As the city prepares for “its grand building which is to house art treasures” [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 19, 1890] the battle over lakefront property, long occupied by the railroad, becomes more and more heated.  The paper declares, “When the time comes for filling the submerged lands out to the dock line and making a park for the benefit of the city and State the Illinois Central should be required to do the work and foot the bill, and it need not cost Chicago a cent.”  At this time the Illinois Central operated on a trestle built above the lake, running parallel to Michigan Avenue.  The paper’s argument is to let the railroad fill in the space between the trestle and dry land, create new land east of the trestle, and fill in the space between the existing tracks and the land to the west.  It says of the arrangement, “If a fair arrangement were made between the road and the city the latter would get much-needed room for new tracks, depots, warehouses, and elevators.  Its receipts from leases and from its regular business would be increased.  The State would be a gainer, for its 7 per cent on the gross income of the road would be larger.  Chicago would be a gainer, for it would have on the front of the city a fine park two miles long.  The Art Building would look all the handsomer for the broad open space to the east of it.  By raising the surface of the park a little above street grade and depressing the tracks on the new right of way a few feet only the tops of the cars and engines could be seen from Michigan avenue and the esthetes would rejoice.”  The trick is to get the railroad to find the $5,000,000 and the civic generosity to agree to the plan.  The above illustration shows the Illinois Central lakefront trestle at the right and the lagoon to the west, somewhat north of where today's Art Institute stands.

October 19, 1857 – A fire breaks out in a brick store on South Water Street at 4:00 a.m., which spreads and becomes “ … the most disastrous in both loss of life and property which our city has ever experienced.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 20, 1857] The flames move rapidly in every direction and “before they were subdued a number of the finest and most costly business edifices in the city were a heap of smoldering ruins while the large and valuable stock they contained are almost entirely destroyed.”  The fire destroys ten square blocks of the city from the river to South Water Street and from what today would be Michigan Avenue to Clark Street. The cause of the conflagration is attributed to a woman working in the world’s oldest profession on the second floor of a warehouse at 109 South Water Street (the site of today’s 35 East Wacker) who allegedly kicks over a lantern accidentally.  [] Twenty-three people die in the flames, some of whom are firemen.  Damage is estimated at near $800,000 ($20,918,491 today).  One benefit that comes from the fire is the establishment on November 19, 1857 of the Citizens Fire Brigade of Chicago, the duties of which are to take valuable goods from threatened buildings and protect them from water from fire hoses and from looting. The above photo shows Fire Insurance patrol No. 6 at 332 South Hoyne Avenue.

October 19, 1971 -- The final attempt to save the old Chicago Stock Exchange building fails as Judge Edward J. Egan of the Circuit Court rules against a petition to force City Council action on the recommendation of the Chicago Landmarks Commission that the building be designated a landmark.  When the decision is announced, the president of the Landmarks Preservation Council, Richard Miller, says, “if we do not have any encouragement from the mayor’s office, we will not appeal.” [Chicago Tribune, October 20, 1971] The building, located at the corner of Washington Boulevard and Monroe Street, was designed by Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan. It will be gone by the end of 1972 although its entrance arch and trading room are preserved at the Art Institute of Chicago.  Preservationist and photo-journalist Richard Nickel took this photo of the Stock Exchange trading room, now preserved at the Art Institute of Chicago.  After he is reported missing while chronicling the death throes of the building, it would be 22 days before his body would be found in the rubble.

Friday, October 18, 2019

October 18, 1948 -- Karoll's Red Hanger Opens on State Street
October 18, 1948 – Precisely at noon Karoll’s Men’s Stores opens its “glamorous new unit at 36 North State Street, at the corner of Washington.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 17, 1948]  A special feature of the day is that, following the opening, every purchaser will have his or her picture taken and printed on a set of ten personal match books.  This will be the fourth store that Herb Karoll has built in Chicago and, according to the Tribune, he “has spared no expense to create one of the most modern, most unusual men’s stores in the country.”  Other store locations in the city are at 3201 West Sixty-Third Street, 1240 South Halsted Street and 348 East Forty-Seventh Street.  Karoll’s, of course, is long gone.  In its place in the Reliance building on State Street you will find a very fine restaurant today, Atwood.
October 18, 1962 – The New York State Insurance Department approves plans for a 35-story office building to be built on Michigan Avenue between Tribune Tower and the Chicago River.  The Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States will underwrite the expense of the commercial building, which has already attracted its first tenant – Foote, Cone and Belding, a Chicago advertising agency. The cost of the land and building are projected to run $25 million with the plan for the site leaving a generous portion of land facing Michigan Avenue as a landscaped public plaza.  The firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill will design the building with architect Alfred Shaw acting as a consultant.  As the plans developed Natalie De Blois, who began her career in architecture in 1944, took a lead role in the design of the structure. 

