Tuesday, July 14, 2020

July 14, 1909 -- Blackstone Theater Plans Debut

July 14, 1909 – Announcement is made that a new theater will be erected in Hubbard Court just west of the Blackstone Hotel.  No timetable is given for the project although “the lease requires the erection of a fire-proof building prior to 1921, taking in all the Wabash avenue frontage and on Hubbard court west of the theater, to be not less than eight stories high and to cost not less than $200,000.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 15, 1909]  The Studebaker Brothers Manufacturing Company holds a 143-year lease on the property on which the theater will stand, land that was acquired in several transactions between 1902 and 1904.  The architecture firm of Marshall and Fox, the architects that designed the Blackstone Hotel, will design the new theater, which will be “one of the handsomest and best appointed theaters in the country.”  Developers will be Tracy C. Drake and John Drake, who would go on to develop the Drake Hotel on Michigan Avenue, which Marshall and Fox would also design.  Both the theater and the hotel next to it were named after Timothy Blackstone who occupied a mansion that stood on the site.  He served as president of the Chicago and Alton Railroad, the city’s first railroad, from 1864 to 1899.  He was also the founding president of the Union Stock Yards.  After he died, his widow donated the Blackstone Memorial Library to the city as the first branch library in Chicago.  Today the theater carries the name of Merle Reskin, who, along with her husband, made a large donation to the Theatre School of DePaul University, which now operates the theater.

Curbed Chicago
July 14, 1966 – In response to a question from the Chicago Tribune, officials at City Hall concede that beautification of the south bank of the Chicago River between Michigan Avenue and Lake Shore Drive may not begin until the fall.  The delay is the result of a case that is pending before the Illinois Supreme Court in which the city, the Illinois attorney general, and four citizen plaintiffs are challenging the Illinois Central Railroad’s claim to air rights over its tracks from the river south to Fifty-First Street.  The chairman of the I. C., in the meantime, asserts that the maintenance of the river bank has been the obligation of the city ever since 1919 when an ordinance was approved, granting the city a permanent easement with a width of 112 feet along the river bank for the eventual extension of Wacker Drive from Michigan Avenue to Lake Shore Drive.  The unsightliness of the area has been a source of contention between the city and the railroad since at least 1959 when Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Chicago prompted an intense tidying up and a new look at some of the eyesores along the south bank of the river that most Chicagoans had simply taken for granted.  At that time the city did spend nearly $30,000 to repair pilings and the wall along the south river bank.  That was a start, but the Tribune notes, “… nothing has been done to landscape the bank and eliminate the weeds, piles of brick, and the exposure of unattractive warehouses and other similar structures.  Once the air rights battle has ended, this area may become one of the city’s most exciting developments of modern office buildings and apartment skyscrapers.”  [Chicago Tribune, July 15, 1966]. Clearly, that prediction held true as the city has just completed a face-lift for this section of the river walk, spending over $12 million to refresh the area from the DuSable bridge to Lake Shore Drive.  The top photo shows the area in the early 1970's.  Note the piles of dirt and stone on the south side of the river in front of the building under construction, today's Hyatt Hotel.  That is the area pictured in the photo below, looking fro the opposite direction, the present docks for Chicago's First Lady Cruises and the architecture tours offered by the Chicago Architecture Center.

July 14, 1928 – Announcement is made that the plan for the new Palmolive building, under construction at the southeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Walton Street, will be amended to include 37 stories rather than the 15 stories that were originally proposed.  The architects for the project, Holabird and Root, had specified foundations for a taller structure, but the Palmolive-Peet Company and Colgate Company had decided on a more modest office building at the outset, changing the plan to a taller building as the project begins.  The tower promises to be a sensation, “of modern architecture” with “no exterior fire escapes to mar the architectural effect”.  The tower will be clad in Bedford limestone on all sides “with interesting light effects through the placing of flood lights on the various setbacks.”  The new building opened in 1929 with six series of set-backs on all four sides.

