Thursday, October 31, 2019

October 31, 1982 -- State Street Survey Gives Little Cause for Optimism
October 31, 1982 – The Chicago Tribune reports the results of “a comprehensive survey of people on State Street” [Chicago Tribune, October 31, 1982], compiled by the architecture firm of Perkins and Will at the request of the Greater State Street Council.  The survey is based on the interviews of 839 people on the State Street Mall between Washington Street and Jackson Boulevard during three days in June.  After analyzing the results of the survey, the president of Friends of Downtown, Edward Lawrence, says, “State street is not the shopping center for the rich … [it] is not going to take the carriage and high fashion trade away from Michigan Avenue and I don’t think it should try.”  The survey is yet another attempt to determine how effectively the $17-million pedestrian mall on State Street, opened in 1978, is working. Of survey respondents who said they are not downtown after 6:00 p.m., 33 percent believed the area was unsafe and 29 percent said there was nothing to do.  South Side residents, with median incomes 8 percent below the city average, comprise close to 50 percent of mall users, according to the survey.  West Side residents with incomes 25 percent below the average make up another 25 percent of mall users.  North Side residents make up 22 percent of mall users, but, despite having incomes 3 percent higher than the metropolitan average, spend almost the same amount as West Side shoppers.  Only 15 percent of weekday users are from the suburbs.  The study recommends that advertising be aimed at people from “small, older households in the downtown area and North Side” and that more office buildings be built.  Lawrence disagrees with the second recommendation.  “There already is an oversupply of offices downtown,” he says.  “We must try to attract those suburbanites who already are downtown.”  Re-opening the street to traffic in 1993, an influx of close to 70,000 college students attending downtown colleges and universities, and the opening of Millennium Park in 2004 are the principal factors in creating the vital and bustling artery that State Street is today.  The photo above shows State Street as it appeared in 1987.

October 31, 1982 –The Columbus Drive bridge over the Chicago River is opened to traffic.  The first car to cross is driven by the widow of Chicago police officer William P. Fahey, for whom the bridge is named.  He was killed in the line of duty on February 10 as he attempted to make a traffic stop at Eighty-First and Morgan Streets.  According to the chicagoloopbridges web site, the William P. Fahey bridge is unique in two respects.  It is the first of the trunnion bascule bridges in the Loop to use box girders to span the river instead of trusses, and it is also the first to have its trunnions set back far enough from the river so that pedestrians can walk under it at the level of the river.  The bridge has a clear span of 180 feet and cost $33 million to construct. Although it was a controversial plan when proposed – many thought that it would flood the north side of the river with traffic that streets were ill-equipped to handle – no one can argue with its importance today while surveying what Streeterville looked like in the 1980’s and what it looks like today.

October 31, 1902 – Harlow N. Higinbotham, the president of the board of trustees of the Field Columbian museum, holds forth about the museum’s future, saying, “All that stands in the way of a magnificent $10,000,000 building for the Field museum is a site downtown just across the Illinois Central tracks at Congress street, and that site the city of Chicago ought to provide.  The people of Chicago should have easy access to the museum.  At present persons visiting the city who have only limited time at their disposal cannot visit it.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, November 1, 1902] Higinbotham’s comments come as he hosts 30 of the  “highest authorities in the world on American anthropology … men from Germany, England, Sweden, Holland, France, Mexico and the South American countries.”  The scientists tour the home of the Field Columbian Exposition in Jackson Park, the building that served as the Palace of Fine Arts during the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, a museum that “even in its present quarters … the visitors thought … compared favorably with the museums of Europe and with those in the eastern states.”  The visitors spend the morning at the museum, take lunch at the Del Prado, then go for a drive through the parks and boulevards of the south side before spending the evening as guests of University of Chicago President William Rainey Harper at his residence.  The above photo shows the Field Columbian Museum, the former Palace of Fine Arts at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition -- and today's Museum of Science and Industry -- as it appeared at the time of Higinbotham's plea.

October 31, 1935 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that the eight bridges between Michigan Avenue and Franklin Street have opened more times in a nine-month period than they have opened in most twelve-month years.  According to Harbormaster William J. Lynch in the first nine months of 1935 the bridges opened 9,320 times between January 1 and September 30 with the average time a bridge stood open a bit less than four minutes.  It is hard to imagine a situation today in which traffic in the center of the city is completely stopped over two dozen times a day as bridges are raised and lowered.  According to Lynch these eight bridges blocked traffic a total of 546 hours – more than 68 eight-hour days – in the first nine months of the year.  If one looks at all sixteen bridges that cross the river on the north and west side of the Loop, the number of openings came to 15,088 with motorists and pedestrians spending a total of 866 hours waiting for the bridges to do their work.  At the south end of the North Branch of the river the little Kinzie Street bridge was opened 2,424 times in the first nine months of the year.  Alderman William A. Rowan, the chairman of the council committee on harbors, wharves and bridges, reacts to the figures, saying, “The question involved is the convenience of millions of individuals as opposed to the convenience of a relatively few owners of vessels.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 31, 1935]  He estimated that over 70 per cent of the openings of the eight bridges on the main stem of the river occurred to accommodate noncommercial vessels.  The above photo shows the main stem of the river in 1930, looking west from State Street, with the four-year-old Wacker Drive on its south side.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

October 30, 1966 -- Art Institute Recovers Renaissance Masterpiece from Grant Park Trash Can

