Wednesday, September 23, 2020

September 23, 1931 -- Post Office Celebrates 20 Years of Air Mail Service

September 23, 1931 –
The city celebrates twenty years of air mail service, a period in which Chicago has taken a lead in moving the mail by airplane.  A quarter of the 9,000,000 pounds of air mail carried each year either originates or passes through Chicago.  Eighty planes depart from the city each day, carrying mail, passengers and freight, and air mail service is available to 140 cities in 44 states.   Twenty-six of the Chicago-based planes are operated by United Air Lines, one of the largest carriers in the country.   Air mail flights in the United States began in September of 1911 when eight pilots made daily flights from Garden City Estates in New York to Mineola, dropping mailbags from their planes to the ground.  Five years later the United States Congress approved $50,000 for air mail experimentation, and on May 15, 1918 regular air mail service between New York City and Washington, D. C. began.   On February 22, 1921 the first night flight from San Francisco to New York was staged, and in 1923 the Post Office Department began building a national network of beacons to guide flyers making their way across the country at night.  The first section of the route, from Cheyenne, Wyoming to Chicago, was built with emergency landing fields every 25 miles and five regular landing fields, each of which was marked by 50-foot towers with rotating beacons.  Between landing fields 289 beacons, visible for up to nine miles, were installed every three miles.  By 1925 this network had made it all the way to New York City.  As a separate class of service, domestic air mail ended in October 1975 when the Postal Service announced that First-Class postage, three cents cheaper than the air mail rate, would buy the same level of service.  []
September 23, 1933 – Sally Rand is found guilty of “willfully performing an obscene and indecent dance in a public place” [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 24, 1933] by a jury of twelve men.  This is the second time she has been tried on a charge that began with warrants sworn out on August 4 after Rand’s performances at the Chicago Theater.  Before the jury adjourns the Assistant State’s Attorney proclaims, “Are you gentlemen, whether married or single, to permit the stamp of approval to be put on such a nude and indecent performance?  I warn you that if you do you will revive the animalism of Greece, approve the lust of Rome, set the stamp of approval on the free love of the middle ages and condone the loves of the Borgias.  You will return us to paganism.”  Previously, the jurors watched the dancer, dressed in a skirt and a high-necked satin blouse go through her moves in the courtroom before they adjourned to the jury room, where they needed just one hour and fifteen minutes to render a verdict. The judge waits until Rand returns from a performance at the theater before he pronounces the maximum sentence under the law – one year in jail and a fine of $200.  The judge denies a request from Rand’s attorney for a new trial although he does agree to a stay of 60 days to allow the attorney to file a motion and releases Rand on a bond of $2,000.  Rand says, “If the jury is right, and the dance I do actually is indecent, and the court is right in sentencing me to a year in jail, all I can say is that every one who is engaged in sculpture, painting, music or dancing ought to quit.”  Rand’s attorney reacts as well, saying, “It’s asinine for the law to permit us to view the life-size statue of a nude man in the Art Institute – and experts agree that a man is more ugly in the nude than a woman – and yet bring a criminal charge against a woman for dancing with her body covered with thick white cream.” 

September 23, 1933 – Another mile of Lake Shore Drive is opened to traffic from Montrose to Foster Avenue.  The road will only be open during the day as streetlights still need to be installed.  This will be the first major thoroughfare to be opened as a result of $20,840,000 in gasoline and license taxes that the Illinois legislature had approved earlier.  It is expected that 35,000 cars a day will be using the new road each day although there are still obstacles to be overcome.  The junction with Sheridan Road at Foster Avenue will be a significant bottleneck.  George Barton, an engineer for the Chicago Motor Club, says, “Unless every assistance is given to traffic at Sheridan road and Foster avenue the utility of the new mile of outer drive is seriously curtailed.  This intersection will be the new bottleneck in the north side boulevard system, replacing the present bottlenecks at Montrose and Clarendon avenues and at Lawrence avenue and Sheridan road.”  The junction of Sheridan and Foster is shown above several years after the Lake Shore Drive extension is opened.  The second photo shows the same area today.