July 14, 1918 – Four persons are killed and 28 injured when a North Shore Electric railroad train strikes a truck carrying a Chicago picnic party at the north entrance to Fort Sheridan.  The General Manager of the North Shore line blames the driver of the truck for failing to obey the warning signals at the railroad crossing, saying, “There is a clear view of the track for more than a mile at the point of the accident.  The motorman was sounding his whistle and the wig-wag danger signal was in operation.  The motorman slowed down to ten miles an hour as he approached the crossing because he had a regular stop to make.  The truck was hit by the coach and toppled into the ditch.  I am told the deaths and injuries were not caused by the actual collision, but in the fall into the ditch.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 15, 1918]

July 14, 1877 – Beginning at the offices of the West Park Commissioners at the corner of Washington Boulevard and Halsted Street, a line of carriages, led by the Great Western Light Guard Band, starts out at 2:00 p.m. for the formal opening of Humboldt Park.  Upon reaching the park, “the procession rolls solemnly along for a considerable time, much to the admiration of the assembled ladies and small boys, the latter tearing through the grounds barefooted after the brass band.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 15, 1877]  Coverage of the dedication is favorable although the park is still “in its infancy and cannot be expected to show off as well as some of its older neighbors.”  According to the Chicago Park District’s history of the park, the park is named for Baron Freidrich Heinrich Alexander Von Humboldt, a German scientist and explorer.  The original design for the park was the work of William LeBaron Jenney, and the 219- acre park was designed as a part of a unified whole using a system of boulevards to join three great parks, Humboldt, Garfield and Douglas.   Humboldt Park grew slowly, but as it grew Jenney’s original plan was followed only in the park’s northeastern section. 

Monday, July 13, 2020

July 13, 1973 -- Medusa Challenger Continues the Curse

Chicago Tribune photo
July 13, 1973 – The curse of the Medusa Challenger continues as the Lake Shore Drive bridge across the Chicago River refuses to open to allow the bulk cement carrier to squeeze through.  After waiting three hours off Navy Pier for tugboats to arrive, the 562-foot ship with 42,000 barrels of bulk cement aboard, squeezes through the river lock on her own.  Then Captain John Bradley brings the ship to a halt as the first bridge on the river cannot be opened as a result of an electric failure that prevents the traffic gates from being lowered.  It takes nearly 20 minutes to correct the situation.  Finally, the gates are cranked down by hand, and the bridge is raised.  The Medusa Challenger faced a challenge nearly every time she visited Chicago.  This day she makes it to Goose Island to offload her cargo without further incident … good work, considering the date is Friday the Thirteenth.  More information on the Medusa Challenger can be found in these Connecting the Windy City posts, here and here.

July 13, 1980 – Paul Gapp, the architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, opens a piece on the State Street mall with these words, “The State Street mall is an esthetic failure, and that comes as a particularly harsh disappointment in a city that has produced so many triumphs of urban design in this century.”  The article lists a number of weaknesses in the mall, summarizing the experiment that began in 1979 as “a collection of neutral, ambiguous design elements that are mostly boring, ugly, or both.”  Gapp points to the protective shelters built above the entrances to the State Street subway “destroying any feeling of openness, and blocking formerly unimpeded views.”  He sees the hexagonal asphalt blocks used for paving the pedestrian areas as “unspeakably depressing,” and the bus shelters as “absurd . . . with no walls to soften the bite of winter winds and ward off wind-blown rain.”  The only seating is “on the narrow, often earth-soiled rims of tree planters . . . because city officials have long rejected comfortable downtown benches on the theory that they attract unsavory loafers.”  Ending the article, Gapp writes, “Constraints notwithstanding, we could have had a handsome mall on State Street.  Instead, we have a civic embarrassment.” [Chicago Tribune, July 13, 1980]   

July 13, 1966 – After spending the day drinking in taverns near his rooming house on the south side of the city, Richard Speck breaks into an apartment building near South Chicago Community Hospital.  Overnight he rounds up nine nurses, and, one-by-one, takes them to another room where he kills eight.  Only one of the nurses, Corazon Amurao, survives after hiding all night under a bed, emerging on the following morning to find the bloody scene. The nation is shocked by the horrendous crime, what some call the first mass murder of the twentieth century. Speck is caught after attempting suicide by cutting his wrists in a flop house three days later and is sentenced to death in a 1967 trial, a sentence that is later reduced to life in prison. The accused mass murderer dies in 1991.  The above photo shows Corazon Amurao, the lone survivor of that unspeakable night, leaving the courthouse in Peoria, Illinois on April 6, 1967. 