October 30, 1966 – An Italian Renaissance painting, “Madonna, Child, and St. John,” by the Italian painter Correggio is recovered from a Grant Park garbage can 17 hours after it is reported stolen from the Art Institute of Chicago.  The painting, valued at a half-million dollars, is recovered from a trash can along Roosevelt Road between Columbus and Lake Shore Drive.  An anonymous phone call alerts authorities to the location where they find the painting wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string.  The caller says, “It started as a prank, but it got out of hand.”  [Chicago Tribune, October 31, 1966]  The director of the Art Institute, Charles C. Cunningham, examines the work at police headquarters and identifies a split in the wood on which the painting was done and some scuff marks on the neck of the Madonna.  Cunningham states that the security system in the Art Institute will be “definitely changed.”  Officials are at a loss to explain how a valuable work of art could be removed from a second-floor gallery and moved through a system of electric eyes and alarms.  The burglar apparently tore the painting and the frame from the wall and ran through ten galleries to a window at the southeast corner of the building.  Using a hammer, the thief pried a screen loose, broke a window and jumped to a ventilator on the roof a building ten feet below.  From there he jumped to a parking lot, dropping a large part of the frame in the process.  The broken window set off a burglar alarm at approximately 1:00 a.m.  The call concerning the location of the painting comes from “somewhere on the southside” at about 6:00 p.m. in the late afternoon.  According to Cunningham, the thief must have been an expert.  He says, “The thief apparently was interested only in this particular painting and it appears he was familiar with the museum and knew exactly where to go.”  The Tribune graphic shows the route of the thief as he escaped with the painting.

October 30, 1972 – The worst accident in Chicago transit history occurs as 45 people die and more than 350 are injured when a six-car commuter train slams into the rear of a four-car commuter train that is backing up to a station platform at Twenty-Seventh Street after overshooting it.  President Richard Nixon sends the Secretary of Transportation, John Volpe, to the scene and the National Safety and Transportation Board begins an investigation. It takes six hours for 240 fire fighters to remove the dead and injured from the two trains at a site just two blocks away from the emergency room of Michael Reese Hospital, which has doctors on the scene within minutes.  There are nearly a thousand passengers on the two trains as they collide at 7:27 a.m. at the height of rush hour.  Most of the deaths occur on the rear car of the lead train, which is composed of new “high-liner” double deck passenger cars.  The following train, composed of older single-level steel coaches, plows into the reversing train, over-riding the underframe of its last car and telescoping it.  The official report of the N.T.S.B. finds “that the probable cause of this accident was the reverse movement of train 416 (the lead train) without flag protection into a previously vacated signal block and the failure of the engineer of train 720 (the following train), while operating faster than the prescribed speed, to perceive the train ahead in time to avoid the collision.” 

October 30, 1931 – The largest Y. M. C. A. in the world is officially opened at dedication ceremonies on this date in 1931.  The new Lawson Y. M. C. A. on the northeast corner of Chicago Avenue and Dearborn Streets rises 24 stories and is built at a cost of $2,754,000.  The new building is named after Victor F. Lawson, the late publisher of the Chicago Daily News, who left $1,500,000 to start the project. There will be 650 residential rooms with 700 telephones, and each room in the building will have a radio speaker that allows a choice of five programs.  As described by the Chicago Daily Tribune, facilities include “a small chapel for private meditation and group worship; a completely equipped ‘log cabin,’ with an artificial woodland view out the window; a room of 1950, done in an ultra-modernistic style; the Lawson Memorial library; a boxing room with permanent ring; two large gymnasiums; volleyball and handball rooms; locker rooms with accommodations for 2,500 men; a rifle range; 10 studios for hobbies, handicraft, and music; mechanical exercise room; a swimming pool, 62 x 25 feet, with a 12 foot depth in the middle for diving; restaurants, grills and cafeterias, and fountain rooms.  There is also a roof garden on the nineteenth floor” [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 25, 1931] In May of 2017 developer Peter Holsten, who paid one dollar for the building with the caveat that it provide affordable housing for at least 50 years, announced a $100 million plan to convert 583 units into 400 larger units with private bathrooms and kitchens.  The plan also will replace exterior fire escapes with two enclosed stair towers and install a new bank of modern elevators.

October 30, 1907 – Wouldn’t it have been interesting to be serving the coffee on this day as Mayor Fred Busse, First Ward aldermen Michael Kenna and John Coughlin and a committee from the Commercial Club meet in architect Daniel Burnham’s office atop the Railway Exchange Building on Michigan Avenue.  Two days earlier the city council had passed an ordinance directing the commissioner of public works to gather plans for connecting Beaubein Court on the south side of the river with Pine Street on the north.  The meeting in Burnham’s office is one more step in a process of trying to unite the north and south side boulevard systems that has been dragging on for over 15 years.  After the meeting Clyde M. Carr, chairman of the Commercial Club committee, says, “We have acted and will continue to act as a clearing house for ideas on this subject.  We have not given our support to any one plan, but are anxious to push the first worthy plan that the authorities may decide upon as feasible.  What we are striving to keep in mind is the future – something that will give glory to Chicago for a hundred years to come.  We do not want a makeshift or a compromise.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 31, 1907] It will be another 13 years before the lawsuits are settled, the property acquired, and the great bridge leading Michigan Avenue across the river completed.  Daniel Burnham is pictured above in his office atop the Railway Exchange Building.