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.

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