Monday, February 10, 2020

February 10, 1892 -- Chicago Pioneer James Coach Dies

February 10, 1892 – Passing east or west on the La Salle Street connection to Lake Shore Drive, you will see a mausoleum with the family name of “Couch” engraved on it.  Ira Couch, an early resident of Chicago, hired architect John M. van Osdel, to design the tomb when the area still was part of the city’s main cemetery.  Ira Couch is buried there, but his brother and partner, James, is not.  The cemetery was moved in the late 1860’s, but the mausoleum stayed as the expense of moving it three miles to the north made relocation impractical.  It was on this day in 1892 that 92-year-old James Couch died while chasing down a streetcar.  He had stayed the night at the Tremont Hotel and was heading back to his home on Indiana Avenue when he saw the streetcar near State Street and attempted to jump on the rear platform but missed his footing and was thrown backwards, hitting his head on the ground.  Unfortunately, a heavy wagon was approaching, and the driver was unable to stop the horses. The wagon's wheels rolled over Couch’s left leg, breaking bones in several places, also severing the fingers of his right hand.  He was taken to the Tremont Hotel where he died in the early evening.  Couch had come to Chicago at the age of 36 with his brother and together they purchased the Tremont House, which lasted three years before it burned to the ground.  They rebuilt on the corner of Dearborn and Lake Streets in 1839, but on July 21, 1841 the three-story hotel once again was destroyed by fire.  Undaunted, they built a “magnificent brick building five and one-half stories high”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, February 11, 1892], a design so large that it came to be known as “Couch’s Folly.”  The hotel was completed in 1850, and in 1853 the Couch brothers sold the establishment to David A. and George W. Gage of Boston.  Ira Couch died in 1856, and James pursued an active role in developing business blocks in various parts of the rapidly growing city.  After he died at the hotel he had begun 56 years earlier Couch was not taken to the vault in Lincoln Park.  He was buried in Rosehill Cemetery on February 13, 1892.  The first Tremont House is pictured above.
February 10, 2005 – The Chicago Tribune provides the story of a December meeting between Mayor Richard M. Daley and developer Donald Trump that led to a spire for Trump’s new tower. Daley, according to a spokesperson, told Trump, in town to pitch a new namesake cologne, “I want a spire. It’s important to the skyline.” [Chicago Tribune, February 10, 2005]  Although the final design for the tower, projected to rise 92 floors above the river, has not been released, the New York developer says that he is prepared to sign off on the spire to please the mayor.  “He does like spires,” Trump says.  Whether or not the spire will be counted as part of the height of the building by the Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat is undetermined.  The chairman of the council, Ron Klemencic, says, “This is not a slam-dunk … A condition like this is always hotly debated within our organization, I can tell you that much.”  Trump was less than enthusiastic about the spire, despite the fact that he says he is prepared to spend $3 million on it.  “I wanted to shave it for two reasons,” he says.  “It’d save money, and I didn’t like the original top of the building.” The above photo shows workmen assembling the spire, which a helicopter delivered section by section, in blustery conditions on January 4, 2009.  Ultimately, it did count as part of the building's total height.

February 10, 1942 – Officials at the Wrigley Building on Michigan Avenue announce that 120 floodlights that have lit up the building will be loaned to the United States Navy for use in barrack construction at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station, where work is proceeding 24 hours a day.  The floodlights that cast a million-candlepower wall of light on the Wrigley Building would have sat uselessly on Michigan Avenue, anyway, since the Wrigley Building’s lights were blacked out on January 19 as the city joined the rest of the country in gearing up for the war effort.

February 10, 1916 -- More than 100 guests at a banquet in honor of Archbishop George William Mundelein, pictured above, are poisoned at the University Club after a cook, Jean Crones, puts arsenic in the soup. Mandelein, who had just arrived in Chicago to take over the city's archdiocese, skipped the soup and was fine. No one died, but a third of Chicago's elite were mightily incommoded. There was little interest in the evening's entrĂ©es after the soup had its affect, and orders were quickly sent to hurry the ice cream and coffee and skip the cheese. In his address to the group, the Cardinal said, "I have one thing in view, one thing to perform. That is that when my days are ended and my work is done, the people of Chicago, irrespective of creed, will be grateful that I have come among them and that they will believe I have been a good influence not only to my church but to the whole city." Crones, the cook, turned out to be an Italian anarchist by the name of Nestor Dondoglio. He disappeared and was never caught.

February 10, 1880 – The Chicago Daily Tribune editorializes about “the expenditure of money for cleaning streets that are never cleaned, and never can be cleaned or kept clean by the system which is practiced in this city.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, February 10, 1880] Paved streets cannot be kept clean when so many others are composed of raw earth, and the paper concludes that “The paved streets cannot be free of mud until they are relieved of the supply furnished by the adjoining unpaved streets.”  The editorial proposes that a plan be adopted that would see the area bounded by the lake, the south branch of the river, and Twelfth Street given streets “with a deep, hard bed of macadam, cinders, or gravel” so that “These unpaved streets being no longer mud-holes, no mud will be carried from them to the paved streets, and the work and cost of keeping the latter swept and clean continuously will be comparatively very light.”  Once this area is complete, the paper continues, the process can be repeated in the North and West Divisions.  The editorial concludes, “Having put all the mud-producing streets in order with hard, compact, firm surfaces, the work of keeping the other streets clean will be comparatively an easy matter.”  The above photo shows the paved Washington Boulevard at Wabash Avenue in 1880.

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