Monday, January 6, 2020

January 6, 1926 -- Wabash Avenue Fire Burns a Siren Song for Piano Company

Chicago Daily Tribune Photo

January 6, 1926 – The Story and Clark Piano Company’s former building at 315-17 South Wabash Avenue goes up in flames that threaten other businesses in what is known as “piano row”.  The ground floor of the building is occupied by the tearoom of Mrs. Jennie Norby, and over 100 people having lunch in the establishment are forced into the street where they join onlookers who gawk as the third, fourth and fifth floors of the building are engulfed in flames.  The piano company had vacated the building seven months earlier, moving to a new location on Michigan Avenue.  Although a couple of businesses are located on the third and fourth floors, the building, with the exception of the tea room, is vacant.  The Story and Clark piano company began in 1857 when Hampton L. Story purchased a music store in Burlington, Vermont.  Ten years later he was offered an organ dealership in the western states and moved to Chicago.  It was there that he met Melville Clark and began the company that took their names and began to manufacture pianos in 1895.  According to the website Total Piano, “Story combined quality craftsmanship, tone and affordability of his work with Clark’s technological advances to create the best piano of their time.  Their partnership did well enough that they were able to open up new manufacturing companies in England and Germany.”
January 6, 1952 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports on a ten-room white frame house at 4526 South Wabash Street, believed to be the oldest house in the city, used as a parsonage by the congregation of St. Paul’s Church of God in Christ.  The home was chosen in 1932 as one of three Chicago homes to have its blueprints permanently recorded in the Library of Congress.  The congregation purchased the home nine years later and, under the direction of Reverend Louis H. Ford (the man for whom the Bishop Ford Expressway is named), contributed nearly $5,000 to make basic exterior repairs on the property and is in the process of raising another $5,000 to begin repairs on the interior.   The congregation resisted offers over the years from developers to purchase the place and raze it for development. In so doing it preserved a structure that easily could have been lost.  Known as the Widow Clarke house, the home is named after the wife of Henry B. Clarke, a hardware merchant who came to the city in 1833 and built the residence on a 20-acre plot on a trail next to the lake.  Clarke lived there until he died of cholera in 1849. His wife occupied the home until she died in 1860 at which point a man by the name of John Chrimes moved it sometime after 1871 to a location nearly six miles to the south.  His descendants occupied the home until it was bought by the church.  In 1977 the City of Chicago purchased it and moved it to a site in the Prairie Avenue Historic District, several blocks from its original location.  The Clarke House, owned by the City of Chicago and operated by the Glessner House Museum just down the street, opened as a museum in 1982.  The black and white photo depicts the house after it was moved in 1873.  The photo below that shows the Clarke House Museum today.

January 6, 1902 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that the troopers at Fort Sheridan are awash in whisky as “The officers at Fort Sheridan discovered … where the soldiers found large supplies of whisky without leaving the reservation.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 6, 1902]  It seems that after the saloon of Dennis Murphy in Highland Park is shuttered, “soon after several barrels of whisky disappeared from the stock.” The men of Company E at Fort Sheridan had a pretty good idea where the whisky was … it was hidden in the woods adjoining the base, and “They all filled their canteens and then told members of other companies. Many soldiers were walking about with canteens full of whisky, and others with empty canteens could not walk.” Before officers at the base could determine what was going on, “the supply was practically exhausted.” Happy New Year!

January 6, 1925 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that during the year of 1924, according to the city’s Smoke Abatement Commission, Chicago’s economic loss from “dense, foul smoke” is placed at $42,500,000.  Sighting an earlier investigation by the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research at the University of Pittsburgh, the paper observes that Chicago’s laundry bills are higher than those of any other large industrialized city.  “The average cost per person for laundry in Chicago at the time the Mellon Institute analyzed the census figures was $3.25 per year, while in Philadelphia it was only $2.01 … Chicago even surpasses Pittsburgh which had the reputation of living up to its name of ‘Smoky City.’” the article states.  

January 6, 1972 -- George Vavoulis, the regional commissioner for the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, tells Mayor Richard Daley that Chicago will lose $20 million in federal urban renewal funds because of the city's failure to provide more low-income-housing. This sum comes on top of $26 million that had been frozen three months earlier because the City Council had failed to approve enough public housing sites in white neighborhoods.

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