Friday, January 31, 2020

January 31, 1932 -- Fort Sheridan to Get New Movie Theater

Chicago Tribune, January 31, 1932
Bartholomew Photo

January 31, 1932 – The Chicago Daily Tribune carries a rendering of a “colonial cinema” that will be built at Fort Sheridan.  According to the article, the new theater will seat 574 patrons and will be “acoustically treated for the talkies.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 31, 1932]  It will be constructed of common brick similar to the other buildings on the North Shore military post and will have a slate roof.  W. D. Mann, a Chicago architect, has designed the theater, which will cost approximately $30,000 (close to $600,000 in today’s dollars).  The building unveiled in the article still stands on the post today, a symbol of the transformation of the former military base into a residential community, The Town of Fort Sheridan.  It is no longer a movie theater, but it still makes an artistic contribution to the area.  Today it is the Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt-Amrany.  Julie Rotblatt-Amrany grew up in Highland Park where she was born in 1948.  After college at the University of Colorado, she attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago before traveling extensively while honing her craft.  She met Omri Amrany in Italy and they were married in 1987.  Omri Amrany was born in Israel in 1954 and served as a paratrooper in the Yom Kippur War, taking up sketching during the hostilities as a means of relieving stress.  In 1985 his kibbutz sent him to Pietrasanta in Italy where he met Rotblatt.  After a time in Israel the couple returned to the Chicago area in 1989 where in 1992 they established their studio.  It is an amazing place.  At least a half-dozen sculptors and artists are at work inside the converted theater with works-in-progress scattered about the two levels of the building.  There are few places in the world that you will go where you won’t see a sculpture produced by the studio.  If you are a Chicago sports fan, then you know the Rotblatt-Amrany studio.  At Wrigley Field Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Billy Williams, and Harry Carey all came from there.  You can’t enter any gate to see the White Sox play without encountering a sculpture from Rotblatt-Armany – Luis Aparicio, Billy Pierce, Carlton Fisk, Paul Konerko, Frank Thomas, and on and on.  At the United Center there is Johnny “Red” Kerr, Scottie Pippen, and, of course, Michael Jordan.  You can even travel up to Green Bay, Wisconsin and find a bronze and granite likeness of Vince Lombardi, along with the “Green Bay Drummer” and “Lambeau Leap” outside Lambeau Field.  Those are just a few of the local sports commissions.  There are dozens and dozens more that you can appreciate by looking at the “Portfolio” tab of the studio’s website. which cane be found here. The top photo shows the rendering of the new theater as it was proposed in 1932.  The second photo shows the Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt-Amrany as it appears today.
January 31, 1968 – U. S. Secretary of Interior Stewart Udall, in a statement to 600 people attending the four-state Conference on Water Pollution in Lake Michigan at the Sherman House, says in a statement “Lake Michigan is sick, but I believe we are all determined it shall not die.”  [Chicago Tribune, February 1, 1968] Reading from a speech prepared by Udall, the Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Max N. Edwards, continues, “Delay means death to Lake Michigan, and the death of Lake Michigan would be a national tragedy.”  Udall, in bed with the flu after attending the opening night of Ford’s Theater in Washington, D. C., is unable to attend the conference in person, but his remarks are nonetheless cogent.  “I ask that the results of this conference be action – specific, strong, and coordinated action by the states, as individuals, the states as a group, and by the federal government,” he writes in his prepared remarks … I assure you that I will be prompt to do my part to see the recommendations carried out.” Mayor Richard J. Daley and Illinois Governor Otto Kerner open the conference with Daley saying, “Meet the problem in a bold and concerted manner.  Drastic action is required to meet an urgent problem … [the physical resources of Chicago] are ready to help save our lake.  It will never be cheaper to end pollution in Lake Michigan than right now.” Officials from Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan hear Kerner’s plea to support a ban against dumping polluted materials into the lake and to support federal laws to regulate pollution from boats.  “The success of this action program to free Lake Michigan from pollution must be shared by every individual organization, corporation, and government agency,” Kerner says.  The above photo appeared in Life Magazine at the time and depicts the Indiana Harbor Ship Canal with a caption describing the canal as "an old caldron running through east Chicago."  Such were conditions up and down the shore of Lake Michigan at the time.

January 31, 1958 – The Chicago Sun-Times holds a formal dedication for its new $15 million plant on the Chicago River between Wabash Avenue and Rush Street as Marshall Field, Jr. dedicates the nine-story building to the memory of his late father.  Ground was broken for the new building, designed by Naess and Murphy, in November of 1955.  Marshall Field, II founded the Sun-Times in 1941 as the Chicago Sun and the paper merged with the Chicago Times on February 2, 1948.  For more information on the building that sat where today’s Trump Tower sits, you can turn to this blog in Connecting the Windy City.  You can date this picture of the Sun Times building as sometime in 1968 because the John Hancock Center topped out that year. It is still under construction in the background.

