Saturday, February 29, 2020

February 29 -- Marina City Plans Announced

J. Bartholomew Photo
February 29, 1960 -- Plans are announced for the 36 million dollar Marina City project on the Chicago River. At 60 stories and 555 feet the two towers are projected to be the tallest housing structures in the world and the fourth tallest buildings in the city. There will be parking for 900 cars with 256 efficiency apartments, 576 one-bedroom units and 64 two-bedroom units with rents projected to start at $115. Besides the apartment towers there are to be a 10-story office building, a one-acre plaza and a theater which will seat 1,200. There is to be no mortgage on the project. Financing will take place under Title 7 of the National Housing Act, under which the government guarantees the debt assumed by the developer.

Friday, February 28, 2020

February 28, 1909 -- Chicago and North Western Railroad Terminal Begins Its Rise

February 28, 1909 – The Chicago Daily Tribune prints a feature article on the construction of the new terminal for the Chicago and North Western Railroad on the west bank of the river at Madison Street, a project about which the paper crows, “No other single building operation in Chicago has approached the magnitude of this new station …”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, February 28, 1909]  A total of 172 caissons, four to eight feet in diameter, will support the building that will stretch a block wide and a quarter-mile long, covering 13 acres.  All but 72 of those caissons will go down to bedrock, 115 feet below the surface.  The superintendent of construction for the Fuller Construction Company says, “Things went all right for a hundred feet down.  Then without warning we ran into sand … Ordinarily we strike sand ‘pockets’ under the Chicago downtown district, but they are small pockets and never at such a depth as we’ve found over here.  This sand deposit … is unusually large and at unheard of depth.”  Every caisson is dug by hand with one man in a caisson working for eight hours with a 15-minute lunch break.  The work goes on around the clock.  Each caisson digger begins with a pick, spade and hoe, mucking out a hole until it reaches a depth of five or six feet at which point carpenters drop into it to install lumber “after the manner of barrel staves” after which an iron ring is placed to secure the wall.  Then the digger starts again, digging another five or six feet at which point the carpenters repeat the process of securing the caisson.  The work continues down to about 100 feet at which point an air lock must be installed to protect the digger as he digs toward bedrock. The average wage for workers is around $2.40 a day. It will take 10,000 wagon loads to carry away the mud, clay and sand from the caissons.  At the foot of Fulton Street, four blocks to the north, the debris is loaded on ships that carry it out into the lake where it will be dumped.  The new terminal, finished in 1911, is shown above.

February 28, 1970 – Ten thousand demonstrators line both sides of State Street opposite the Palmer House, jeering French President Georges Pompidou, as he arrives to address a group at a dinner sponsored by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations and the Alliance Francaise. The protestors voice loud objections to France’s recent announcement that it will sell 100 Mirage jets to Libya.  Among the protestors is U. S. Representative Roman Pucinski who says he considers the sale of the jets “a unilateral escalation of the Mideast conflict.” [Chicago Tribune, March 1, 1970] Chants of  “Poo, Poo, Pompidou,” “France Oui, Pompidou No” reverberate over bullhorns as protest marshals work hard to keep crowds from spilling into the street.  Mayor Daley’s special events director, Colonel Jack Reilly, praises the orderly protest, saying, “If the city had it this easy in all demonstrations it would be easy.”  As the French delegation leaves from O’Hare on the following day, an official says that the Chicago police “’either thru incompetence or design,’ relaxed security to the point where it was impossible for Pompidou to avoid embarrassment.”  [Chicago Tribune, March 2, 1970] At the airport Pompidou himself, speaking in French, says that the protestors “placed a stain on the face of America” and that “the immense majority of the Chicago population … is ashamed of it all.” The French President is especially upset about an incident that occurred inside the lobby of the Palmer House in which six individuals jumped in front of him and his wife and shouted, “Shame, shame on you!”  An official says, “The police assured us this would not happen. They said the lobby would be clear.  Yet there were these people, accosting the president of France on an official visit.  The French delegation cannot understand how this was permitted to happen.  Tempers are running very high.”

