Saturday, November 23, 2019

November 23, 1907 -- Michigan Avenue Improvement Plans Stir Controversy

November 23, 1907 – Michigan Avenue property owners between Randolph Street and the river go “on the warpath” [Chicago Daily Tribune, November 24, 1907] over plans for the improvement of Michigan Avenue.  Twenty-two owners in the area meet at the offices of Attorney George Packard, a space covered in “maps and cross sections drawn by Holabird and Roche” and after much discussion decide “to push the scheme and if possible defeat the Commercial club plan as drawn by Daniel H. Burnham.”  The group united behind a plan for Michigan Avenue in which “the present street grade would be raised eight feet from Randolph street to Illinois street, the Northwestern railroad tracks, just north of the river, would have to be depressed six feet, and intersecting streets between the northern and southern boundaries for the raised grade would be depressed and sent through subways.”  It is interesting to note that nearly two years before the Chicago Plan of 1909 was published, Burnham and the Commercial Club were hard at work on plans to improve the city.  It is also interesting how the two premiere architectural firms in the city have found themselves on opposite sides on this showdown over plans for Michigan Avenue.  Michigan Avenue hasn't much changed three years later when the above photo was taken in 1910.  The picture was taken from the southeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street, looking north toward the river.

November 23, 1912 – The Rouse Simmons, Chicago’s “Christmas tree ship,” is last seen between Kewaunee and Two Rivers, Wisconsin with distress flags flying. The owner of the ship, Herman Schuenemann, began the business with his brother in 1885.  After his brother was lost when one of their ships foundered off Glencoe in 1898, Schuenemann got to work at lowering the cost of the business, sailing farther and farther north where he could buy trees more cheaply and establishing a market on the southwest corner of the Clark Street Bridge at which he could sell the trees directly from the deck of the ship. Schuenemann was an experienced sailor and businessman who had sailed on the annual Christmas tree voyages on at least five ships over the years, but cost cutting may have been his undoing.  The Rouse Simmons was re-caulked after the 1911 trip, but in 1912 the owner skipped the operation.  The weight of the 5000 trees above and below deck far exceeded recommendations for a voyage at that time of the year, and when an early storm moved in early in the morning of November 23, it was too much.  The wet trees on deck began to ice over, and the ship, riding low in the water, was no match for the forces of nature.  A message in a bottle that washed up sometime after the ship went down read, “Friday . . . everybody, goodbye.  I guess we are all through. During the night the small boat washed overboard.  Leaking bad.  Invalid and Steve lost too.  God help us.”  Sixteen men and one woman were lost when the ship went down 30 miles south of Ahnapee, Wisconsin, the town in which Captain Schuenemann was born. Captain Herman Schuenemann with his trees is pictured above.
November 23, 1925 – Bears fever takes over the city as the Chicago Bears, debuting their new phenom, Red Grange, get ready to play the Chicago Cardinals.  The Chicago Daily Tribune reports, “Just about every man, woman or child who ever heard of the Illini phantom, must have landed in the neighborhood of State and Adams streets at the same time.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, November 24, 1925]  The line at the A. G. Spalding store at this location becomes so long that mounted police are called out.  At first, there is no limit on the number of tickets that one can purchase, but the number is cut down to two when “it became apparent that the phenomenal ‘Red’ had brought a new sensation to professional sports.”  Normally, the standing room and bleacher tickets at Wrigley Field would be held until the gates opened on game day, but Bears President William Veeck orders everything to be sold “to clean up everything so that folks who do not hold tickets will not swarm the park …”  At a time when average attendance for a professional football game was about 5,000, the prospect of watching Grange play brought 39,000 fans to Wrigley Field on that Thanksgiving Day as the Bears and their cross-town rivals, the Cardinals, battle to a 0-0 tie.  In the next 18 days the team would play seven games, all of them before record crowds, including 70,000 people who show up at the Polo Ground to see Grange and the Bears play the New York Giants.  The receipts from that game are reported to have saved the Giants as the organization was about to file for bankruptcy. [] 

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