Bartholomew Photo
January 31, 1913 – The Board of Trustees of the Art Institute commission Lorado Taft to begin work on the sculpture that will be known as “The Fountain of Time.”  The plan is for the sculpture to be erected on the Midway in Hyde Park, with a fountain and “three bridges with groups – ‘The Arts,’ “The Sciences,’ and “Religion’ connected with single figures.”  The report proclaims, “If carried out the Midway with a small lagoon, fountains, bridges and statuary, will be one of the beauty spots of the world.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, February 1, 1911]  The sculpture will be created from “creamy Georgia marble” and will take five years to complete.  It will be paid for using $30,000 from the Ferguson endowment, held in escrow at the Art Institute.  The sculptor explains the plan in this way, “The scheme for the decoration of the Midway embraces the embellishment of the park space one mile in length, connecting Washington and Jackson parks at Sixtieth street, with fountains, bridges, and connecting rows of figures.  There would be a stream of water along this park space, and the principal bridges would be at Ellis, Woodlawn, and Madison avenues.  The Fountain of Time would be at the western terminus.  Whether it will or not rests entirely with the park board.  The Bridge of Arts at Woodlawn avenue, which practically bisects the Midway, would form the center of the whole scheme of beautification, and would be more elaborate than either of the other two bridges, Religion at Ellis avenue or Science at Madison avenue.”  Although the final sculpture is a spectacular addition to the western terminus of the Midway, the grand scheme proposed on this date was considerably scaled back from the vision that was introduced to the city on this day in 1913.  Even the “creamy Georgia marble” went, and the 200 figures of the sculpture are made of hollow-cast concrete reinforced with steel.

January 31, 1911 -- The Home Insurance Company building at the corner of La Salle and Adams Streets is sold for $2,150,000. with James and Charles Deering purchasing the property. Their father, William, had founded the Deering Harvester Company, and the family hit the jackpot when financier J. P. Morgan purchased the firm and merged it with the McCormick Reaper Company and several other farm implement manufacturers to create what we know today as International Harvester. The Home Insurance Building, designed by William LeBaron Jenney and completed in 1884, is considered by many to be the world's first metal-framed skyscraper. It was the tallest building in the world for seven years. It's gone now. It was demolished in 1931 to make way for the magnificent Art Deco skyscraper at 135 South La Salle.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

January 30, 1982 -- Lake Shore Drive Bridge Renamed in Honor of Roosevelt
January 30, 1982 – Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne rededicates the Lake Shore Drive Bridge in honor of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the one-hundredth anniversary of his birth.  As more than a hundred city officials and spectators watch, Byrne and Roosevelt’s grandson, James Roosevelt, Jr. unveil a plaque proclaiming the bridge as the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial Bridge.  F.D.R. came to Chicago on October 5, 1937 to dedicate the bridge, an occasion that he used to deliver his famous “Quarantine” speech, in which he called for an international quarantine against the “epidemic of world lawlessness” by aggressive nations.  The above photo shows the President leaving the ceremony on that momentous day in 1937.
January 30, 2017 – It is announced that Garrett Brands, the owner of Garrett Popcorn Shops, will buy the Frango chocolate brand from Cincinnati-based Macy’s.  Andrea Schwartz, a spokeswoman for Macy’s, says, “Frango is very popular among both our local shoppers and visitors at our Chicago stores.  It’s great to see such an iconic Chicago brand staying in Chicago.” [Chicago Tribune, January 31, 2017]  Although the popular brand will not be sold in Garrett stores, the owner of Garrett Brands, Lance Chody, says, “Frango is a perfect fit for our company’s portfolio, aligning well with our strategy to preserve and grow iconic brands that have historic franchise value with a unique and storied past.”  Although long associated with Chicago, Frango actually began in Seattle as a product of the Frederick and Nelson Company … the original name of the candy was Franco, a shortening of the original company’s name. Marshall Field and Co. acquired the brand in 1929 and for nearly 70 years the candy was made on the thirteenth floor of Field’s State Street store.  When Dayton-Hudson bought Field’s in 1990, the production of the candy was transferred to a Pennsylvania company although some production was returned to Chicago in 2007 after Federated Department Stores converted the Chicago-area Field’s stores to Macy’s.  Unloading Frango returns the brand to Chicago production even as the action is yet another sign that Macy’s is working hard to stay afloat, having announced the closure of 68 stores earlier in the month.