J. Bartholomew Photo
July 13, 1955 – Alderman Weber of the Forty-Fifty Ward announces that he will use the day’s meeting of the City Council to protest a $25,000 sculpture that is to be placed on the exterior of a municipal parking garage at State Street and Wacker Drive. The three-ton sculpture, “Chicago Rising from the Lake,” by sculptor Milton Horn, gets a rise out of the alderman as he states, “These things should be examined more closely.  We don’t have money to clean our streets properly, yet we can buy statues.  That bird cage [the garage] already is losing money, and now we’re spending money to provide a place for the birds to roost.”  [Chicago Tribune, July 14, 1955].  The city’s public works commissioner, says that the sculpture was included in the original design of the garage, designed by the architectural firm of Shaw, Metz and Dolio.  Weber responds, “A 3 ton embellishment!”  The piece did end up gracing the garage until the structure was destroyed in 1983, the sculpture was removed, and over the years shuttled to increasingly more remote back-lot facilities in the city’s maintenance underworld.  Horn died in April 1995, thinking that the sculpture was irretrievably lost.  A Chicago firefighter discovered the work in 1997, and after $60,000 in repairs, it was placed on the northwest abutment of the Columbus Drive bridge.  For more about “Chicago Rising from the Lake,” you can turn to this entry in Connecting the Windy City.

July 13, 1903 – The Committee on Streets and Alleys recommends passage of an ordinance that turns over control of the city’s portion of Grant Park to the South Park Board.  The land involved is that part of the park west of the Illinois Central right-of-way and north of Jackson Boulevard.  The ordinance also reserves the rights of the Art Institute as well as the trustees of the Crerar Library in their desire to build in the area. Thrown into the mix is the possibility of locating a new city hall in the area.  The area in question is shown in the photo of the park shown below, a photo taken in 1911.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

July 12, 1975 -- Chicago State University Awards Honorary Degree to Gerald Ford

July 12, 1975 – President Gerald R. Ford is awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at Chicago State University as he speaks during the university’s commencement exercises at McCormick Place.  Ford appears, as he indicates in his address, as a result of a petition signed by 5,000 students and hand-delivered to Washington, asking him to speak at the ceremony.  He says, “I was so moved … that nothing could have kept me away.  I was impressed not only by the great number of signatures, but also by the Chicago State University success story.”  [Chicago Tribune, July 13, 1975]. In his speech the President praises the graduates as well as the university, saying, “You have shown how white and black hands can unite to build a multiracial institution. You have shown academic achievement, and you have responded to the real needs of the community you serve.” During his address Ford mentions his own college experience, including his job in a cafeteria, adding that even though he had to work his way through college, he “was not a victim of racial prejudice nor of a deprived environment.”  He praises “the greatest fraternity of them all, the college graduates who learned something about life by dirtying their hands.”  The occasion was not without controversy as 200 people across from McCormick Place call for a halt to United States aid to Turkey and an end to C.I.A. involvement in Cyprus.  The protest, sponsored by Chicago’s Greek Cultural Association, could not dampen the reception inside the hall where Ford’s speech was interrupted more than a half-dozen times by applause.