September 23, 1933 – Work begins on the final section of the Field building being erected between Clark and La Salle Streets on the east and west and Adams and Monroe Streets on the south and north.  Steel workers begin erecting the first beams for the tower, which it is estimated will contain 4,000 tons of steel.  Three of the four corner units of the Art Deco tower, designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, are complete with placement of steel for each section taking between 35 and 57 days.  

September 23, 1929 – Construction of the Wabash Avenue bridge begins, an event that, it is hoped, will usher in “the beginning of a new era of prosperity and business activity in the community …” [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 23, 1929] Projected completion date for the new span is anticipated to be December 1, 1930 as the contractor in charge of the construction of the bridge’s sub-structure has been given 11 months to complete the work.  The bridge will connect the north end of Wabash Avenue at Wacker Drive with the south end of Cass Avenue on the north side of the river.  A viaduct will also be constructed across the tracks of the Chicago and North Western Railroad at Kinzie Street with a gradual grade bringing the road down to grade level at Illinois Street.  The $3,700,000 span will be a two-leaf, single deck bascule bridge, 232 feet long and 60 feet wide with sidewalks on each side of the bridge spanning 13 feet.  Completing the project entailed coming to terms with the C and NW concerning the placing of piers, columns and easements.  Before construction even begins, businessmen on Cass Street are planning improvements that they hope will bring shoppers, new businesses and residents to the area.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

September 22, 1959 -- Chicago River Properties Given Warning ... Clean It Up

Chicago Tribune Photo

September 22, 1959 –
Chicago port officials and Mayor Richard J. Daley announce that they are sending letters of warning to 67 property owners, including the Illinois Central Railroad, in an effort to clean up and repair property along the Chicago River.  If owners ignore the letters, Daley says, the city will take them to court.  The mayor huffs, “I must add that the property owned by the Illinois Central that extends 1,900 feet east of Michigan Avenue, on the south side of the river bank, certainly cannot be called an encouraging sight.  I notice this area every time I walk across the Michigan Avenue bridge, and it is definitely not pleasing.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 23, 1959].  Illinois Central officials maintain that they have no responsibility to maintain the area in question since the company granted the city an easement for connecting Michigan Avenue to the Outer Drive, today’s Lake Shore Drive, in 1919.   Illinois Central president Wayne A. Johnson says, “The railroad’s position on this matter has not changed.  Our attorneys tell us that when we offered the easement the obligation became that of the city of Chicago, with reference to the shore upkeep.  The above photo shows the area in question seven years later when 19 honey locust trees are finally planted east of the Michigan Avenue bridge on July 26, 1966.  

September 22, 1981 – Two firefighters die and six others are injured while fighting an extra-alarm fire in the Willoughby Tower office building at 8 South Michigan Avenue.  Fire Commissioner William Blair says, “There was no chance … there was no way out for them.”  The two firefighters, Joseph Hitz, a snorkel truck driver with Hook and Ladder 1 and Craig McShane, a rookie with Engine 42, fall to their deaths down an open elevator shaft from the twenty-fifth floor to the roof of an elevator stopped at the ninth floor.  The fire on the floor from which they fell started in materials a cleaning crew had left in the elevator, and as a result the car fell until its brakes activated and stopped it on the ninth floor.  Six firefighters exit an elevator on the twenty-fifth floor to find the hallway filled with smoke.  Breathing through air masks, they find an open office through which they are able to reach a fire escape at which point they discover that one of their number, Hitz, is missing.  McShane, the only firefighter who still has air in his self-contained breathing apparatus, crawls back to check, and he falls through the same open elevator shaft into which Hitz had fallen earlier.  Mayor Jane Byrne, standing at the scene as the search for the two men is being conducted, says, “I am deeply sorrowed by the loss of the lives of these two brave firemen …I have conferred with Commissioner Blair and directed him to immediately procure, by the end of the week at the latest, two-way hand radios for every Chicago firemen in hopes that this would prevent a recurrence of such tragic accidents.”  Hitz and McShane are the first Chicago firemen killed on duty since 1978 and the first multiple deaths of Chicago firefighters since 1973. The plaque, pictured above, memorializing the two firefighters, can be seen at the firehouse at 419 South Wells Street, about a mile away from the tragic fire of 1981.

