Monday, February 24, 2020

February 24, 1952 -- Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway Opens

February 24, 1951 – The first train on the new Milwaukee-Dearborn subway line leaves Logan Square at midnight after Mayor Martin Kennelly and hundreds of public officials and civic group leaders attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony earlier in the day at the station at Dearborn and Madison Streets.  Kennelly says, “It’s a great day for Chicago, particularly the northwest side.  A city like Chicago can never rest on its laurels.  We must continue to build – particularly more and better transportation facilities.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, February 25, 1951]  The new subway, costing $39.5 million (close to $350 million in 2020 dollars), running four miles, was begun in March, 1939 and was about 80% complete when World War II brought an end to construction.  The subway runs under Milwaukee Avenue, entering the Loop at Lake Street in a tunnel under that Chicago River that is 90 feet below street level.  On the other side of the river the line runs east under Lake Street to Dearborn, then south under Dearborn to Congress, and west under Congress to the west bank of the river.  The line today makes up part of the Chicago Transit Authority’s Blue Line, which has been extended to O’Hare Airport on the northwest end and to Forest Park on the western end.  In the above photo Mayor Martin Kennelly cuts the ribbon to open the new line.

February 24, 2009 – United States Interior Secretary Ken Salazar initiates the transfer of the Chicago Harbor lighthouse, previously under the control of the U. S. Coast Guard, to Chicago.  The lighthouse, which stands 48 feet above the lake, was built in 1893 and transferred to its current location east of Navy Pier in 1917.

February 24, 1992 – In a guest column in the Chicago Tribune Gerald W. Adelmann, the Executive Director of Openlands Project, a non-profit organization with a mission of protecting open space in northeastern Illinois, writes of the opportunities the city has in such vacant lots as Block 37.  “For the first time since the Great Fire of 1871,” Adelmann writes, “a number of major parcels in downtown Chicago stand vacant.  Three of the lots – Block 37, the old Montgomery Ward’s site and the temporary park by the Washington library – face directly onto State Street … Openlands Project urges the city and civic leaders to transform one or more of the vacant parcels into permanent public space.” [Chicago Tribune, February 24, 1992] Citing an earlier inventory that the city’s Department of Planning published, Adelmann notes that only 3.3 percent of the land area within the Central Area of the city is given over to public space.  “While much attention correctly should be focused on business development,” Adelmann continues, “creating high-quality open space can help make Chicago competitive in attracting businesses and the qualified workers who sustain them.  Open land contributes to an economically healthy urban environment as much as do roads and utilities, and must be planned for similarly.”  Adelmann concludes by saying that the downturn in the economy and the resultant lag in construction of the period provides an opportunity for such planning.  Pritzker Park on the northwest corner of State and Van Buren is one of the three project Adelmann mentioned. It is shown above.

February 24, 1920 -- With three out of every four voters favoring six South Park bond issue propositions on the ballot, Charles H. Wacker, chairman of the city's plan commission, says, "The victory of the South Park Commissions' bond proposals is the biggest, finest, and most far-reaching undertaking for the public good Chicago has launched in its entire history." The financing would allow for grading and completion of Grant Park at a cost of $3,700,000. Also forthcoming would be creation of the two levels of what is now Wacker Drive running east and west along the river, the building of the southern portion of Lake Shore Drive, the widening and improvement of Ashland Avenue, and at least a half-dozen other plans that within the space of a half-dozen years would change the city. The photo above shows the south section of Lake Shore Drive from about Thirty-Ninth Street just after it opened in the spring of 1930.
February 24, 1882 – Just after midnight the first successful operation of a cable car in the Loop is accomplished as the car is taken from the barn at Twenty-Second Street, proceeds north to Madison Street and from there completes a “loop” that ends at Lake Street.  Adjustments are made to the cable after the first trip with men descending into the tunnel through which the cable runs to adjust the tension.  After a second trip, the tension again is increased which allows the third trip to end in “a complete success.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, February 24, 1882]  On the final trip the gripman moves the car along at four miles-per-hour, half the speed that is possible on the main line, and stops three times at the corner of Wabash and Lake Streets “to exhibit the perfect control he had over the machine.” The system is not yet ready for prime time … operators will need another three or four weeks to perfect their ability to make the “jump” between the main cable and the Loop cable at Madison Street.  Until then horses will be used to move the cars from the “loop” to the main line. The Tribune observes that in a month the city will see’ cable-cars running up and down State street in all their glory, without the aid of horse-power to do any switching at Madison street.”  The above photo shows cable cars running on Wabash Avenue just after the Auditorium building was completed in 1889 but before the Loop elevated line was completed in 1897 one block to the north. 

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