Sunday, January 26, 2020

January 26, 1865 -- Ralph Waldo Emerson Lectures in Chicago


January 26, 1865 -- Ralph Waldo Emerson gives a lecture, entitled "Education," at Unity Church, the second of six that he will give in Chicago. The Chicago Daily Tribune describes Emerson as "a plain unaffected gentleman, [who] speaks with marked emphasis and with the utmost propriety, without gesture, and looks more like an educated well to do farmer than the highly cultivated scholarly lecturer."


January 26, 1923 – A Chicago Daily Tribune editorial strongly supports replacement of movable bridges in the city with permanent “fixed” bridges.  “So long as we allow dredges, tugs, freighters, and other craft to steam through the heart of the city,” the editorial begins, “blocking main streams of traffic at every street which they cross, we will allow an unnecessary handicap to be imposed upon our growth, prosperity, and comfort.  That is not wise city building.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 26, 1923] Replacing the movable bridges could be devastating to owners of elevators, lumber yards, and other freight concerns with valuable property along the river, the editorial concedes, but for the benefit of the entire city, the editorial goes on to add, it would be worth it to condemn the property in question and pay for the owners a fair rate.  “The general welfare of the city is more important than any fancied rights, based upon custom, of these property owners,” the editorial states.  “Probably it would not only pay the city through stimulation of growth and easier circulation of traffic but would return cash dividends through greatly reduced expenditures for bridge construction, operation, and maintenance.”  The editorial concludes, “Fixed bridges are a logical development of a greater Chicago.  We may as well begin to make up our minds to that development and prepare for it.”  The city is still preparing … every bridge on the main stem of the river and the south branch still swings open – although on a far less intrusive and far more regulated schedule than was the case in 1923.


January 26, 1953 – Chief city bridge tender Edward Scott brings news that an era on the Chicago River may be passing, saying that 16 of the city’s bridge tenders averaged less than one bridge opening a week during 1952.  The bridges on the north branch of the river at Cortland Street, Webster Avenue, Ashland Avenue, Fullerton Avenue, Damen Avenue, Diversey Parkway, Western Avenue and Belmont Avenue opened for a total of only 800 “swings” during the entire year, an average of only 50 bridge openings per man for Scott’s crew.  Since the preceding February these bridges have been left unmanned, and when passage up or down the river was required, bridge tenders moved from bridge to bridge in city cars.  The city seems to be moving in the direction of erecting fixed bridges in these locations because of the scarcity of traffic on the once busy north branch.  In a related development the Great Lakes division and Chicago district army engineers have offered the opinion that the dredging of the river north of North Avenue from 9 feet to 18 feet is unnecessary, a move that the city itself once supported but is now against.  The oldest trunnion bascule bridge in the city at Cortland Street is shown in the above photo.

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January 26, 1993 – Mayor Richard M. Daley announces a $30 million plan for State Street that would reopen it for traffic, an acknowledgement that turning the street into a pedestrian mall 14 years earlier was an ill-conceived idea.  A 100-page report that spells out the way in which future development will take place on the street has a central idea at its core, “State Street is making a comeback as the heart of a mixed-use district, with cultural and educational institutions, entertainment and educational institutions, entertainment center and office buildings complementing the retail core.” [Chicago Tribune, January 26, 1993]  At a time when suburban malls beckoned shoppers with acres of parking space and North Michigan Avenue blossomed into an upscale shopping destination, the State Street mall had the effect of “isolating State Street from the rest of the Loop,” as Daley says at a meeting of the Greater State Street Council. Therefore, the idea is to recognize the changes that have taken place and to build on the southern anchor of State Street – the new Harold Washington Library and the expansion of DePaul University into the former Goldblatt’s department store.  Traffic will be brought back to the street, curbs will be straightened, sidewalks narrowed to 36 feet or less, new streetlights installed and trees and shrubs planted.  There is even talk of a light-rail system running along the street. Today State Street has indeed come back.. It’s a far different place than it was 25 years ago, but a mix of college students, residents in new and re-purposed high-rises, and office workers has ensured that State Street is still that Great Street.  The above photo shows the opening of the State Street Mall on October 29, 1979.


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