Wednesday, January 1, 2020

January 1, 1939 -- Chicago Sanitary District Opens Begins New Era

January 1, 1939 – Jeff J. Davis, an engineer in the Chicago Sanitary District power house in Lockport, flips a switch and, without fanfare, the city’s artificial sewage system, costing $177,000,000, takes over most of the sewage disposal work that has been done for over a century by the Chicago River.  The action is a direct result of a United States Supreme Court decision issued in 1930 mandating that the flow of water from Lake Michigan into the river be reduced to 1,500 cubic feet per second by December 31, 1938.  With the flip of the switch the sewage system is now about 90 percent finished with additional capacity to be added until it is complete in 1945.  Sensing that the winds of change were against them, the city began an ambitious construction program in the 1920’s which brought sewage treatment plants online that still form the foundation of the city’s wastewater treatment plan.  The Calumet sewage treatment works went into operation in 1922, followed by the North Side works in 1928, the West Side works in 1931 and the Southwest works in 1939.  These last two eventually were merged to become what is today the Stickney Water Reclamation Plant, one of the largest wastewater treatment facilities in the world.  The above photo shows work on the system in the 1930's at Kilbourn Avenue and Thirty-Eighth Street.
January 1, 1900 –With the beginning of a new year and a new century, a new era begins in the city as at 10:00 p.m. “a big steam dredge began clawing into the narrow dam of earth which held back the water in Mud Lake from flowing into the main channel of the drainage canal.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 2, 1900]  Sluice gates prevent the water from the river from flowing into the new canal, eight years in the making, with the hope that the water would be contained until permission was received from the Governor of Illinois.  The dredge is positioned just west of the bridge at Kedzie Avenue at a point where the new drainage canal is about 3,000 feet to the south of Mud Lake, the obstacle that historically separated the Chicago River from the interior waters of the state.  The dredge would have to claw away about 15 feet of an earthen barrier that was 25 feet wide before the water from the river could be released.  With no permission from the state on hand and with the workers on the dredge keeping up steam for the operation, Chief Sanitary District Engineer Isham Randolph orders earth cut way in order to create a channel “as wide as two shovels of the dredge.”  In a give-and-take between city and state, the city is asking permission to open a section of the canal from the Chicago River to Lockport, saying that it will seek permission to open the section from Lockport to Joliet at a later date.  The state, however, is willing only to issue a permit for the complete 28-mile project. A Sanitary District trustee says, “We went to Joliet in the hope that the permit to open the canal would be ready and we could let the water in tonight.  The State commission decided [that it] must confine itself to one final statement covering the whole canal.  That it was not ready to make, and so we came away without the permit we wanted.”  So in a Meigs Field maneuver the officials at the site set the dredge to work, hoping that the sluice gates would keep the waters in check until, one way or another, permission came from the state to open the canal.  The photo above shows the operation to remove the earthen dam as it continues on January 2, 1900.

January 1, 1954 – Today’s headline in the Chicago Daily Tribune reads, “Girls Take ‘Em Off for Last Time at Rialto” as Minsky’s Rialto Theater at 336 South State Street, a “strip tease center in Chicago for 35 years” [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 1, 1954] closes its doors after the last show ends at 1;30 a.m.  The building will be demolished and a group of one-story “taxpayers” will be erected in its place.  The theater opened in 1917 and was designed by Marshall and Fox, the same architects that designed the Blackstone Hotel and the Drake on North Michigan Avenue.  It could seat 1,500 when it opened for vaudeville shows, but it turned to burlesque shows in the 1930’s.  Today it is long gone, along with the one-story shops that took its place.  The site is now the home of Pritzker Park on the northwest corner of State Street and Van Buren, a bit of green space facing the elevated tracks and the Harold Washington Library just to the south.

January 1, 1913 -- The Chicago Daily Tribune begins 1913 with this headline, “Murders Spread as Police Fail.”  The city coroner reports that through December 1, 1912 there were 287 homicides in Cook County for the year, all but 14 of them inside the city.  London, according to the paper, “with a population three times that of Chicago, reported only thirty-three in 1910.”  There were more murders in November than in any November in the preceding eight years.  The coroner’s jury determined that 168 of the 297 homicides could be classified as murder.  Of that number only 32 people had been convicted.  The article states, “For years the public and the police have been talking about curbing the use of revolvers and the carrying of concealed weapons.”  In fact, an ordinance was passed several years earlier that required dealers to report the sale of firearms and owners to register weapons that they purchased, but the ordinance was never seriously enforced and was repealed during 1912.  Pessimistically, the paper observes, “If history repeats itself, it is a safe guess that the police will have the murderer and the evidence to convict him in about 20 per cent of the cases.”

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