September 22, 1974 – The Chicago Tribune reports that Harry Weese and Associates has won the highest award of the Chicago Chapter of the American Institute of Architects for an apartment building at the southwest corner of South Lake Park Avenue at East Forty-Seventh Street.  A.I.A jurors call the design a “good design at the highest level within the narrow constraints of publicly financed housing.”  The 26-story tower, Lake Shore East, features 38 angled, vertical planes of glass and brick which “give the building’s shape and its interplay of elements many different appearances as they are viewed from various perspectives.”  [Chicago Tribune, September 22, 1974]


September 22, 1935 – In the six hours that the Chicago Tribune opens the doors of the new home of its radio station, 4,368 people tour the facilities.  Over 500 visitors fill out forms for a chance to gain admission to the auditorium when performances begin.  The paper describes the new digs in this way, “The lighting effects, the sharp slant of the auditorium for purposes of better vision, the richly covered, deep cushioned seats and the sound proofed walls attracted appreciative comments.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 23, 1935]  The building just to the north of Tribune Tower is laid out or “squared off” with Polaris, the north star, as a sighting point, an innovative approach that allows a variance of about an eighth-inch along the building’s frontage on Michigan Avenue.  On October 5 the auditorium opens with two orchestras entertaining all of the workers who had labored on the building, along with their families.  Colonel Robert R. McCormick, editor and publisher of the paper, tells them, “This victory of peace has a sadness for me, for it means I must part from the men I have watched at this building for the last year and a half . . . You have piled stone on stone, color on color, and joined wire to wire.  You have built here, forever, something that your children will thank you for.  You leave me with emotion.  God bless you and be with you always.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, October 2, 1935]. 
Well, not quite forever ... the facility is undergoing significant alteration as it transitions into a new life as part of the Tribune Tower conversion from a commercial skyscraper to a residential tower.

Monday, September 21, 2020

September 21, 1950 -- Columbus Hospital Dedicates New Wing

September 21, 1950 – The Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago, Cardinal Samuel Stretch, blesses and formally opens the new addition to Columbus Hospital at 2540 Lake View Avenue.  Columbus Hospital was founded in the early 1900’s when Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini, who arrived in Chicago in 1903, followed a directive from the city’s archbishop, James Edward Quigley, leading an effort to purchase a Lincoln Park Hotel which was turned into the hospital.  With the 1950 addition the hospital’s capacity rises from 500 to 750 beds.  Also part of the new addition is the narthex of a chapel that will be built to accommodate visiting pilgrims.  The chapel is completed in 1955 and, despite the fact that the hospital was shuttered in 2001 and a swanky Lincoln Park high rise residential tower, 2550 North Lake View, was completed on the site in 2012, the chapel still exists.  The chapel and shrine were a separate property belonging to the order of nuns founded by Mother Cabrini, and, through donations from the faithful, they were preserved and refurbished under the direction of architect Mark Sullivan.  The above photo shows the careful preservation of the chapel as Columbus Hospital was being demolished.  A look at the chapel and the history of Columbus Hospital can be found in this YouTube video … and a look at the work of Mother Cabrini can be found in this entry in Connecting the Windy City.
September 21, 1979 – Governor James Thompson signs a bill that allows banks to install electronic teller machines away from their main premises.  The bill had previously passed the Illinois General Assembly with more than a three-fifths majority, despite the fact that critics labelled the measure as a form of branch banking that would give larger banks an unfair advantage over smaller banks. The bill allows banks or savings and loan associations “to install automatic teller machines in up to 10 locations that could receive deposits and loan payments, issue withdrawals, and transfer funds between accounts.”  [Chicago Tribune, September 22, 1979]  The new law also allows expansion of “point of sale” terminals that can cash checks. According to, the first automated banking machine in the United States was created by a former professional baseball player named Donald Wetzel, and in 1969 a Chemical Bank branch on Long Island installed the first of his machines.  Machines were installed in various locations after that, but the new technology really moved forward when Citibank spent more than $100 million in 1977 to install the machines across New York City.  Shortly thereafter, a huge January blizzard blanketed the city, and banks closed down for days.  The use of automated teller machines increased by 20 percent during the storm.  A new era had begun. 