February 28, 1955 – The Chicago Housing Authority awards a $7,998,700 contract to Corbeita Construction Company for the first stage of an addition to the Frances Cabrini public housing project just north of Chicago Avenue and east of Larabee.  The contract calls for eight high-rise buildings with 859 apartments along with a heating and service building.  The chairman of the C.H.A., John R. Fugard, states that a contract will be let later in the year for seven more buildings with 1,066 apartments.   The work at Cabrini will be just one part of the biggest program of public housing construction in the city’s history.  It is anticipated in 1955 the C.H.A. will break ground at six different sites for 4,500 apartments.  All of the projects, which were approved in 1949, will be subsidized by the federal government and will be rented to low income families.

February 28, 1939 -- The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that owner P. K. Wrigley has taken matters into his own hands "in moving the spring flair of Diz (Dizzy Dean) as problem child." When Wrigley's personal representative comes upon the Cub pitcher "pitching full blast at the full pitching distance [he] broke up the display in the name of the Cub owner, following full instructions from the Chicago throne room." [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 1, 1939] Dean, a pitching phenom for the St. Louis Cardinals between 1933 and 1937, was injured by a line drive in the 1937 All-Star game. In 1938 Wrigley paid $185,000 to put the compromised pitcher on the Cubs roster. In September of that year, in what he called the greatest game of his career, Dean pitched the second game of a series with the Pittsburgh Pirates, winning 2-1, pulling the Cubs within a half-game of the league leading Pirates, a team from which the Cubs would wrest the National League championship the next day. Dean pitched Game Two of the World Series, pitching admirably until he gave up a two-run homer to Joe DiMaggio in the top of the ninth, ultimately losing 6-3. He struggled along with the Cubs until 1941 when he retired. Wrigley's interest in protecting his investment was certainly understandable, but ultimately it would not matter.

February 28, 1903 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that a new bridge across the river at State street has been opened to decidedly negative reviews.  H. D. Dean, a construction engineer from Benton Harbor, Michigan, in town to provide his expertise to a subway subcommittee, says that the new bridge “is not wide enough by fifty feet.  It was a mistake to build so narrow a bridge there on account of the awkward bend in the river at that point.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 1, 1903] Present at the dedication of the new bridge a day earlier are members of the South Water and State Street Business Men’s association “who have seen their business dwindle much more rapidly than the bridge grew during the last year.” Mrs. Adelaide Smedberg of 184 North State Street breaks a bottle of wine on the bridge. The Tribune explains how Smedberg ended up with the bottle in her hand, noting that association president J. T. Keane “corked his eloquence, chased the woman, explained to her that she was the first to cross the river, and took her back to break the bottle of wine. “I christen thee State street,’ said Mrs. Smedberg, and the dedicators hurried away to a banquet at which there was more oratory and spilling of wine."  On May 29, 1949 a new bridge was dedicated at State Street in a far more dignified ceremony, one that honored the men from the Chicago area who fought and died in the battle of Bataan and Corregidor and who suffered through the “death march” that followed that battle.  The bridge closest to the bottom of the photo is the 1903 bridge.  

Thursday, February 27, 2020

February 27 -- Loop Property Analysis

J. Bartholomew Photo
February 27, 1977 – The Chicago Tribune reports on the 35 square blocks that make up Chicago’s Loop, summarizing the results of “countless hours of study in the offices of the Cook County treasurer, assessor, and recorder of deeds.”  [February 27, 1977]  Some of the more interesting findings are summarized as the article unfolds.  There are approximately 200 owners of Loop property which has an estimated value of $1.1 billion (over $4.5 billion in 2020 dollars).  One-fifth of Loop property is tax-exempt even though commercial properties such as Inland Steel Company and First Federal Savings and Loan Association have built tall buildings on such leased tax-exempt property.  The single biggest property within the Loop is the First National Bank.  The Chicago Board of Education and Northwestern University are the principal owners of tax-exempt Loop property with the Board of Education leasing out an entire block bounded by State, Madison, Dearborn, and Monroe Streets.  Northwestern owns two properties leased as parking garages and half the land under the Continental Bank.  About two-thirds of the tax-exempt land in the Loop is occupied by various governmental units, as well as by religious, education, and charitable organizations.  That land, if taxed, would produce $3.3 million a year in revenue (close to $13 million in 2020 dollars).  Principal owners of multiple properties in the Loop are Tishman Realty and Construction Company and Investment Properties Associates of New York, the two firms holding a combined total of ten buildings worth $133 million (about $566 million in 2020 dollars).  The Massachusetts Institute of Technology owns office buildings at 18 South Michigan Avenue and 347 West Erie Street, the properties willed to the university in 1970 by Catherine Dexter McCormick, the daughter-in-law of Cyrus McCormick.  The university pays full taxes on the buildings.  The Tribune study reveals that all of the major buildings in the Loop are up to date in their tax payments with one exception.  That is the Lytton Building at Jackson Boulevard and State Street, which is in receivership.  The Inland Steel building, pictured above, a marvel of mid-century modern architectural design, was built on tax-exempt land owned by the Chicago Board of Education.