July 12, 1970 – The Chicago Tribune reports on a challenge against the Public Building Commission of the city, involving the right to reproduce the image of the Picasso sculpture.  In its suit, filed before Federal Judge Alexander J. Napoli, The Letter Edged in Black Press, maintains that Pablo Picasso gave the work of art to the people of Chicago, not to the building commission.  The suit uses statements of Mayor Richard J. Daley and architect William H. Hartmann at the dedication ceremonies for the sculpture in 1967, in which both men talked of the artist’s gift “to the people of Chicago,” to support its assertion. The building commission responds that much was done to secure the rights for reproduction, including “securing from Chicago a written deed of gift which gave them the right to secure a copyright, affixing the copyright notice to the rear of the sculpture’s metal base, registering and securing a copyright claim, and notifying the public of its licensing policies.”  [Chicago Tribune, July 12, 1970]  The commission further maintains that the deed of gift which Picasso signed, giving the commission the right to reproduce the sculpture is the same as a copyright.  Incidentally, the official website of the CIty of Chicago proclaims to this day that "Picasso gave the sculpture as a gift to the people of Chicago."  The photo above was taken when the sculpture was dedicated on August 15, 1967.

J. Bartholomew Photo
July 12, 1955 – The architect of the city’s Bureau of Engineering, M. J. Glicken, says that a sculpture of “a woman with other ornamentation” [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 13, 1955] is being readied for placement on a city parking garage at Wacker Drive and State Street.  The bronze sculpture, which is 12 feet high and 14 feet wide and weighs three tons, is the work of sculptor Milton Horn, whom Mayor Richard J. Daley personally asked to create the monumental work that would show Chicago’s important place in the country and the world.  Controversial from the beginning, the sculpture was taken to the city’s bridge repair shops at Thirty-First Street and Sacramento Avenue when the garage was torn down in 1983.  Ignored for nearly 15 years it was restored for ten times the amount that the original commission brought Horn.  Today the sculpture hangs from the northwest portal of the Columbus Drive Bridge.  More about the sculpture and its creator can be found in Connecting the Windy City here.

July 12, 1933 – The Attorneys General for Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin appear before the United States Supreme Court, opposing a hearing requested by Illinois in cases pertaining to the Chicago Sanitary District.  The four Midwestern states that border the Great Lakes system object to a petition for a rehearing of a case in which a ruling went against Illinois involving “the right of Illinois, as a sovereign state, to divert water from Lake Michigan.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 12, 1933] The court rules that Illinois can divert water from Lake Michigan through the Chicago River at the rate of 1,500 cubic feet per second after 1938 in addition to 1,700 cubic feet per second for domestic purposes.  The four states claim that the amount diverted will be excessive, and “that Chicago has refused to meter the water diverted for domestic and industrial purposes.” Ultimately, the Supreme Court’s original 1930 ruling will stand, and by 1938 Chicago will have built three major sewage treatment plants along with a lock that separates Lake Michigan from the Chicago River.  The Chicago River lock, finished in 1938, is shown above. 

Saturday, July 11, 2020

July 11, 1964 -- Michigan Avenue Merchants Want a Sleeker Scene

July 11, 1964 – The Executive Director of the North Michigan Avenue Association, Nelson Forrest, says that the group will renew its fight to obtain stricter zoning laws governing advertising signs in the business district. Three months earlier the chairman of the association’s outdoor advertising committee, Howard L. Storch, had written the city’s commissioner of planning, Ira J. Bach, informing him of a number of complaints that had been received about a 60-by-60-foot billboard just east of 333 North Michigan Avenue that displayed a “full-rigged sailing ship advertising Cutty Sark whisky … on which news headlines are displayed.” [Chicago Tribune, July 12, 1964] Storch wrote, “We believe the sign depreciates avenue environment.  We are asking the department of city planning for its comment and possible amendments to the city zoning ordinance.”  Forrest speaks for the association, saying, “In our opinion it is illegal because it violates an existing zoning provision. Rooftop signs higher than 50 feet from curb level without a special use permit are not permitted.”  The city’s chief electrical inspector offers his opinion that the sign is completely legal since it is in C3 zoning atop a warehouse where height requirements are measured from the ground level which is the lower level of Michigan Avenue.  The black and white photo shows what the corner of Wacker and Michigan looked like in 1964.  The photo below that shows the corner as it appears today.