September 21, 1941 – A near tragedy is averted as the Midnight Special on its way out of Chicago and bound for St. Louis is halted just in time to avoid falling into the Chicago River when the railroad bridge at Twenty-First Street is opened to permit a lake freighter to pass.  The engineer brings the train to a halt with “its small front wheels and first large drive wheels already over the water and beyond the rail ends.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 22, 1941]  No one is hurt in the mishap, the passenger cars are pulled back to Union Station, and the passengers continue the trip after the fouled tracks are cleared.

September 21, 1906 – The laying of the cornerstone for the new Cook County building is highlighted by the presence of United States Vice-President Charles W. Fairbanks, who arrives to preside at the ceremony.  A long and circuitous parade begins at 2:00 p.m. at the Auditorium Annex where Fairbanks is staying and moves north to Clark, where the principal speakers ascend the dais.  Mayor Edward F. Dunne, Governor Charles S. Deneen, and Vice-President Fairbanks deliver the addresses at the Clark Street ceremony.  In the cornerstone rest volumes of Cook County history, the proceedings of the Cook County board for the year, the membership rolls of the principal clubs of the city, various artifacts supplied by the Chicago Historical Society, and copies of the day’s newspapers.  In the evening a banquet is held at the Auditorium Annex for 500 people.  Pictured above, the county’s half of the building on Clark Street, designed by Holabird and Roche, will be completed by 1908.  The city’s half on La Salle Street will follow two years later.  

September 21, 1891 –The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that because of the attractiveness of its quarters and because of the easy access it will have to the much-heralded World’s Columbian Exposition, due to open in 1893, there has been “much wire-pulling among officers and men of influence to secure the detail” at Fort Sheridan, under construction on the North Shore.  As the spring of 1892 comes to an end it is anticipated that close to 1,000 soldiers will be stationed at the new garrison, including eight companies of the Sixth Cavalry, currently stationed in Nebraska, eight companies of the One-Hundredth Infantry, already at the fort, Light Battery E, an artillery unit, just ordered to the base, and, at the end of the spring, four troops of cavalry.  Over a million dollars has already been expended on the construction at Fort Sheridan with at least another $200,000 worth of construction still to be completed. The base will be the most expensive military garrison in the country, and, when it is completed, it will also be the largest.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

September 20, 2004 -- Spertus Institute Announces New Headquarters

September 20, 2004 –Chicago architects Ron Krueck and Mark Sexton and the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies unveil a plan for the Institute’s new home on Michigan Avenue.  The plan will be the first test of whether a contemporary building will meet the design guidelines of the Michigan Avenue Historic District. Frist reactions are favorable. Jim Peters, the Director of Planning for the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois, says, “It adheres to many of the more key design guidelines for the district, including height, proportions and mild projections.” [Chicago Tribune, September 19, 2004] The proposed building, projected to cost $49 million, will contain a 400-seat lecture hall, a library, museum, and public facilities and will stand on what had previously been a vacant lot in the 600 block of South Michigan Avenue, just north of the Spertus Institute’s current home at 618 South Michigan Avenue.  Early in 2018 the Spertus Institute’s new building was named as one of Illinois’ 200 Great Places by the Illinois Council of the American Institute of Architects.  The structure’s window wall is built from 726 individual pieces of glass in 556 different shapes.  The multi-faceted planes of the window wall bring light into the building, an important factor on a couple of levels.  According to the Spertus website, “This emphasis on light echoes the Spertus logo, a flame accompanied by the biblical phrase “yehi” or, Hebrew for ‘let there be light,’ symbolizing both physical light and the light of learning.” []

