Wednesday, January 8, 2020

January 8, 1904 -- Blackstone Library Presented to City by Isabella Blackstone

January 8, 1904 – Mrs. Isabella Blackstone presents the city with the first branch of the Chicago Public Library in Hyde Park in a short ceremony.  The classically designed building is given in honor of her husband, Timothy Beach Blackstone, the former president of the Chicago and Alton Railway, the city’s first railroad.  He was also the first president of the Union Stockyards and Transit Company.  The dedication was not open to the public and was held in the library’s reading room.  Mrs. Blackstone is given an autograph book with the signatures of 237 residents of Hyde Park along with messages of gratitude for her family's  generosity.  In 1891 T. B. Blackstone’s donated the James Blackstone Memorial Library in his father’s memory to Branford, Connecticut, the town in which he was born.  When he died in 1900, he included a provision in his will for a library to be built on land which he owned in Hyde Park.  Designed by architect Solon S. Beman, who designed the Connecticut library and the company town of Pullman, the building is modeled after the Merchant Tailors building at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, which, in turn, was modeled after the Erechtheion, a temple on the Acropolis in Athens.  Artwork in the rotunda was executed by Chicago artist Oliver Dennett Grover and displays themes of literature, science, labor and art.  The building also features an upper-level glass floor, stained-glass ceilings, carved marble, mosaic tile floors and mahogany wainscoting.  []  Especially impressive is the library’s central Tiffany dome.  The Merchant Tailors' Building, the Blackstone Library in Connecticut and the Blackstone Library in Chicago are all pictured above.

January 8, 1934 – The night sky lights up as the automobile parts warehouse of
Warshawsky and Co. at 1915 South State Street explodes in flames.  A 5-11 alarm fire brings a third of the city’s fire equipment to the scene as more than 400 fire fighters battle the blaze.  A store that is part of the operation is open when the blaze is discovered, and more than 35 employees and a number of customers are inside. Two of the employees are burned. One, a scrubwoman, is dragged unconscious from the structure after fire fighters burn away steel bars from an alley window with acetylene torches to get to her.  The first call comes in at 8:01 p.m., followed by a second alarm as soon as Company No. 8, only a block away, reaches the scene.  Subsequent alarms are sounded every two minutes until 64 pieces of equipment are on the scene 52 minutes after the first alarm is received.  Burning debris is carried on a west wind as far as Michigan Avenue, starting small fires in several places.  Several thousand people gather to watch the inferno while patrons evacuate the Wabash Theater at 1838 South Wabash Avenue as smoke fills the auditorium.  Damages are estimated to exceed a million dollars in a blaze that Fire Marshal Michael J. Corrigan categorizes as incendiary in origin.  The black and white photo shows the Warshawsky headquarters before the fire.  The photo below that is what this section of South State Street looks like today.

January 8, 1917 – The Chicago Police Chief, Charles C. Healey, is arrested at his home by representatives of Cook County State’s Attorney Maclay Hoyne and accused of leading a ring of corruption that may have brought in “thousands of dollars yearly.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, January 8, 1917] Judge Sheridan E. Fry fixes Healey’s bond at $100,000 as Healey is charged with conspiracy, extortion and bribery.  Hoyne states, “We began with the reports that patrolmen were being advanced to sergeants for a fee.  We discovered that a patrolman who came across with $500 would be promoted … The same rule applied to officers.  The price for the promotion of a sergeant to lieutenant was sometimes as high as $1,000.” The graft did not end there.  Every Monday four men, including Lieutenant Martin White, the commander of the Lake Street police station, would meet in room 1209 at 109 North Dearborn Street “to divide the collections … They didn’t trust each other, and it was decided to be safest for all to be on hand, so that the others might know how much had been collected and just what the division would be.”  When investigators raided the room, a notebook was found on White, the notebook containing “a complete list of all shady hotels, disorderly houses, and gambling resorts” and the amounts each joint paid for protection.  Healy is sitting down to dinner in the family’s third floor apartment when investigators break up the meal even though they have no warrants for his arrest.  Healy orders them out and calls the Woodlawn station to secure some protection, quickly obtaining several “big, powerful men” who eject the investigators “with more speed than dignity.”  Within 15 minutes the warrants are obtained, and the Chief of Police finds himself under arrest.  The Chief Is pictured above.

January 8, 1954 – Another big sale of real estate in the Loop occurs, this one the Cable Building, a ten-story Holabird and Roche design at 57 East Jackson.  B. B. Provus, the vice-president of American Glass Company is the trustee whose name is on the transaction, one made for the Provus estate.  Provus said that the estate plans to remodel the building into shops.  That worked for a time.  By 1962, though, a new mid-century modern skyscraper designed by C. F. Murphy replaces the building.  The Cable building was a beautiful piece of architecture.  Fortunately, the building that replaced it is an impressive design as well.

January 8, 1980 - It is reported that the Illinois Appellate Court in Chicago has upheld the city's acquisition of the Sherman House Hotel under eminent domain rights. Citing the argument that only eight percent of the building's commercial space was being utilized, the court found that the city's intent "to rid the Loop of a blighted area" was valid. The city had previously agreed to pay the Teamsters' Union Pension Fund $11.2 million for the property. Chicago subsequently gave the block on which the hotel stood to the state, and the James Thompson Center was competed on the site five years later. For a history of the Sherman House see…/down-they-forgot-as…

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