Golub and Co. and CIM Group Rendering
July 11, 1935 – Lester Terebesy, a 14-year-old stone carver, begins his first day on the job at the new W.G.N. building nearing completion just north of Tribune Tower.  His father, Louis, is under contract for all the stone carving and ornamentation on the new building.  The elder Terebesy began working in stone back in Hungary when he was two years younger than his son.  He says, “This is Lester’s first day on the job.  He is better than holding his own with the older men who are doing lettering. Look at his lines and see if they are not more precise.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 11, 1935].  The younger Terebesy began studying drawing at the Art Institute of Chicago at the age of 12. He says, “I want to be an architect, I think.  I’m taking a technical course at the Crane Technical High school with that in view. Please, can I go back to work now?” His father, when asked about the pay his son would receive for his work, says, “I told him he would have the honors connected with it.  He will work alongside of me from now on when not in school.  I do not like money dealings with my family, though.  He can have what he wants to spend.  Besides, this work – it is a life, not a job.” 

July 11, 1890 – The steamship Tioga blows up while tied to a dock on the east side of the river just south of Randolph Street.  The ship ties up at 5:30 after a Great Lakes trip that originated in Buffalo, New York.  Stevedores begin immediately to carry cargo from her hold.  Not long after the unloading begins, a tremendous explosion that can be heard all over the south side of the city erupts and “A shower of glass flew across Randolph Street Bridge like a heavy sand-storm on one of the Western deserts, and bits of wood from the wreck hit people blocks away.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 12, 1890]  The ship catches fire, which conceals the damage as firemen use the city’s horse-drawn steamers with assistance from fireboats to douse the flames. Then the terrible carnage is revealed.  Two bodies are floating in the river.  One is slumped against the boat’s pilothouse.  14 more bodies are found below deck.  Bodies continue to be found as the days progress with the dead climbing above two dozen.  The victims, almost all of them African-American laborers from Tennessee, are brought to the morgue as crowds watch silently.  The Tribune reports, “The men who were killed were almost unknown.  Many of their homes were in other towns, and no wives or mothers came to claim the bodies.  Their only friends were the men who had worked with them, and these gathered in groups in the warehouse and talked over the explosion.”

July 11, 1864 – A Chicago Tribune article on this date begins, “The Chicago river is not a very pleasant thing to see, smell, or read about, especially as a Sunday morning dissertation; it is not agreeable to swim in, or to drink out of; it has few charms for the voyager, and there are few indeed who care to walk or drive along its banks.”  [Chicago Tribune, July 11, 1864]  In an attempt to find some good news, the paper pays a visit to the distillery of U. H. Crosby, located on the North Branch of the river, near Chicago Avenue.  One of the major problems with the distilleries of this era was that “the products of the still are fed to the cows, and those animals make the nuisance complained of, their dung and other emissions running into a bog which, abutting on the river, is periodically emptied into it.”  A year earlier, the paper notes, the “cowsheds of Mr. Crosby were equally bad with the rest …” Over the twelve months since, though, the firm has installed a system that collects the waste of the cattle in a settling tank, the contents of which are pumped up and carried away with “three teams having been constantly employed through the season for that purpose.”  The work that the Crosby distillery has done shows, the paper notes, that the system is a practical solution to one source of the river’s pollution.  If other such industries cannot do similar work, the article observes, “then the sheds must be removed … the filth from these cowsheds must be not only kept out of the river, but taken away from where it will not poison the atmosphere of the city.”  As the above photo shows, the area looks a bit different these days.  Even the bridge is different, replaced with a temporary span in early 2019.