September 20, 1992 – Big commotion on Wacker Drive east of Michigan Avenue when the Michigan Avenue bridge turns into a slingshot, shooting a 70-foot crane into the gap between the span and Wacker Drive. The crane’s boom falls across Wacker Drive with the iron ball and hook at the top of the crane bouncing off Wacker Drive and through the rear window of Jesus Lopez’s Ford Escort.  Says Lopez, “I guess I was just lucky. I’m glad I wasn’t sitting in the back seat.” [Chicago Tribune, September 21, 1992] Jeff Boyle, the city’s Commissioner of Transportation, says, “The southeast leaf of the Michigan Avenue bridge was the last of four leafs under construction. The bridge, which is out of balance during construction, started to rise and went up into a straight vertical position.  What stopped the bridge from going any further or falling back down was the crane that got wedged in there.” Diana Morales, a police officer directing traffic at the time of the accident had just stopped a CTA bus in an effort to divert it to the Wabash Avenue bridge just to the west. “I was behind the bus directing traffic and trying to get the bus out of the way, but [the driver] said he couldn’t move so I told him to just stay there.  [The Northwest leaf] was coming down and the Southeast side started coming up really fast and I just ran the other way.”  Six passengers on the bus are injured as flying debris come through the open windows.  The accident closes down the bridge indefinitely and ultimately leads to an acknowledgement on the part of the city that none of its inspectors had the experience or training to determine the proper balancing of weight on a bridge that is under construction.

September 20, 1915 – Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis orders the steamer Eastland sold with bids to be opened and the sale to take place on December 20, 1915 in the United States marshal’s office in the Federal Building.  The order is issued in order to cover the costs of the Great Lakes Towing Company, the firm that raised the hulk from the river bottom after the ship capsized on July 24 with a loss of life approaching one thousand souls.  According to Jay R. Bonansinga’s The Sinking of the Titanic:  America’s Forgotten Tragedy, “. . . only two bidders showed up at the macabre auction held on a cold December morning." One of them was an attorney from Boston, who represented an East Coast steamship company.  The other was Captain Edward A. Evers of the Illinois Naval Reserve.  Evers won the auction with a bid of 46,000 dollars, taking possession of the hulk on December 28.

September 20, 1889 – Miscommunication between Captain James A Brown, in command of the steamship E. P. Wilbur, and his engineer lead to the big ship of the Lehigh Valley Line slamming her 5,000 tons of dead weight into the closed Rush Street bridge.  At 8:00 a.m. the bridge was crowded with teamsters guiding their horse-drawn loads into and out of the Loop as well as men and women hustling to their jobs.  When the ship struck the bridge, it “reeled under the blow, and then settled back upon the solid abutment,” [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 21, 1889] recoiling again into a partially open position.  Horses were frightened, reacting violently and “could only with the utmost difficulty be prevented from plunging into the river from the ends of the bridge now hanging over the murky waters below.”  The iron girders of the bridge are bent and twisted by the collision, and the bridge tender appears later in the day before a judge to swear out a warrant for the captain’s arrest.  The error seems to have occurred when the captain sounded two bells to the engineer below who mistook the signal to go astern as a signal to move forward.  Another day on the river.  The photo shows the Rush Street bridge and the Chicago River as it would have appeared at about the time The E. Wilbur tried to get through the draw.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

September 19, 2006 -- Wallenda Crosses the River

September 19, 2006 – Mario Wallenda, a 65-year-old paralyzed high wire artist, crosses the Chicago River 100 feet in the air near the Merchandise Mart.  “I’m doing this because I need the money, and I’m tired of sitting around the house. I tried lapidary, woodcarving, even needlepoint,” Wallenda says. [Chicago Tribune, September 20, 2006]  The performer was paralyzed in 1962 when a seven-person high-wire pyramid collapsed, and two Wallenda family members were killed.  Wallenda is paid between $50,000 and $100,000 for the stunt, according to the event sponsor, WLUP-FM.  At 9:09 a.m. a crane drops Wallenda and his specially-designed electric bicycle above the river.  Two minutes later he is on the other side of the river.  He pauses for a few moments, and by 9:14 he re-crosses the river where the crane waits to lift him back to ground level.  “Things are tough,” Wallenda says. “I have enough money to live comfortably for the rest of my life, as long as I don’t live past next week.”
September 19, 1961 – The Vice-President of the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States, Laurence Reiner, confirms that the company has asked the New York State insurance department for its approval of a plan to build “a large, modern building in Chicago on the tract just south of the Tribune Tower.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 20, 1961]. Reiner says, “We have discussed the purchase with the Chicago Tribune Building Corporation.  We hope sometime soon to come in and make a fine neighbor for the Chicago Tribune.”  According to Reiner the company has outgrown its location at 29 South La Salle Street.  “We have always had a great interest in Chicago.  We hope now to be able to do something nice for the city,” he says.