January 30, 1962 – Officials of the Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company announce that the institution will provide nearly $20 million in financing for the first phase of the Carl Sandburg Village urban renewal project.  Because of the area involved – east of La Salle Street and south of North Avenue, near the city’s Gold Coast – interest runs high in the potential for the $42 million project.  Projections call for 1,875 units, ranging from efficiency apartments to two- and three-bedroom townhomes located on 15.63 acres between North Avenue and Division Street.  Although Continental’s financing plan is subject to the rezoning of the site by the Chicago city council and a commitment from the Federal Housing administration, the chairman of Continental bank, David M. Kennedy, says that “the project gives the bank another opportunity to contribute to the development of Chicago.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 31, 1962] It is difficult today to think about what a risky venture this was at the time.  As the Chicago Tribune reported early in 2018, “Security concerns were high at the development … A block away was Wells Street, lined with raucous bars … The new construction was a $40 million-plus gamble to save the Near North Side and, in turn, to stave off the blight threatening Chicago’s business core to the south and the Lincoln Park neighborhood to the north.” [Chicago Tribune, January 29, 2018] Sandburg Village brought about the gentrification of nearby Old Town, South Lincoln Park and sections of the city west of the Gold Coast.  Indirectly, the success of the development led to two other developments in the city that worked in similar ways, Presidential Towers in the southwest Loop and Dearborn Park.

January 30, 1953 – Final arguments are heard before Master in Chancery Jerome Nelson at the Kendall County circuit court in architect Mies van der Rohe’s mechanic’s lien suit against Dr. Edith B. Farnsworth.  The suit was filed in July of 1951, claiming that Dr. Farnsworth owed the architect $28,173 in unpaid fees for a weekend home he designed for her on the Fox River.  The doctor’s attorneys argue that Farnsworth asked for a home to cost approximately $40,000 and ended up with one that cost $73,872.  They say further that the house has a leaky roof and defects in its mechanical systems and that the travertine floor has buckled.  Attorney Randolph Bohrer asserts that Van der Rohe is not properly qualified as an architect and that exceeding the original cost estimate “is attributable either to gross incompetence or stupidity of the plaintiff,” a man he labels “an ordinary charlatan and an egoist of the Bauhaus school which has committed more frauds upon this country than any other organization.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 31, 1953] 

January 30, 1947 -- Randall H. Cooper, executive secretary of the State Street Council, asserts that redevelopment of Chicago's "blighted areas" is a necessity and that the Loop is "faced with more problems than ever before in its history." The continuing flight of families to the suburbs and the resulting loss of tax and business revenue have the merchants feeling blue. They would get bluer. The 1947 photo above was taken at Wells and Madison.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

January 29, 1935 -- Highland Park Mansion Sells to Maurice L. Rothschild


January 29, 1935 – The president and namesake of Maurice L. Rothschild, Inc. purchases the 18-acre estate of the late A. G. Becker, a La Salle Street banker.  Becker built the Highland Park home in 1922 with plans drawn by architect Howard Van Doren Shaw.  The grounds around the home were designed by Jens Jensen and feature three ravines and a lake frontage of 1,000 feet.  Becker died in 1925, and his widow, Kate, occupied the residence until shortly before the sale.  The estate was saved in 2007 when Wendy and Jim Abrams stepped up to purchase the estate from developer Orren Pickell, a move that kept the coveted North Shore property from being subdivided.  Pickell had purchased the property for $19 million after U. S. Marshals had seized it from owner Mickey Segal.  The above rendering shows Howard Van Doren Shaw’s rendering for the west elevation of the main house.  For an understanding of the sumptuousness of the home and the grandeur of Jensen’s landscape design, check out this slideshow.
January 29, 1944 –The vice-president of W-G-N Inc. announces that the radio station has placed an order for a 40,000-watt transmitter and filed for an application for a television wavelength and construction permit with the Federal Communications Commission. Although no work can begin until the conclusion of the war, W-G-N’s application will be the first permit that will lead to construction when hostilities cease.  The announcement comes on the heels of the station’s announcement on New Year’s Day that it plans to build a new building on a site owned by the Chicago Tribune that fronts on Michigan Avenue.  The building will “contain large spaces suggestive of Hollywood movie stages … The entire top floor of the building will be devoted to television, under plans tentatively approved.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 30, 1944]  W-G-N has also ordered four television cameras, two equipped with telephoto lenses.  It is anticipated that in-home receivers, which before the war measured 12 by 15 inches at the most, will have screens up to 18 by 24 inches when production begins … although “staggering economic problems must be solved before these potentialities may be realized.”  The photo shows preparations to lay the cornerstone at the new television building on July 6, 1950.