Friday, July 10, 2020

July 10, 1966 -- Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Delivers Soldier Field Address

Chicago Tribune Photo
July 10, 1966 – The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. heads up a rally at Soldier Field, beginning a summer-long Chicago campaign against segregation in education, housing and employment.  It was a brutally hot day with the temperature standing at 98 degrees … the city’s beaches were crowded with over 100,000 people.  Before a crowd of 30,000 people, King declares, “This day we must declare our own Emancipation Proclamation.  This day we must commit ourselves to make any sacrifice necessary to change Chicago.  This day we must decide to fill up the jails of Chicago, if necessary in order to end slums.”  [Chicago Tribune, July 11, 1966].  “We are here,” he continues, “because we’re tired of living in rat-infested slums.  We are tired of having to pay a median rent of $97 a month in Lawndale for four rooms while whites in South Deering pay $73 a month for five rooms … We are tired of being lynched physically in Mississippi, and we are tired of being lynched spiritually and economically in the North.”  Following the Soldier Field rally, King leads a crowd of tens of thousands to the La Salle Street entrance of City Hall where he uses adhesive tape to affix a series of demands, calling for an end to police brutality and discriminatory real-estate practices, increased Black employment and a civilian review board for the police department.  The next day he presents the demands to Mayor Richard J. Daley in person.  As tactful as he has ever been in his political career, Daley observes, “Dr. King is very sincere in what he is trying to do.  Maybe, at times, he doesn’t have all the facts on the local situation.  After all, he is a resident of another city.”  [Chicago Tribune, July 10, 2016).  Operating from an apartment at 1550 South Hamlin Avenue in Lawndale, Dr. King directs a campaign that lasts throughout the summer, culminating in an open-housing agreement between Daley and him that was signed on August 28, an agreement that many consider a template for the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

July 10, 1941 – Members of the German consulate in Chicago leave the city, one day ahead of the U. S. State Department’s deadline.  The chancellor of the consulate, Dr. Wilhelm Freidel, turns over the keys to the consulate offices to the manager of the 333 North Michigan Avenue building, the site of the German consulate for the previous decade.  Office furniture and equipment is placed in storage.  The diplomatic contingent will sail from New York on July 17, bound for Lisbon, Portugal on the S. S. George Washington. From there the individual members of the group will return to their homes in Germany.

July 10, 1929 –The Clark Street bridge is dedicated in a program arranged by the North Clark Street Committee of the North Central Association.  A parade starts on North Avenue and Clark Street with marchers and floats and several members of the Sac and Fox tribes in native dress, an acknowledgement that Clark Street began its life as a trail for Native Americans.  After the ribbon for the new bridge is cut, participating dignitaries adjourn to a luncheon at the Sherman Hotel.

J. Bartholomew Photo
July 10, 1925 – Building Commissioner Frank Doherty gives approval for the proposed 40-story Jewelers’ Building, today’s 35 East Wacker, recommending that Corporation Counsel F. X. Busch issue the necessary building permits as quickly as possible.  There is one major hang-up in getting the construction started – Fire Commissioner Joseph Connery wants a delay in construction until considerable modification is made in a scheme that would see 572 cars parking in the lower levels of the structure.  Connery believes that nothing will eliminate the hazards attendant to a huge parking garage in a skyscraper.  The Corporation Counsel seems ready to take the chance, saying, “Recent surveys indicate that an average of 3,000 automobiles are parked daily in loop streets.  Five or six other such buildings with equal facilities would nearly solve the parking problem and certainly relieve street congestion.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 11, 1925]  