October 18, 1916 -- The South Park Board at its monthly meeting agrees to offer a site in Grant Park on which an aquarium can be built.  It is estimated that the “greatest public aquarium in the country” [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 19, 1916] will cost approximately $250,000, of which Julius Rosenwald, the head of Sears, Roebuck and Company, has agreed to contribute $100,000.  The head of the Chicago Aquarium Society, Seth Lindahl, says, “It is now only a question of means to the end.”  It will be awhile before that end is reached.  The aquarium does not open until May of 1930 and the costs of construction eventually rise to over $3,000,000.  The above photo shows the aquarium taking shape in 1928.

October 18, 1977 --  “By Gawd. They do clear it off, don’t they . . .”  That was the reaction of a British reporter covering the visit of His Royal Highness, Charles, the Prince of Wales to Chicago as official vehicles carrying the Prince, his entourage, Mayor Michael Bilandic and Governor James Thompson scream down the Kennedy expressway “leaving an increasing snarl beyond the cement red carpet.”  [Chicago Tribune, October 19, 1977]  The Medinah Highlanders bagpipe and drum corps, playing Scotland the Brave, meet the Prince as he emerges from his British airways jet at 4:23 p.m.  Eighteen minutes later the Prince is at the Drake Hotel “genuinely glad to be in Chicago and willing to display his well-publicized wit.”  Later in the evening the heir to the British throne enjoys a private dinner hosted by British consul-general in Chicago, John Heath, and his wife.  A full day’s schedule is set for the following day with a tour of Chicago’s Loop, a walk through the Art Institute, and a luncheon at the University of Chicago scheduled before a dinner at the Palmer House at which the Prince will be made a citizen of Chicago.  The above photo shows His Royal Highness at the University of Chicago the day after his arrival.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

October 17, 1917 -- Michigan Avenue Traffic Woes

Chicago Tribune photo
October 17, 1917 – The Chicago Daily Tribune prints a photograph that shows the traffic conditions on Michigan Avenue before the building of the bridge that carried traffic across the river.  Before the bridge was completed in 1920 traffic headed north on Michigan Avenue was forced to move from a 91-foot roadway south of Randolph Street to a 39-foot artery north of that location.  M. J. Flaherty, the president of the board of local improvements, says, “It’s like the neck of a bottle.  If the courts decide in the city’s favor we will have a continuous roadway ninety-one feet wide all the way across the river to the north side.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 17, 1917]  The court action to which Flaherty refers is a suit filed by the James S. Kirk and Co. soap factory,  contesting the city’s condemnation suit against its property, a large plot of land that is today occupied by the Wrigley building and Trump Tower.  The photo above shows the conditions at Randolph Street where traffic squeezes into a lane less than half the size of the road south of the intersection of Michigan and Randolph.  Today’s Chicago Cultural Center can be seen at the left of the photo.  The second photo shows the same scene as it appears today.  

October 17, 1956 – Mayor Richard J. Daley receives notice from the city’s air pollution control board that hydrogen sulphide gas from the North Branch of the Chicago River has created a “critical condition on the northwest side that may require emergency action by the mayor.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 18, 1956]  Phone lines are overwhelmed at the pollution control office as the director, Thomas H. Carey, reports the “complaints from home owners that the gas was polluting the air, attacking the paint on houses, and tarnishing silverware in homes.”  A city engineer assesses the dire situation, noting that it is the result of “unseasonable heat, low water levels because of a lack of rain, and a lack of wind to loft away the gas.”  Residents in the area between Caldwell and Milwaukee Avenues are experiencing the greatest hardship.  On the following day Chicago firefighters set up shop and, with assistance from the Niles fire department, begin pouring between 8,000 to 10,000 gallons of water per minute into the river, using six hose lines.  That isn’t enough for a dozen women from the neighborhood who make their way down to the mayor’s office, charging that “the stream has been polluted for months and that the pollution has caused illness among children and brought large rats to the neighborhood.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 20, 1956] The mayor’s office refers the women to the fire commissioner.