February 27, 1933 – The Sea King, a small boat owned by the Chicago Daily Tribune, takes the first passengers and cargo over the newly opened Illinois waterway, completing the first continuous passage of the 60-mile channel between Utica and Joliet “on the lakes to gulf route, a dream of generations which now is actually realized.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, February 27, 1933]  The Sea King ties up at Ottawa for the night, and a large crowd gathers at an athletic field on the river front as “Salutes were fired from the high school lawn, and a band furnished music.”  The lakes-to-gulf route will formally be opened on June 15 and will extend 3,300 miles by water from the Gulf of Mexico to the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  The Sea King takes on its cargo at the Michigan Avenue bridge near Tribune tower and begins its trip at 3:00 p.m. on February 26.  The ship sails six miles through the Chicago River system, entering the Sanitary and Ship Canal and steaming 28 miles to the lock at Lockport where there is a 41-foot fall into the Des Plaines River, the beginning of the new Illinois waterway, through which the ship sails in three-and-a-half hours.  In order to make navigation possible through Joliet, five new bascule bridges were needed, three of which have already been completed.  Two miles to the west of Joliet the Brandon Road lock and dam is one of the most impressive projects on the waterway.  The dam, which cost $3.5 million, is 1,350 feet long and during periods of heavy rains or snow melt it can allow a maximum of 35,000 cubic feet of water per second to pass over it.  Lake Joliet, which extends close to four miles below the Brandon Road lock, narrows from there to Dresden Heights where there is another lock and dam, about 56 miles from Tribune Tower.  The lock at Dresden, which extends 642 feet across the river, was the last project on the waterway to be completed, costing $2,365,000. At Morris the first merchandise from Chicago is delivered to C. H. Hinds, the freight consisting of “packages of hosiery and dry goods from Marshall Field and Co. and Carson Pirie Scott and Co.”  At Morris the Sea King ties up to the Colonel Sultan, a ship that will sail in March into the Chicago River, becoming the first boat to make a continuous upward passage of the waterway.  The photos above show the Brandon Road lock under construction as well as what it looked like when it was brand new.

February 27, 1933 – The new home of the Chicago Federation of Musicians is opened for business at 175 West Washington Street as several hundred invited guests look over the new digs.  During the ceremonies James C. Petrillo, the president of the federation, is presented with a diamond studded commissioner’s star.  During the evening the guests dance to the music of Wayne King, Ben Bernie, Charles Agnew and Fritz Miller and their orchestras.  Architect Max Dunning designed the building in a modest Art Deco design, notable for the panels above the second story windows that reference the building’s purposes.  The panels have representations of a flute player and harp player and a figure in the middle panel surrounded by musical instruments. 

February 27, 1925 – Item in the Chicago Daily Tribune on this date … “Because ‘they aren’t wearing ‘em any more,’ more than 1,000 corsets, the stays sterilized and refurbished by down-and-outers, lie moldering in the Monroe street warehouse of the Christian Industrial league.  They are gifts of friends of the institution.  ‘Placed end on end, says George A. Kilbey, manager of the league, ‘there are enough corsets in that one spot to carpet Michigan avenue from the link bridge to the Illinois Central building [about two miles].  They could wrap up the city hall.  In fact, there is enough steel in those stays to armor a light battle cruiser.”

February 27, 1919 -- The final three pieces of real estate necessary for the construction of the Michigan Avenue bridge are secured. The city pays $719,532 to the estate of W. F. McLaughlin for a piece of property on the east side of Michigan Avenue fronting the south side of the river. $62,500 goes to John S. Miller for a triangular piece of land across Michigan Avenue from the McLaughlin property. Levy Mayer nets $91,760 for a small piece of property directly south of the McLaughlin holding. With these three transactions the city is ready to build the bridge that will change the north side of the city forever. The photo above shows the three pieces of property on each side of Michigan Avenue south of the river.  The Rush Street, which was dismantled when the Michigan Avenue bridge was opened, is at the right.