Saturday, January 4, 2020

January 4, 1967 -- International Amphitheater Arson Fire

January 4, 1967 –A fire is discovered in the south end of the International Amphitheater at Forty-Third and Halsted Streets at 9:00 p.m. with the initial alarm quickly upgraded to a 5-11 alarm fire with two specials.  It takes two hours to bring the blaze under control as 2,000 people stand on the east side of Halsted Street, watching the flames that shoot out of the building’s second story windows. The main section of the building is saved, but the 12-year-old addition known as Donovan Hall is extensively damaged.  Chief Investigator for the Fire Department arson unit, Edmund Voliquet, says the fire is “definitely an arson job.” [Chicago Tribune, January 5, 1967] The International Amphitheater opened at the end of 1934 after its predecessor burned to the ground in May of that year in one of the largest fires in the city’s history, a blaze that spread over eight city blocks and caused eight million dollars in damage.  The 1934 fire is pictured above.

January 4, 1946 – Brigadier General John T. Pierce, commanding general at Fort Sheridan, announces that the North Shore army post has processed 217,707 men and women during 1945, handling the transition from military to civilian life for individuals at the rate of 1,400 a day.  The post has handled 196,633 enlisted men, 21,756 officers and 9,328 members of the Women’s Army Corps.  The busiest month was October, during which 43,001 men and women were processed.  With a maximum amount of time for the handling of paperwork approaching no more than 48 hours the base expects to work at this rate seven days a week for at least several more months.

January 4, 1913 -- Two big events that would have major consequences in the way Chicago moved through the twentieth century. First, U. S. Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson approves the double-deck bridge on Michigan Avenue that would furnish a boulevard link between the north and south sides of the city. (See Photo for what the area looked like in 1915, five years before the bridge was completed.) AND Circuit Court Judge Lockwood HonorĂ© enters an order confirming agreements that would give the city the riparian property between 53rd Street and 55th Street, leaving only two small tracts between Grant Park and Jackson Park to which the public had no clear title. Ride along this route on a bright, sunny summer's day and think about how huge this was.

January 4, 1898 – A committee of the Chicago Commercial Association and three members of the South Park Board of Commissioners spend two hours at the Union League Club, discussing the possibility of building a permanent exposition building on the Lake Front Park (today’s Grant Park) east of the Illinois Central right-of-way.   The bulk of the time was spent debating whether the South Park Board has the power to acquire title to the submerged land necessary for the structure.  One commissioner asserts that a contractor has already been lined up to do the work of filling in the necessary segment of the lake from the south side of Jackson Boulevard to Congress Street and eastward to the breakwater, a total area of 900 feet by 1,300 feet.  Another commissioner says, “I expect to see the permanent exposition building completed in the Lake Front Park before the end of 1899 and in time to enable Chicago to secure the big political conventions of the following year.  I believe such an enterprise could be made to pay a profit of $250,000 a year.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 5, 1898]  The idea, of course, never got beyond the discussion phase. It was doomed as soon as Montgomery Ward heard about it.  His response comes less than two weeks later as can be seen in this entry in Connecting the Windy City.  Yet, it is one more reminder of how close the city came to having a lakefront crowded with structures of all descriptions in what is now arguably the city’s finest attraction.  The site of the proposed exposition center is pictured above.

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