Friday, December 20, 2019

December 20, 1930 -- Wabash Avenue Bridge Dedicated

December 20, 1930 -- The Wabash Avenue bridge over the Chicago River is formally opened on the same day that the newly widened La Salle Street, between the river and Lincoln Park, is opened to traffic.  After a parade south on La Salle Street from Lincoln Park to Wacker Drive and then east to the Wabash Avenue bridge, Mayor Bill Thompson cuts a ribbon to open the bridge.  The new bridge will connect the former end of Wabash Avenue on the south side of the river to Cass Street on the north side, a street that has been renamed as North Wabash Avenue by the City Council.  Controversy hangs in the air as the Commissioner of Public Works, Richard W. Wolfe, is facing charges of “irregularities in the letting of the contracts” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 21, 1930]  for the construction of the north approach to the bridge.  Forty-Third Ward Alderman Arthur F. Albert charges that Wolfe’s failure to accept the offer of the lowest bidder on the project has cost the city $161,000 more than it would have cost if the lowest bidder’s proposal had been accepted.  Politics aside, though, in June the bridge is named by the American Institute of Steel Construction as the most beautiful span costing more than $1,000,000 built during 1930 in the United States and Canada.  The above photo shows the bridge, the middle span of the three shown in the photograph, and the northern viaduct that angles Wabash Avenue north of the river, carrying the streets across railroad tracks, to link up with the former Cass Street.
December 20, 1985 – Mayor Harold Washington designates two developers “to hammer out a deal that would land the Chicago White Sox in a $125 million domeless baseball stadium south of the Loop by 1989.” [Chicago Tribune, December 21, 1985] Daniel Shannon, the developer of the Presidential Towers apartment complex and Robert Wislow, a co-developer of One Financial Place in the South Loop, are named to find a way to build a new stadium along the east bank of the Chicago River south of Roosevelt Road.  Only six months earlier the city was looking to build a domed stadium that could accommodate the Cubs, the White Sox, the Bears and the Bulls.  The only team expressing an interest, however, was the White Sox, and the city, worried that the team, desperate to jettison its outdated ballpark, might take its bag of balls and head to the suburbs, changed direction.  The mayor’s senior fiscal policy adviser, Ira Edelson, says, “Initially we were looking at all-purpose stadiums, but the White Sox forced an economic issue on the city.” Underscoring that sentiment is the fact that White Sox owners have already purchased land in west suburban Addison suitable for a baseball stadium.  The city’s expectation is that it will end up purchasing 60 acres of riverfront rail yards under the control of three separate railroads.  The property would then be leased to the Wislow-Shannon group, and it would construct a 50,000-seat stadium to which a retractable dome could be added at a later date if another $35 million dropped from a high sky.  Edelson anticipates a $125 million price tag for the new stadium, $25 million of which would be contributed by the developers with another $100 million raised through the city’s sale of tax-exempt industrial revenue bonds.  The debt service on the bonds would be covered through lease payments to the city for 190 executive sky boxes, concession sales and parking fees.  Six years later the team got its new stadium in a different location – directly to the south of the old Comiskey Park.  Its construction cost was a little under $140 million.  The above rendering gives an interesting glimpse of what it might have been like to have every Chicago sports team clumped together in one location.

December 20, 1928 – The dedication and formal opening of the new LaSalle Street bridge takes place as Mayor William Hale Thompson cuts a ribbon at the south end of the structure, and his car is the first to pass over the bridge.  Before the hoopla a parade begins at Grant Park and moves down LaSalle Street, “witnessed by 1,000 officials, business men, and spectators who braved a chill wind.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 21, 1928] At a LaSalle Hotel luncheon the mayor outlines the history of the project and the benefits that the bridge will bring.

December 20, 1974 – Mayor Richard J. Daley announces plans for a new park on the south bank of the Chicago River between Wabash Avenue and Dearborn Street, a park that will be created with a donation from the IBM Corporation of $175,000.  The corporation’s headquarters, completed in 1971, sits directly across the river, and with a matching grant from other businesses in the vicinity it is hoped that the park will be completed within the year.  The IBM Vice-President in charge of western operations, J. E. Guth, says the park will measure about 25 feet by 600 feet with linden trees every 25 feet, a granite walkway, benches, and a sound barrier to muffle traffic noise from the lower level of Wacker Drive.  It was a good move.  Today the space has been beautifully transformed into Wabash Plaza, a memorial to Illinois veterans who served in Vietnam, 2900 of whom died in that war.

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