January 29, 1911 -- A new tunnel is opened that carries Washington Boulevard under the Chicago River, the second tunnel at this location. The first one was opened in 1869, but an Act of Congress in 1904 declared it an "unreasonable obstruction to free navigation," and the Secretary of War ordered its removal. Because the roof of the old tunnel was less than 17 feet below the surface of the river, vessels were constantly grounding themselves on it, obstructing river traffic in a narrow channel filled with ships heading to the lumber yards and grain silos to the south. When the river was reversed in 1900, the river had even less depth which prompted the action of Congress four years later. The new tunnel lay 27 feet below the surface and extended for 1,520 feet. The tunnel was still used by streetcars in the early 1950's, but the portals were filled in during the 1960's and a tunnel at Washington Street ceased to exist after close to a hundred years of service.

January 29, 1900 – Mayor Carter Harrison presents a proposal to the City Council concerning the removal of center pier bridges and other obstructions from the Chicago River.  The mayor sets forth two goals in his proposal: (1) to rid the city of all of the old swing bridges and replace them with bascule bridges; and (2) to clear the river of impediments, such as the massive turntables on which the swing bridges are seated, so that the river will have a maximum flow toward the new Sanitary and Ship Canal, opened less than a month earlier.  The mayor’s proposal states, “The trustees of the Sanitary District, with wise forethought, have kept all obstructions out of their canal.  There is not a center pier defacing its surface or interfering with its free use or shipping from Robey Street to the controlling works at Lockport.  The river, today a part of this channel, should be equally free of obstructions.  Without its free and unobstructed use the day is not far distant when the requirements of the sanitary law of a minimum flow of water may not be had.  Increased flow of water will be impossible while the center pier bridges, now obstructions in the main branch and that portion of the South Branch from Lake street to Robey street, remain.  In short the existence of center pier bridges threatens the efficiency of the canal … I would recommend that either the special committee already referred to or the standing Committee on Harbors, Viaducts, and Bridges be instructed by your honorable body to request the Trustees of the Sanitary District immediately to take up the question of removing at their own expense, all center pier bridges now serving as obstructions in that portion of the Chicago River which may properly be regarded as a part of the drainage channel and substituting in their stead modern bridges of the bascule type.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 30, 1900] Two years later the city’s first trunnion bascule bridge would open at Cortland Street on the North Branch, and it would be followed in rapid succession by many more.  The above photo shows the bridge at Rush Street and gives a clear idea of the impediments that the river bridges' center piers created.

January 29, 1872 – The Chicago Common Council takes up Section 7 of the proposed Fire Ordinance, which reads:  “No wood building or part of building within said city limits shall be raised, enlarged, or repaired, except as herein provided: nor shall any such building, or part of building, be removed from one lot or place to another within the said limits of said city; nor shall any such building be removed from without the city limits to any place within said city; nor shall any wooden building within the limits of said city, which may be damaged less than 50 per cent of its value, be so repaired as to be raised higher than the highest point left standing after such damage shall have occurred, nor so as to occupy a greater space than before the injury thereto.”  This is a strict covenant that attempts to make sure that the disastrous fire of three months earlier does not occur again.  But the council members go straight to work on amending the strictness out of the bill.  One amendment substitutes “fire limits” for “city limits.”  Another amendment proposes that the Board of Public Works may grant permits to move any building from one place to another as long as the move occurs outside the fire limits.  An alderman moves to amend the article with the phrase “provided it shall not be moved on to an improved street.”  An Alderman Gardner “thought the Council might just as well pass no ordinance at all as to pass that amendment.  It defeated the protection of the city, and was its death-knell.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 30, 1872] Another amendment is offered, proposing that “Any person wishing to remove a wooden building, for the purpose of building brick or stone on the same lot, will be allowed to move further away from the centre of the city; also, any person owning a house on a leased lot shall have the same privilege.”  Ultimately, the amendment that carries the night is offered by Alderman Gill.  It considerably weakens the original wording of Section 7, following the words “from one lot or other in the said limits of said city,” in the original with this addition, “except it be removed in a certain direction, to-wit, from the centre of the city toward the city limits.”  That amendment is approved, and the meeting immediately adjourns.  As the city begins to rebuild, the struggle to save the ruined city from itself moves forward.  The above diagram shows that the final ordinance did do much to diminish the prominence of wooden buildings, but it also clearly shows that huge sections of the city are left out of the mandate.