Tuesday, January 14, 2020

January 14, 1924 -- Chicago Fire Station Ignites after Stolen Cab Rams It

January 14, 1924 – Quite a surprise for the firemen of Engine Company 24 at 2447 Warren Avenue when a stolen Yellow cab with an unconscious carjacker at the wheel crashes through the fire station’s doors, overturns two coal stoves, and sets the building on fire.  The cab comes to a stop when it rams the brass sliding post that leads up to the second floor.  The driver, who is pronounced dead at Bridewell Hospital, had been shot during a “wild chase of several miles”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 15, 1924]  by a West Park police officer, Fred Tosch, who witnessed the cab speeding on Washington Boulevard near Oakley Avenue.  Commandeering a civilian’s car, Tosh chases the cab to a vacant lot near Campbell Avenue.  As he approaches the cab on foot, the driver accelerates in an attempt to run the officer down.  Tosch shoots twice, hitting the driver once in the left side.  Although wounded, the driver speeds to Warren Avenue where he turns west.  As the car nears the firehouse, the driver slumps across the wheel, and the cab smashes into the station, crushing a row of chairs on which three firemen had been sitting before the splintering station doors caused them to flee for safety.  Firemen asleep on the second floor, led by Captain Michael Kerrins, are awakened by the ruckus and extinguish the fire inside the station before it does much damage.   Although it didn't burn down that day, Engine Company 24 is long gone.  As can be seen in the above photo of 2447 Warren Avenue, there is nothing left.

January 14, 1969 – An interesting article in the Chicago Tribune fifty years ago makes predictions about what Chicago’s Loop will look like in the century that is to come.  Noting that “Confidence in the Loop’s future already has been expressed by public and private investors,” [Chicago Tribune, January 14, 1969] the article begins with a look at downtown transportation.  “A new subway system will speed and extend public transportation thruout the downtown area … Only historical markers will remain to mark the elevated structure that once defined the Loop and gave it its name,” the article states.  State Street will be “a curious combination of past and present,” with the Carson Pirie Scott building “proudly standing among newer, taller neighbors.”  The street will still be “the retail king,” but once the elevated structure is removed on Wabash Avenue that street will also become “a shopper’s delight.”  Shoppers will browse in “huge commercial concourses … along the two levels of the new subway system” which will feature “moving sidewalks, and, perhaps, electric trains.” The article gets this one right – “West Madison street, fortified by new skyscrapers, will shed its skid row past and become the western heart of the new Loop,” bolstering the claim with a statement from the president of the Mid-City National Bank, E. M. Bakwin, who says, “I can see Madison-Canal expanding north and south as a major complex. I can see it as a new Rockefeller center.”  The Tribune predicts accurately that development of the Illinois Center area will “extend over nearly 50 acres along the Chicago river between Michigan avenue and the lakefront.  It will provide working quarters for thousands and homes for 35,000 apartment dwellers.”  Not quite accurate is the prediction that in this area “Autos will be barred from the surface to underground levels where workers and residents will find transit service … As the Loop enters the twenty-first Century and its complex public transit system of subways, moving sidewalks, and walk-ways is completed, the last private auto will leave the Loop and be banished forever.”  As the above photo shows much in the Loop -- and beyond -- has changed, but the el is still rattling along.

January 14, 1924 – The commissioners of the South Park Board convene in a special session to accept the donation of a fountain for Grant Park from Miss Kate Buckingham, the fountain to be built in honor of her brother, Clarence Buckingham.  Miss Buckingham contributes $250,000 (close to $4 million in today's dollars) for the construction of the fountain with another $135,000 set aside in a trust fund for its maintenance.  The fund will be administered by the Art Institute of Chicago.  The fountain opened to the public on May 26, 1927.  The Chicago Park District’s description of the fountain, the centerpiece of Grant Park, the city’s “front yard,” includes the following: “An important Chicago art patron and philanthropist, Kate Sturges Buckingham (1858 – 1937) was the last member of the Buckingham family.  Originally from Zanesville, Ohio, the Buckingham family made its fortune in grain elevators, real estate and steel.  Kate and her brother Clarence Buckingham (1854 – 1913) were both avid art collectors and benefactors who donated valuable prints, paintings, sculptures, and objects to the Art Institute of Chicago… Architect Edward H. Bennett of the firm Bennett, Parsons and Frost, designed the fountain and French artist Marcel Loyau produced the sculptural elements.  Architects Jacques Lambert and Clarence W. Farrier served as associates on the project.  The fountain is composed of pink Georgia marble, with some granite elements, and bronze sculptures. During the planning phases, Kate Buckingham expressed a wish that the fountain’s lighting should emulate ‘soft moonlight.’ According to an early Chicago Park District brochure, ‘though advanced in years,’ Miss Buckingham ‘worked night after night with technicians, trying out various colors of glass and adjusting the control of electric current’ to produce ‘blends… that pleased her— and indeed, there is a mystical aura around the lighted fountain suggesting moonlight— in fairyland.’”  The above photo shows the fountain under construction in 1925. 

January 14, 1898 – Another chapter in the continuing story of Aron Montgomery Ward and the area we today know as Grant Park unfolds as Ward reacts strongly to a plan that would see a great exposition hall built in the park, a project that would receive city abatement of ground fees, taxes and assessments.  Ward minces no words, saying, “To erect a large building [in the park] would be doing an injustice to those who have spent millions in erecting fine buildings and halls throughout the city … They have paid their fair and full proportion of taxes and assessments for years, and their investments in assembly halls have not paid them 2 per cent.  Now they can see their way, with the increased population and the evident return of prosperity to the country, to make simply the interest on their investments … Why should this great octopus be given land with no ground rent to pay and free from taxes and assessment? … It is one of the biggest schemes ever sprung on the citizens and taxpayers of Chicago.  All others pale before it.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 15, 1898]  One day maybe someone will gather the funds to erect a statue to Ward in the park on the lakefront.  In his continuing battle to protect the property, he did more than anyone else to keep it open, clear and free so that we might enjoy its many benefits today.  The area under consideration for the new exposition hall is pictured above.   

January 14, 1927 -- The report of George M. Wisner's testimony before Charles Evans Hughes, special master of the United States Supreme Court, is printed. Eisner, the consulting engineer for the Chicago sanitary district, attempted to answer the demands of Wisconsin and five other Great Lakes states seeking an injunction that stopped water diversion from Lake Michigan into the Chicago River. Eisner recounted what life in Chicago was like before the river was flushed with lake water. He said, "The Chicago river was a pest hole of typhoid and intestinal disease germs . . . It was a big septic tank festering on the bottom and sending upwards dangerous poisonous gases. The crust of filth sometimes became so thick that a chicken could walk across the river. At other times the crust caught fire." To avoid a return to those days, Wisner asserted that a maximum of 10,000 cubic feet of lake water per second was needed to cleanse the river. Chicago lost the battle when the Supreme Court decreed on April 21, 1930 that the diversion of lake water be gradually reduced to 1,500 cubic feet per second by December 31, 1938. The photo above pictures the river as it looked about the time Wisner offered his testimony.

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