October 17, 1936 – Elma Lockwood “Ma” Streeter dies at the Cook County Hospital.  She was the daughter of Ashwood Lockwood who came to the area around today’s Elkhart, Indiana in 1839.  She was the indefatigable wife of George Washington “Cap” Streeter who in 1883 ran his boat, Reutan, aground on a sand bar about 450 off the shore east of what is today some of the most valuable real estate in the city.  As sand accumulated around the craft, he realized that it would be better to stay put and take advantage of a law allowing Civil War veterans to homestead on unclaimed land. The silting action of the lake had land piling up around the Reutan, and Streeter claimed it as his, declaring it the United States District of Lake Michigan or “the Deestrict.” Nearly two decades of run-ins with the law followed, and “Ma” Streeter watched it all as her husband was arrested, tried, convicted and set free only to repeat the process all over again.  In 1918, three years before her husband’s death, she reacted when hirelings of the Chicago Title and Trust Company burned the Streeter home to the ground.  She charged the group with a meat cleaver, and the men retreated. Her last indignity occurred in 1924 when she filed suit against property owners of “her” land, only to have the suit dismissed because Cap Streeter had been abandoned by his first wife but not divorced, so Ma Streeter’s marriage was declared invalid.  In the above photo "Ma" Streeter is shown on her houseboat just a year after her husband died.

October 17, 1933 – The first man to be jailed for attempted piracy on Lake Michigan is sentenced to six years in the federal penitentiary by Federal Judge James H. Wilkerson.  The United States District Attorney is able to show that the 28-year-old man, Joseph Pennick, boarded a boat at the Wrigley building and rode it to the Century of Progress World’s Fair on the lakefront.  On the return trip, at a point about a mile off Roosevelt Road, Pennick pulled out a revolver and ordered the pilot of the boat to surrender his cash.  The pilot, James M. Nester, and another passenger overpowered Pennick, but not before he got off two shots, one of which grazed the passenger’s head.  Pennick’s plea was that he had been drinking.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

October 16, 1943 -- Subway Opens at State and Madison
October 16, 1943 – Chicago’s first subway officially opens at 10:48 a.m. when Mayor Edward Kelly cuts a red, white and blue ribbon across the northbound tracks of the State and Madison street station. Before the ceremony ten special trains, departing from ten different terminals at 9:15 a.m., make their way to the location of the ribbon cutting.  As the lead train passes the underground station at North-Clybourn, the Lake View High School band plays a Souza march.  []  The ten trains converge at State and Madison where they unload dignitaries, and the ceremony begins.  The inauguration of the new subway, first proposed close to three decades earlier, includes a parade along State Street which requires an hour to pass the reviewing stand at State and Madison.  Addressing the crowd that braves a cold north wind, Kelly says that the 4.9 miles of the new subway between Armitage and Seventeenth Street is only the beginning, proclaiming, “In order that industry come to the city, new neighborhood communities be created, and in order that slum areas may be cleared and our blighted areas rehabilitated, it is absolutely necessary that Chicago have a truly great transportation system.”  []  Subway Commissioner Philip Harrington adds, “I can assure you of the thoroughness and durability of this structure and the safety of its equipment.  This subway compares more than favorably with any of the other undergrounds in the country.”  It is expected that the new subway will carry 70 million passengers in the first year of operation.  Regular service on the new line begins on the following day.  In the above photo Mayor Kelly, surrounded by reporters, rides the ceremonial train to the dedication ceremonies.  You can find an interesting clip of the ceremonies on dedication day here.

October 16, 1918 –In an address on the closing day of the annual convention of the American Bridge and Building Association, John K. Melton tells the 500 members that a time will come when ocean liners will dock in the Chicago River.  He says, “The most fertile land in the country is that inundated ground covered by the river at its flood tide, and by reclaiming that ground the money can be raised to build the docks down the length of the river to New Orleans, which will enable us to bring the big liners to this port.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 17, 1918]Following the address the association adopts resolutions that urge the reclaiming of the lands Melton referred to as an effort crucial to support the war effort.  The ocean liners never arrived, sadly.  But we did get our own liner up on the North Avenue beach as the above photo shows.

October 16, 1975 – King Olav V of Norway, in town for the observances of the 150th’ anniversary of the start of Norwegian immigration to the United States, receives a gift from Mayor Richard J. Daley – a facsimile of the 1922 Montgomery Ward and Company catalogue.  A spokesman for Ward’s says that Daley had first seen the catalogue, a replica of the original and created by Ward’s as a nostalgia item, during the dedication of a store at the Ford City Shopping Center, an appearance that caused His Honor to arrive 15 minutes late to his meeting with the King, and “decided it would make a nice gift for King Olav and took one along.” [Chicago Tribune, October 17, 1975] Says Daley, “I told him he should order from it because Montgomery Ward is a great place to do business, and we all know what the catalog meant to the early settlers who came to Chicago.”  According to the Tribune, “Olav made no comment.”  During his stay the 72-year-old King tours the Art Institute of Chicago, where on May 4,1939 he was the first person to sign the guest book for visiting dignitaries.  He is also feted at a University of Chicago luncheon, held to inaugurate a university chair in Norwegian studies.  The above photo shows King Olav V in front of the Norwegian Memorial Lutheran Church at 2614 Kedzie Boulevard where he stopped to hear a Children's Choir during his stay.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