July 10, 1893 -- Halfway through the greatest event in the city’s history, tragedy occurs on this day.  A day later the lead in the Chicago Daily Tribune captures the depth of the tragedy as the paper reports, “The World’s Fair received a baptism of fire and blood yesterday afternoon, the Cold-Storage Building proving a funeral pyre for twelve firemen, twenty-four persons receiving serious injuries.”  The cold storage building, the location of the tragedy, was erected by the directors of the Hercules Iron Works and sat on the east side of Stony Island Avenue just south of the Sixty-Fourth Street entrance to the fairgrounds.  The building, designed to resemble a Moorish palace, was five stories high and included a skating rink on the top floor.  There were four towers on each corner with a central tower, encasing the boiler flue, the central tower rising 191 feet above street level.  A promenade encircled the central tower about 70 feet below its inaccessible top.  The flue that ran up this central tower had been a subject of considerable debate since it veered so dangerously away from original specifications and had been subject to minor fires that had flared up in June, causing the cancellation of most of the insurance policies on the building.  At 1:30 p.m. an alarm went out when a small fire was spotted at the top of the flue stack in the tower’s crowning cupola, an area that was supposed to have been made of wrought iron instead of wood and lined with asbestos.  About a dozen firemen climbed to the gallery around the tower, nailing boards to the structure to get closer to the fire.  As they climbed, a puff of white smoke at the roof level of the warehouse preceded flames that cut off the escape of the fourteen firefighters trapped on the narrow ledge surrounding the tower.   As 50,000 fair-goers watched, the trapped men began to jump, one by one, leaping 60 feet onto the burning main roof.  The paper described the horrific scene, “Strong men turned their heads away and women fainted by the score.  The crowd was so dense that escape was impossible.  Down on his knees in the center of the plot surrounding the Pennsylvania railroad exhibit went a well-dressed man, and with hands uplifted he prayed to the Almighty to avert the awful calamity that seemed imminent.  As he prayed tears streamed from his eyes and his words were lost in the sobs and groans of those around him.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 11, 1893]  Twelve brave firefighters lost their lives on that July day, along with three civilians.   

Thursday, July 9, 2020

July 9,1905 -- Chicago Imports Nearly 100,000 Railroad Cars of Sand and Dirt Each Year

July 9, 1905 – The Chicago Daily Tribune runs an article on the amount of sand, dirt and gravel that Chicago imports each year, estimating that the cost for the commodities is over a million dollars (about $29 million in today's dollars).  In the preceding year 10,000 railroad cars of “fine building sand” were hauled into the city from the Indiana dunes.  Twice that number came from Illinois and Wisconsin, carrying “torpedo sand” (sand used in concrete mixes) and gravel.  Another 50,000 cars of common dirt and black soil were brought into the city.  Interestingly, at this time anyone building a home in the area from the lake to Halsted Street could probably find enough usable sand for concrete and mortar just by excavating the basement.  The dunes of Indiana along the southern edge of Lake Michigan supplied the rest.  Sand companies laid railroad tracks into the dunes and used steam shovels to “eat away at the hills” that were made up of “the finest building sand to be found in the world”.  The industry only operated during the building season with sand moved directly from the dunes to the building site where it was needed.  One would expect to pay $1.00 to $1.25 a cubic yard for sand delivered by horse and wagon to the building.  Forty percent of that price was for the cost of the delivery with a typical load of two to three yards averaging 3,000 pounds a cubic yard.  The best grade of torpedo sand came from the hills of Illinois and Wisconsin over fifty miles away.  A company typically would buy a sand hill from its owner and set up a refining plant next to it, separating the raw material into five grades, two of gravel, two of coarse stone and one of crushed stone.  The Tribune observes that “When the sand company gets through with a hill ‘there ain’t no hill there ‘tall.’  Sometimes in its place there is a big, shallow hole in the ground.  The operation of mining a hill for sand runs several years “and the company always gets back the money put into the plant, with good, substantial interest.”  As soon as the temperature falls below freezing, operations cease, a schedule that aligns with the building and construction industries, meaning that a businessman engaged in the business has little need for a storage yard as “He takes it from the hill, delivers it where it is contracted for, and turns it into cash in short order.”  Sand mining is still a big business in Wisconsin, especially, but these days the sand is used to fracture rock in the process of drilling for oil and natural gas.  One such Wisconsin operation is shown above.

July 9, 1981 – The Chicago Tribune reports that the Art Institute of Chicago has acquired Geroges Braque’s “Landscape at La Ciotat.”  The painting was purchased from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Leigh B. Block at an auction that took place on May 22 at Sotheby Parke Bernet in New York. Art Institute curator A. James Speyer says of the work, “We have always wished to acquire a fine work of this period by Georges Braque, and the new painting embodies the very essence of Fauvism at its most brilliant.  [Chicago Tribune, July 9, 1981]. La Ciotat is a small Mediterranean resort just east of Marseilles.. Braque’s work at La Ciotat in 1906 and 1907 occurred during a time when he shared bright, bold colors with a loosely affiliated group of artists who adopted the name “Fauves” – “wild beasts” – taken from a review of an unkindly critic.  It appears that the painting that the Art Institute acquired is actually “Landscape at L’Estaque,” the painting that is currently on display in Gallery 391.  The date of its acquisition, the gallery at which it was sold, as well as the date of the sale and the Block collection from which it came all seem to match up.  That painting is pictured above.  “Landscape at La Ciotat” hangs in New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

