Tuesday, December 3, 2019

December 3, 1876 -- Palmer House Raises the Roof


December 3, 1876 – The Chicago Daily Tribune devotes a couple of columns to “an enterprise of considerable magnitude,” [Chicago Daily Tribune, December 3, 1876] – the raising of the roof of the Palmer House Hotel.  In order to make the upper rooms in the establishment “more lofty and attractive,” the roof is being raised thirty inches “under the personal supervision of Mr. Potter Palmer”.  The technical aspects of the undertaking are impressive.  The total area covered by the roof is 95,800 square feet with each square foot weighing 80 pounds, meaning that the entire roof weighs 3,832 tons.  Three out of five sections of the roof have already been raised while the “present section under which screws are set, covers 14,360 square feet.  The weight is 1,248,800 pounds, equal to a little over 574 tons.”  The whole mass is held up by 200 hydraulic jack-screws which require 65 men to manage them.  Each man has to turn his jack at the exact same time in exactly the same increment, a job that is directed by signals.  At every half-inch the operation is halted and measurements taken to make sure that the section of roof is level.  A section of roof can be raised between 18 and 24 inches in a day.  In the ongoing enterprise “There is no excitement, but every man is at his post, and the business of the house goes on just the same.”  Another part of the project involves the construction of a conservatory on the fifth floor of the hotel, covered by iron and glass, soaring 17 feet, and  heated by steam.  To decorate it “Mr. Palmer has purchased the rarest and most beautiful plants and exotics obtainable.” 

December 3, 1985 – The National Broadcasting Company announces that it has signed a lease for space in the first office tower to be constructed in the Cityfront Center project, a move that is valued at more than $100 million.  The 34-story tower will be a joint venture of the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States and Tishman-Speyer Properties.  NBC will move more than 600 employees from the Merchandise Mart and other locations around the Loop to the new building, which is scheduled to begin construction in the summer of 1985.  Richard Lobo, the vice-president and general manager of NBC’s local affiliate WMAQ-TV, says, “Though we’ve been served well by the Merchandise Mart for the last 50 years, here we’ll have better access to roads … and be close to the city’s two major newspapers and our own competitors.” [Chicago Tribune, December 4, 1985]  Plans for the building, drawn up by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, show a “stepped-back tower clad in granite or a granite-composite material, with a column of windows rising the height of the building to a tapered, lighted pinnacle."  An interesting development occurs just a week before the announcement with the dissolution of a partnership between Equitable and the Chicago Dock and Canal Trust to develop the 50 acres of Cityfront Center north of the Chicago River between Lake Michigan and Michigan Avenue.  Equitable retains 11 acres west of Columbus Drive, and Chicago Dock takes the rest of the site.  Potentially four million square feet of commercial space and 1,800 hotel rooms could eventually be sited on the 11 acres that Equitable retains.  The Chicago Dock portion of the site could see nearly 6,000 apartments, 2,200 hotel rooms and six million square feet of offices and retail space.  One could say that the development of Streeterville, the area north of the river and east of Michigan Avenue begins on this date.

December 3, 1922 – John Mead Howells, the winner of the $100,000 competition for the Chicago Tribune’s new building on Michigan Avenue, is honored at a dinner at which he gives the keynote address.  Expressing his appreciation for the commission, Howells says, “When an architect has thought and studied and practiced a special subject for eighteen years, he feels that nothing so fine can come to him as an opportunity to give that subject its best expression.”  That subject, for Howells and his collaborator, Raymond Hood, has been the tall office building, a frustrating subject in most cases, the architect says, because of the location in a city such buildings must usually occupy.  “Unfortunately, almost all our efforts at design must be lost,” Howells says, “for the reason that most office buildings have a joint property line on each side, over which the building cannot project and this leaves the front an isolated strip of design with no relation to the other sides of the building.  It is like a decorated window shade pulled down from a roll twenty stories above the street.”  The only time a perfect skyscraper can be built, Howells says, is when an architect is given a site that allows all four sides of the building owned by the same owner.  “How many such opportunities are there in the world,” he asks.  “You can count them on your fingers.”  The new building in Chicago presents such an opportunity.  Howell goes on to talk about the plan for the Tribune building.  The intent is not to design a building that “looked Gothic … but it is meant to be a design expressing to the limit our American steel cage construction, and nothing else … I believe that the type of design chosen by The Tribune expresses not only the American office building but the actual steel cage, with its vertical steel columns from top to bottom and its interpolated steel beams.  When you have done this you have produced something Gothic in line, because the Gothic architecture was also one of structural expression.”  Closing his remarks, Howells says, “In the present design Mr. Hood and I have tried to set aside any itching for the original for fear of the fantastic, and we have striven only for a straight solution of that most worth while in American problems – the American skyscraper.”

December 3, 1948 – Pizzeria Uno opens for business.  According to Eater Chicago Ike Sewell worked for Fleischmann’s Distilling Corporation and his future partner, Ric Ricardo, was the owner of Riccardo’s Restaurant and Gallery at 437 North Rush Street.  The original plan was to open a Mexican Restaurant until Riccardo, an Italian by birth, tasted Mexican food for the first time.  That pointed the duo in the direction of pizza, but not just the usual thin crust of tomato sauce, cheese and toppings, but a pizza that was worthy of the city with the big shoulders.  The restaurant was originally called The Pizzeria and then Pizzeria Riccardo.  It became Pizzeria Uno when Sewell and Riccardo opened Pizzeria Due a block away in 1955.  Today there are over 130 Uno Pizzeria and Grill restaurants in 21states, Washington, D. C., South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Honduras, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia.

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