September 19, 1927:  Wreckers begin tearing down a four-story building at Randolph and La Salle Streets as bands play and city chieftains make speeches, and the long-awaited widening of La Salle Street from Washington Boulevard to Ohio Street begins.  The project, which has its beginnings in the Chicago Plan of 1909, is expected to cost $7,455,000, an expenditure that will provide another through street to the near north side and relieve congestion on Michigan Avenue. The president of the Board of Local Improvement, Michael J. Flaherty, wields a pickax and chips away briefly at an old building south of the river on La Salle even as one tenant, the Hub Raincoat Company, refuses to vacate the structure, saying that the firm has a right to remain until September 23.  The $3,500,000 bridge across the river at La Salle Street is projected to be completed sometime in late 1928.  The widening of La Salle Street had the city acquiring 20 feet from each property facing the street, which resulted in the complete loss of many buildings and significant alterations to buildings such as the Reid-Murdoch building on the north side of the river, which lost one whole tier on its west side to make way for the expanded roadway.  A picture of the building before and after the truncation can be seen above.

September 19, 1911 – A wild night on the river as a newly-hired wheelman on the Manistee locks himself in the pilot house and “with whistles tooting and engine bell chiming . . . steamed his Dreadnought up and down the river, charging every craft in sight.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 20, 1911]  The seaman, Martin Daley, is hired that day and almost immediately “took on a cargo of rum.”  He locks himself in the pilot house, signals the engine room for “full speed ahead,” and gets someone to cast off from the wharf at Michigan Avenue.  He brings the Manistee so close to the Rush Street Bridge that “most of the fresh coat of paint on her side adhered to the bridge.”  Steaming back toward the lake, Daley then “directed his energies toward running down smaller craft – launches, ‘party boats,’ and dingies [sic]”  as members of the crew break the windows of the pilot house in order to stop the rampage.  Finally, a Chicago policeman manages to clamber aboard at the life saving station at the river’s mouth and arrests the drunken sailor.  Daley tells the officer that he is going back to the Atlantic Ocean “because they can’t take a joke on the lakes.”  The above photo, taken in 1905, looks east from the Rush Street Bridge to just about the location where the Manistee was berthed.  The Kirk Soap Works stands where 401 North Michigan and the Michigan Avenue Apple Store can be found today.

Friday, September 18, 2020

September 18, 1982 -- Chicago Tribune Prints Last Paper at Michigan Avenue Plant
September 18, 1982 – The Chicago Tribune prints its last letterpress newspaper at its plant off Michigan Avenue.  After more than 60 years of newspaper production just to the west of Tribune Tower, the newspaper will be printed and distributed from Freedom Center, the new printing facility between Ohio Street and Chicago Avenue on the North Branch of the Chicago River.  In the new 700,000-square-foot facility ten Goss Metroliner presses will “utilize a Muirhead Ltd. Laser film system in conjunction with Western platemaking equipment to insure quality plates for the offset presses.”  [Chicago Tribune, September 18, 1982]  Today it appears that the future of the state-of-the-art printing facility on the North Branch is also looking at the end of its life as Tribune Real Estate Holdings is looking to transform the area on the west shore of the river from Ohio Street to Chicago Avenue into the River District, where office towers for a projected 19,500 workers will rise in the coming years.  The top photo shows the area as it appears today.  The second photo is a rendering of what may be found there within the next decade ... if all the pieces fall into place.

