February 4, 1915 – The Great Lakes steamer Iowa, trapped in ice off Grand Avenue, sinks as 70 members of the crew and one passenger make their way to shore by crossing a three-mile ice field “with occasional leaps over open spaces.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, February 5, 1915] The ship’s fireman suffers a broken collar bone, the only injury. The captain of the Racine, an all-steel ship that had been leading the Iowa through the ice, says, “I was breaking a way through the ice. It would have been all right if we could have kept moving, but we were stopped by an ice barrier … We heard the ship’s side crack. Then it listed. As it went down the ice sliced through the hull from bow to stern.” Messages transmitted from the Iowa bring personnel at the life saving station at the mouth of the river to action, and fire tugs are sent to the sinking steamer, but they are unable to make their way through the ice pack. The captain of the Iowa, once he is safely on shore, tells the story of the ship’s plight. “We left Racine at midnight last night … It was heavy ice, but we were following the Racine, which was breaking through the lane made by the Alabama … Then came a shock when our vessel stuck … At that time we were less than five miles north by northeast of the government pier. Then ice piled up forward of the Iowa’s starboard gangway and lifted the hurricane deck from the hull. I felt it lifting and walked from the pilot house to the ice below. The deck had been lifted two feet form the hull and water was fast filling the hull … That was at 10:20 a.m. The crew had time to get all their clothes and most of them filled their suit cases. We stood by until 11 o’clock, when the hull went down and the hurricane deck rested on the ice.” This is the second sinking that the Iowa has suffered in a year. It was rebuilt after it was rammed by the Sheboygan and sunk in the Chicago River. One might conclude that the Iowa might do better if it sailed clear of ships named after Wisconsin cities.
February 4, 2009 – In the early morning a fire is discovered in the roof of Holy Name Cathedral, and it burns for more than two hours, damaging the attic of the 134-year-old house of worship and leaving huge holes in the roof. Fortunately, the fire sets off the sprinkler system which keeps the flames away from the interior of the church. Unfortunately, the water from the sprinkler system and from the hoses firefighters use to attack the fire leave the basement half-full of water with icicles hanging from pews and light fixtures. This is a particularly devastating event since the parish is just finishing up a year-long restoration brought about when a large piece of the ceiling broke off and fell to the church floor. Structural engineers determined that a total structural repair of the ceiling was required, along with the strengthening of 32 columns supporting the roof. The church was closed for seven months while the intricately decorated ceiling was replaced. The columns were still a work in progress when the fire broke out, destroying all of the work that had been done on the ceiling restoration. According to the Holy Name website it was fortunate that the earlier work had been done because “According to structural engineers and firefighters, if the piece of the ceiling had not fallen and structural renovations were not undertaken in 2008, the water from the fire … would have been too heavy for the structure and the roof would have collapsed.”[http://holynamecathedral.org] Although work continued on the roof and structural columns, the cathedral re-opened on July 31, 2009, just in time for the wedding of Michael de Franco and Sarah Yoho. Reverend Dan Mayall was ecstatic about the effort workmen made to save the gold-accented ceiling composed of 23,000 pieces of wood. He said, “When people come, they’ll immediately look up, and they always did anyway, because that ceiling is the most beautiful work of art in this place. They were able to save it. The workers were able to save it two years in a row; first from falling down, and then second from the fire.” [https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/Holy-Name-Set-to-Reopen.html]
February 4, 1977 – At least a dozen people are killed and close to 200 are injured when an elevated train falls from the Loop elevated tracks to the street below at Lake Street and Wabash Avenue. The crash occurs in the heart of rush hour, about 5:25 p.m., when an eight-car Lake-Dan Ryan train begins to round the curve at Lake and Wabash and slams into the rear of a Ravenswood train that had stopped to allow a preceding train to clear the station ahead. The second and third cars of the Lake-Dan Ryan train land on their sides in the street, while the first car is propped against the elevated structure with one end resting on the pavement beneath. Police and fire units work for two hours to free people who are trapped in the wreckage. Fire Commissioner Robert Quinn calls the crash “one of the worst wrecks I have seen.” [Chicago Tribune, February 5, 1977] Mayor Michael Bilandic says, “All city departments – police, fire, streets and sanitation, public health – everybody Is here.” Subsequent investigation reveals that the motorman of the Lake-Dan Ryan train, who had a poor safety record, had been smoking marijuana. The best guess was that somehow he had overridden the restrictive cab signal and had left the preceding station at a rate of speed under 15 miles per hour, slower than the speed which would have triggered an automatic control signal that normally would have stopped the train before impact.
February 4, 1944 – A Circuit Court jury awards the owners of the Monadnock block at Jackson and Dearborn Streets, $104,278 for expenses related to shoring up the building to prevent potential damage related to the digging of the Dearborn Street subway, today’s Blue Line. The jury deliberates ten hours before making the award in the first suit alleging damage because of subway construction to go before the court. The owners of the Monadnock say that it cost them $235,000 to reinforce the building because of the subway. The city answers that the foundation of the building had originally encroached 12 feet upon Dearborn Street when the building was constructed, and that the money in question was spent in bringing the building into conformity with its legal limits.
February 4, 1862 -- A man named Frederick Kuntz is arrested for shooting his wife. The Chicago Daily Tribune's coverage of the unfortunate event makes me wish that newspapers could return to this style. The article reads, "Kuntz was formerly a bar-tender in the employ of one William Veitz, who kept a saloon on Wells street, between Washington and Madison streets. In the course of time Veitz died, and the bar-tender married the widow, after she had sported her weeds a sufficient length of time, and succeeded to the charge of the saloon. The honeymoon was brief, for business is business and time is fleeting. Scarcely had it waned ere trouble commenced. The bar-tender manifested an affinity for other widows, and the widow for other bar-tenders. Criminations and recriminations followed, and the spirit of jealousy was aroused upon each side. On Sunday it culminated in a violent quarrel, during which Kuntz drew a revolver and discharged three barrels at her, the contents of the third taking effect in her side and inflicting a dangerous, and if inflammation sets in, a mortal wound." The bar-tender manifested an affinity for other widows, and the widow for other bar-tenders . . . you HAVE to love that kind of reporting!