October 15, 1968 -- General Maxwell Taylor Defends Vietnam Policy

General Maxwell Taylor
October 15, 1968 – The former Ambassador to Vietnam, General Maxwell Taylor, delivers s speech to 1,500 people at the Conrad Hilton Hotel in which he strongly defends the United States involvement in that country. Taylor observes that “the increase in manpower and airpower since last February has produced a change in the war in our favor.”  [Chicago Tribune, October 15, 1968]. Acting as a special consultant to President Lyndon Johnson, Taylor comes to the city at the invitation of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations as part of a country-wide tour he is making.  As pickets protest his presence outside the hotel, Taylor expresses dismay over demonstrations of United States participation in the Vietnam war, saying, “I regret them because of the effect they will have abroad, not among our friends but our enemies.  The hope that there is a division among us will stiffen our enemies.  He does not speculate on how many troops the United States will eventually send overseas beyond the 140,000 soldiers currently in Vietnam.  Taylor says that bombing of North Vietnam will be helpful in convincing Hanoi that “little by little, they are paying an increasing price for continuing the war.”

October 15, 1937 – Thirty miniature rooms created by Mrs. James Ward Thorne go on display at the Art Institute of Chicago. The rooms look at French and English interior design from the time between Henry VIII and Louis XII to the present.  Eleanor Jewett, reporting for the Chicago Daily Tribune observes, "Each little room is a gem.  The colors are fascinating; the details are fascinating; the different periods of interior decorating illustrated are fascinating. To tell the truth, standing before each room in turn is to become much like a bird bewitched by a snake, the fascination that grips you is dangerous; mind and body you are swallowed up momentarily in the charm of each exhibit.” According to Curbed Chicago, Thorne employed more than 30 craftsmen to bring about her ideas … between 1932 and 1940 the team turned out 99 miniature rooms, 62 of which were gifted to the Art Institute.  The detailing of the rooms is exquisite.  Crystal chandeliers are made out of crystal. Paintings on the walls are commissioned works of original art, in postage stamp-sized frames.  There are even two bronze sculptures designed by John Storrs, the sculptor responsible for the statue of Ceres at the top of the Chicago Board of Trade.  The photo above shows one of the miniature rooms, a French library of the Louis XV period.

October 15, 2006 – A crowd of 300 lines Wacker Drive between Dearborn and State Streets to witness the filming of a commercial for Allstate Insurance, a production that reprises the scene from The Hunter, filmed in 1979. Hollywood director Phil Joanou films scenes in the city for three days – a car chase that begins under the elevated tracks at Lake Street, winds around Wacker Drive, up Dearborn Street, and onto the circular driveway of the parking garage at Marina City.  The commercial ends with a 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass plunging off the tower and into the Chicago River, a catapult that is staged twice.   You can catch the commercial here

Charles L. Hutchinson
October 15, 1924 – Chicago learns that Charles L. Hutchinson, who died on October 7, has rewarded the Art Institute of Chicago, for which he served as president, handsomely in his will.  After providing $300,000 to his wife, Frances, he gives the museum the paintings that hang in the Hutchinson home at 222 East Walton Place.  Other stipulations in the will provide gifts to Hull House, the Cliff Dwellers’ Club, Children’s Memorial Hospital, Presbyterian Hospital, Michael Reese Hospital, and Lombard College.  Hutchinson was born into wealth as his father brought the family to Chicago in 1856 and made a fortune as a grain merchant, in meatpacking, and as one of the founders of the Corn Exchange National Bank.  Charles Hutchinson followed his father into banking and grain speculation.  The Newberry Library’s introduction to the collection of Hutchinson’s papers states, “Because he was a man of wide interests with a strong sense of civic duty, Hutchinson’s activities were not confined to finance but ranged over many aspects of Chicago life. Though his greatest enthusiasm was for art and the establishment and growth of the Art Institute, Hutchinson was president, board member, trustee and/or supporter of perhaps as many as seventy organizations and social institutions, orphanages, hospitals and schools. Among his numerous involvements, he served as president of the Chicago Board of Trade, director and chairman of the Fine Arts Committee of the World’s Columbian Exposition, trustee of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, president of the Chicago Orphan Asylum, president of St. Paul’s Universalist Church, vice-president of the Egypt Exploration Fund, president of the American Federation of the Arts, and treasurer of the Cliff Dwellers, of the Municipal Art League, and of the Chicago Sanitary District. Also, at the founding of the University of Chicago, in 1890 he was named a trustee of the new institution where he served as treasurer until his death.”