September 18, 1934 – Mayor Edward Kelly is on hand to dedicate the $2,500,000 Steinmetz High School.  In his address he calls upon the state legislature to find a way to increase funding for the school system in the upcoming year.  “The need of more school revenue has been repeatedly demonstrated,” he says.  “At present real estate carries too much of the load, and it is impossible to suppose that additional burdens can be placed on such property. The schools need added revenues and the legislature should provide a plan to secure them.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 19, 1934]  Thousands of parents watch 2,800 Steinmetz students pass a reviewing stand to enter the building as the school opens.  The new school is one of five new schools commissioned by the Board of Education that will open in 1934.  Lane Technical High School opens on this day as well.  An addition to Senn High School will open in the next week, and two other schools, Wells and Phillips, will be completed by December 15. The school is named for German-American mathematician and electrical engineer Charles Proteus Steinmetz.

September 18, 1925 – Alonzo C. Mather pays $500,000 or $7,692 a square foot for 65 feet of frontage on Wacker Drive, adding this property, owned by the Chicago Title and Trust Company, to Michigan Avenue property he already owns east of the Wacker Drive lot.  Born in Fairfield, New York in 1848, Mather came to Chicago in 1875, where he started a wholesale business.  At some point he found a way to wealth – by developing a new kind of railroad stock car that reduced the loss of livestock while in transit through the provision of feed and water.  The Herbert Hugh Riddle design for Mather Tower at 75 East Wacker Drive provided the headquarters for the Mather Stock Car Company when it opened in 1929.  The existing piece of property that Mather owned on Michigan Avenue was meant for another similar tower that would connect its partner on Wacker Drive by a ground floor arcade.  The economic catastrophe of the Great Depression ended the plan for the Michigan Avenue tower.

September 18, 1924 – The president of the Illinois Society of Architects, Charles E. Fox, proposes in the monthly bulletin of the society “a half-mile long, permanent stone bridge, 160 feet high, over the mouth of the Chicago river”.  [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 19, 1924] The massive bridge would take the place of a lift bridge or tunnel, plans that are under consideration as ways to connect Grant Park and the south side of the city with the north side of the river and Lake Shore Drive.  Says Fox, “It’s a reasonably safe bet that if the proposed tunnel is ever constructed, it’ll stand for a generation or two as a monument to bad judgment and then’ll be filled up … The war department already has shown its hand by refusing to have a lift bridge east of Michigan avenue … On the north a design of approach could be incorporated into the architectural treatment of the Municipal pier.  The bridge itself would be the monumental hub of the city.  A view from the crown of the arch would give to the passing stranger, as well as to the citizen of Chicago a magnificent birdseye view of Grant park and the lake shore both north and south.”  Imagine today what a difference it would make to have a massive stone bridge straight out of New York City plunked down at the entrance to the river … things would look a lot different. 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

September 17, 1974 -- Mercantile Exchange Approves Plans for New Headquarters

September 17, 1974 –
The Chicago Tribune reports that members of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange have approved plans for a twin-towered office building that the exchange will occupy at Wacker Drive and Madison Street.  The vote is overwhelmingly positive, with 2,478 in favor of the plan and 567 standing in opposition.  It is expected that construction will begin in spring of 1975 on a site where a city parking garage is located.  The Chicago Mercantile Exchange will own the 40,000-square-foot trading floor that will be located at the base of the structure, joining the two towers together, along with ten percent of the first tower.  Metropolitan Structures, Inc. and JMB Realty Corporation will own the rest of the space in the buildings.  The new trading floor and office space will replace the exchange’s location at 444 West Jackson Boulevard, where a 25,000-square-foot trading floor is located along with adjacent office space.  The twin-towered project would be finished in 1981 according to plans drawn by architect Joseph Fujikawa.  For more on the architect you can turn to this entry in Connecting the Windy City.  When it opened what is today CME Center was the city’s first all-concrete skyscraper.  At the time it was the home of the largest open outcry futures exchange in the country.  With floor plates of 29,000 feet the LEED Gold® building encloses 2.3 million square feet of space overlooking the Chicago River.