July 9, 1974 – For the first time a woman sits behind the wheel of a Chicago Transit Authority bus as Ms. Mary Wallace pilots the State Street bus on the 36A route, starting at the C.T.A. garage at Seventy-Seventh and Vincennes Avenue.  Ms. Wallace says that the training took her 15 days during which time she says “it rained a lot.”  She added further that she applied for the job and was “in it for the money.”  [Chicago Tribune, July 10, 1974] Ms. Wallace is pictured in the photo above with former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn.

July 9, 1934 – Eleanor Roosevelt has a full schedule of events as she visits Chicago for two days. At 9:30 a.m. the wife of President Franklin Roosevelt holds a press conference in the NBC studios at the Merchandise Mart.  At 10:15 a.m. she visits the Simmons exhibit at the Century of Progress and participates in a commercial broadcast for the company, the proceeds of which will be donated to charity.  At noon the First Lady takes lunch with the president of the fair and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Rufus C. Dawes, after which she requests to see the fair without an escort.  At 5:30 Mrs. Roosevelt is the guest at a reception given by the Women’s Trade Union League at 530 South Ashland Avenue.  Unbelievably, she arrives in Chicago on the night of July 8 from Madison, Indiana with no official escort.  She and two female companions make the 265-mile drive, taking turns at the wheel of a “low slung, sand colored automobile,” their arrival at the Blackstone Hotel “heralded by no fanfare, their path was cleared by no police escort and no committee of notables was waiting to greet them.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 9, 1934]

July 9, 1880 –The Chicago Daily Tribune reports on a conference in Lockport between the Canal Commissioners, Mayor Carter Harrison of Chicago, and a delegation of citizens from the city and towns along the Illinois and Michigan Canal. The particular issue is the establishment of the Bridgeport Pumping Works, for which the Chicago City Council has appropriated $100,000. The Mayor maintains that the Canal Commissioners must guarantee that the works will carry off a specific amount of water while the Commissioners are unwilling to make such a guarantee. Mayor Harrison and his delegation make the trip to Lockport “over the not placid bosom of the raging canal.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, July 9, 1880] The trip begins at the Adams Street bridge and although “in some places the water was black and turbid, in others of a clayey hue,” the delegation from Chicago finds the trip rather pleasant.  It is a different story in Lockport, though, as neither the mayor or the commissioners want to enter into an agreement that will put them in a corner.  Harrison wants the commissioners to say to the city, “From the necessity of the circumstances we are creating a nuisance along the line of the canal.  You are secondarily responsible because you make that water foul. You are the wolf that fouls the water, and these people down here on the canal are the lambs … We haven’t the means to purify it, but we propose that if you do that we will do our share, and say what that share is.”  A member of the Sanitary Commission states its position … that the commission was a creature of the State of Illinois and was charged with overseeing the function of the canal and could not go outside of the powers delegated to it by determining sanitary conditions.  Considerable give-and-take follows with the mayor maintaining that although the city contributes to the offensiveness of the canal, it is the Sanitary Commission’s responsibility to do something about it, the Commission arguing that it has no legal authority to do that.  At one point Mayor Harrison says to a commissioner, “You and I are giving a stench to the people on this river,” to which the commissioner replies, “I deny that. You are.” The meeting breaks up with little headway made.  The participants agree to communicate about the proposed pumping works at Bridgeport with Mayor Harrison saying, “I don’t want to buy a pig in a poke or put Chicago’s neck in a noose.”  The Commissioners agree “to support him in every undertaking to relieve the city where it had the authority of law to do so.” The above photo shows the lock that originally separated the Chicago River from the Illinois and Michigan canal.