Tuesday, December 31, 2019

December 31, 1967 -- Riverview Amusement Park Leads Year in Farewells

December 31, 1967 – Chicago said farewell to a number of buildings and institutions during 1967, a list detailed on the last day of the year in a Chicago Tribune article.  Riverview Amusement Park closed for good, ending a 63-year run.  Gone for good were the Bobs, the Fireball, the Silver Flash, Flying Turns and Shoot the Chutes (“Keep your hands inside the boat … don’t rock the boat”).  The Edgewater Beach Hotel also closed.  With the northward expansion of Lake Shore Drive the hotel, which opened in 1916, was separated from the lake, making the first two words in its name a promise on which it could no longer deliver.  It was used as a dormitory for Loyola University students for a couple of years but was finally demolished between 1969 and 1971.  The headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Church at 1549 Astor Street, across the street from the Cardinal’s mansion, was razed to make way for a residential tower, and, immediately to the north, the Old Swift mansion that sat at Astor and North Avenue across from Lincoln Park was demolished as well.  Also on North Avenue, the Plaza Hotel at North and Clark, fell to the wrecker’s ball as did the Werner Storage Company garage where seven members of “Bugs” Moran’s gang were gunned down on Valentine’s Day in 1929.  The oldest riding stable in Lincoln Park, the New Parkway at 2153 North Clark, also closed, ending an era.  New Parkway had been in business since the 1890's, and in 1966 sent out 600 riders every weekend to Lincoln Park.  No one complained, I would guess, when the immense Cutty Sark billboard on the south bank of the river just east of Michigan Avenue departed the city.  Also departing was the Italian Court at 619 North Michigan Avenue at Ontario street.  Built between 1919 and 1926, the complex of shops and artists’ apartments revolved around a lovely restaurant, Le Petit Gourmet.  Finally, on December 2 at 6:00 p.m. the Twentieth Century Limited, the express train of the New York Central Railroad that operated between Grand Central Station in New York City and the La Salle Street Station in Chicago, made its last run, arriving in Chicago nine hours and 50 minutes late, due to a freight train derailment in Ohio.

December 31, 1902 –The Chicago Daily Tribune prints the results, taken form Railway Age magazine, that show the number of railroads that enter and leave Chicago on a daily basis.  A total of 23 separate railroads send trains into and out of the city, a number made even more impressive by the fact that some railroads such as the Chicago and North Western and the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul run multiple lines into the city.  596 passenger trains run into Chicago each day while 594 depart.  Particularly notable is the number of through passenger trains that make a stop in the city on their trip to the east and west. Union Station leads that total with 94 with Polk Street servicing 74 passenger trains each day.  Central Station handles 72, Wells Street 65, and Grand Central 64.  The Illinois Central Railroad is the leader in suburban passenger trains with 251 each day with the Chicago and North Western operating 223 daily suburban trains into and out of the city.  

December 31, 1978 – The Chicago Tribune reports that the Chicago Police Department and the F.B.I. have found security at the Art Institute of Chicago “to be inadequate, lax, and outmoded.” [Chicago Tribune, December 31, 1978], the tough assessment coming four days after three Cézanne oil paintings, valued at $3 million, are found missing from a storage room.  The stolen paintings include “Madame Cézanne in a Yellow Armchair”, “Apples on a Tablecloth” and “House on the River.” After police find that there is no list of people to whom keys to the room had been distributed, Arthur M. Wood, the chairman of the museum’s board of directors, says that “all safekeeping and security practices are under intense review.”  Commander William Murphy, the Chicago Chief of Police, finds at least three deficiencies in the institution’s security system.  First, works of art have been kept in storage rooms with simple door locks and no reinforced doors.  Secondly, the system of checking out keys to such rooms has been “haphazard” with virtually no attention given to whom keys have been given.  No one has any idea, apparently, of how many keys even exist to the room where the theft occurred.   Murphy guesses that at least 400 employees have had access to the room in which 25 post-Impressionist paintings are stored. Finally, a “nonchalant” attitude has taken over about enforcing security rules that had been in place for years.  An F.B.I. agent working the case says, “What you’ve got is essentially a broom closet.  It is far from the kind of vault you would expect the Art Institute to keep its valuables in.”  It didn’t take long to track down the paintings … stealing was easy for Art Institute worker Laud “Nick” Pace.  Unloading the loot was much more difficult.  Pace, who disguised the works as packages as he walked them out the door of the museum, was caught several months later and sent up the river for a decade.  "Madame Cézanne in a Yellow Armchair" is pictured above, safely back home.

December 31, 1943 – A year ends, one that began with President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill meeting in Casablanca and, midway through, marks the surrender of the German army in North Africa to the British and Americans.  Even in the darkest hours of the war Chicago begins to look toward to what will come afterward.  On this day the Chicago Daily Tribune makes that clear in an editorial, stating, “If Chicago wants to avoid being by-passed by the great air transport companies of the post-war age, it will have to see that they get the terminal facilities they need.”  The editorial board sees neither airport currently in existence as practical.  The place we know today as Midway is “nine miles from the heart of the city and accessible only thru the most densely populated sections.”  Douglas Field, today’s O”Hare, “would be 19 miles from the loop.”  What is the alternative?  The editorial favors something that has been talked about for a decade or more – an airport on the city’s lakefront.  “An airport built in this area on made ground,” the editorial states, “would be free of obstacles such as usually surround municipal airports, could be readily expanded to any size needed to accommodate great, new planes, and would be only a few minutes’ drive from the heart of the city.”  The editorial continues, “The present outer breakwater runs from the vicinity of South Water street almost continuously to the Shedd aquarium at the foot of Twelfth street.  Extending land outward from this breakwater would provide ample room for an airport and would give airplanes plenty of space to gain altitude, even in a westward takeoff, before reaching tall buildings.  It would in no way interfere with navigation, and would be less than a five minute ride to the loop over a short causeway.”  The editorial even makes reference to the fact that the Wolverine and the Sable, Navy aircraft carriers steaming along the lakefront, have taken meteorological surveys of the area north of Thirty-First Street and have found that it is “usually free of smoke and has wind velocity and ceiling suitable for a large airport.”  Imagine what the city’s lakefront would look like today if the clamor for this kind of new airport had gained a large enough audience to see it actually built.  Above, the early 1940's photo of Northerly Island -- later Meigs Field and now Northerly Island again -- gives some idea of what an airport facility much larger than this would have done to the lakefront.

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