September 17, 1969 – The City Council, by a vote of 30 to 6, approves two ordinances that clear the way for the office and residential development that Chicago now calls Illinois Center.  One ordinance establishes guidelines for the development of the area, and the other codifies the relationship between the city, the owner of the property, Illinois Central Industries, and three developers.  The plan calls for buildings of up to 90 stories with 45,000 workers, and 17,500 apartments with 35,000 residents.   In an editorial the Chicago Tribune writes glowingly about the project, asserting, “Chicagoans must feel some exhilaration to see, at long last, this strategic area built on in a manner suitable to its location in the center of the city.  And Chicagoans should take an eager, continuing, and responsible interest as Illinois Center plaza gradually develops . . . A brilliantly successful development here will be a civic asset the importance of which it would be almost impossible to exaggerate.” [Chicago Tribune, September 19, 1969]  The photo at the left shows the approximate area where the Hyatt Regency Hotel stands today.
September 17, 1962 – The $2.75 million Loyola University Center at the southwest corner of Rush and Pearson Streets opens to students.  Loyola’s president, the Very Reverend James F. Maquire, says, “The center enables the university to accommodate meetings and gatherings of alumni and friends, to provide facilities for public lectures, luncheons, and conferences, and to serve other functions and activities for business and community groups.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, September 16, 1962]  The new building will include two cafeterias, 18 classrooms, a bookstore, conference rooms, student lounges, and a formal meeting room for administrative meetings.  A two-story enclosed walkway will connect the University Center to Lewis Towers, the main classroom building, which sits to the east just off Michigan Avenue.  As part of the dedication ceremony, at which His Eminence the Archbishop of Chicago Albert Cardinal Meyer officiates, a mural by Park Ridge artist Melville Steinfels is dedicated.  It depicts 400 years of Jesuit education.  The student center is the next step in a move downtown that began in 1946 with a gift of Mr. and Mrs. Frank J. Lewis – an 18-story skyscraper located at 820 North Michigan Avenue, located just to the west of the city’s historic Water Tower. The site is considerably different today as Loyola’s eight-story School of Communication wraps around the north and west sides of The Clare, a senior independent living high-rise, at 55 East Pearson.  A new student center is located just to the west on the northwest corner of Pearson and Wabash Streets.  The photo shows Lewis Center as it appeared in the 1950's, shortly after its purchase.
The second photo shows the area as it appears today.

September 17, 1954 – The first new office building to be constructed in the Loop since 1933, the ten-story Sinclair Oil Corporation’s office building on the northeast corner of Wacker Drive and Randolph Street, is officially opened as more than 200 business leaders and officials from the state and city attend the ceremonies.  The new building contains 225,000 square feet of office space and 14,000 square feet of basement parking space.  The structure will consolidate various divisions of the corporation that were previously scattered in four separate locations.  The building is gone today, replaced by the Goettsch Partners tower, finished in 2010, at 155 North Wacker Drive.  The Sinclair building is outlined in the older photograph.  The award-winning Goettsch replacement is shown to the left.

September 17, 1922 –The new $1,600,000 Madison Street bridge is lowered into position for the first time at 2:00 p.m., leaving the Clark Street bridge as the only center-pier bridge left in the central area of the city.  It will be three weeks before pedestrians will be allowed across the new bridge, and it will be at least six weeks before traffic crosses the new span.  The bridge’s sidewalks will be 13.5 feet, eight feet wider than the sidewalks on the old center pier bridge that is being replaced.  Work on the new bridge began on December 1, 1919, but there is a long delay in the fabrication of the steel for the span.  It isn’t until late September of 1921 before work resumes.  In March of 1922 the bridge’s bond issue expires, and work is once again ordered to a halt.  In June Chicago voters approve a new bond issue, and work resumes on August 1.  According to “This bridge stands out among the bridges of Chicago as one of the most historically and technologically significant since it is the first example of a design that Chicago would use in construction on many bridges during a period of over 40 years.  It also retains ornate sidewalk railings that greatly contribute to the visual beauty of the bridge.” The above photo shows the bridge under construction in 1922.  In the right foreground is the swing bridge which it will replace.