Thursday, February 6, 2020

February 6, 1892 -- Art Institute Construction Contract Signed

February 6, 1892 – The contract for construction of the new Art Institute of Chicago is awarded to the Jonathan Clark and Sons Company.  The amount specified in the contract is $325,000 (near $9,000,000 in today’s dollars) although the total expenditure for the building is expected to approach nearly three times that amount.  The contractor states that in the upcoming week the razing of the Industrial Exposition Building, with a main entrance on Adams Street, will begin with the process of demolition expected to end sometime around March 15.  Funds for the new Art Palace will come from three sources.  The sale of the Art Institute’s former building has brought in $275,000.  The World’s Fair Directory has promised the sum of $200,000, and Charles L. Hutchinson, President of the Art Institute, has raised $55,000 through private subscription.  The contractor is under considerable pressure to complete the building with dispatch.  According to the contract, it must be ready by May 1, 1893 or the World’s Fair Directors are released from their contractural obligation to pay any amount of the $200,000 they have pledged.  The contractor, therefore, is under “forfeiture bonds” amounting to $100,000 if the building is not finished by the specified date.  In the above photo the museum nears completion as the Illinois Central Railroad continues to surround it with coal smoke.

Bartholomew photo
February 6, 1952 – What is believed to be the largest block of granite ever used in a project in the Midwest is hoisted into place at the site of the Alexander Hamilton memorial west of Stockton Drive at the far northern edge of Lincoln Park.  The block of red granite weighs over 26 tons and stands eight feet high.  It is the final product of three attempts to wrest the impressive block from a quarry in Cold Springs, Minnesota with the first two attempts ruined by blasting.  The granite block will form the base on which the 13-foot statue of Hamilton will stand in front of an 80-foot reinforced concrete pylon, faced with black granite.  It is expected that the memorial will cost between $500,000 and $550,000 with the sum underwritten with funds from the trust fund that Kate Sturges Buckingham left for the project when she died in 1937.  The statue of Hamilton, by New York sculptor John Angel, has been in storage in the city since it was completed in 1941.  Getting to this point has been an arduous process mired in legal battles.  For more on the story you can turn to this entry in Connecting the Windy City.  At the beginning of the summer of 2017 the newly re-gilded statue of Hamilton was placed back on the granite pedestal after an absence of nearly three years.

February 6, 1911 -- The Chipperfield legislative commission on submerged lands reports that land estimated to be worth at least $250,000,000 has been "grabbed" from the public by private interests. The report identified 420 individuals, corporations, and private clubs that occupied "made" land -- land that was created by fill or natural causes -- along the coastline of the city and the banks of the Chicago River. The Illinois Central railroad was charged with illegally occupying 400 acres while the Chicago Dock and Canal company was accused of holding 60 acres of poached land. The report was especially harsh on the I. C., asserting "It is a history which reads like a romance, as to how the Illinois Central, starting in with a strip of land 200 feet in width from the city limits northward, has continued to grasp and extend until now substantially 400 acres of the most valuable lands in the city of Chicago are in its possession." Today's Ogden Slip, loaded with upscale high rises, was one such piece of created land. Abraham Lincoln was paid $350.00 to draft the paperwork that created the Chicago Dock and Canal Company, which built it.  The top picture was taken in 1985.  The photo below it shows how the area continues to evolve.  When Fort Dearborn was erected on the edge of the lake back in 1803 this entire area was under water.
February 6, 1910 –The Chicago Daily Tribune features the city’s “automobile row,” claiming that “Chicago has the most imposing automobile row of any city in the country, and claim for a world’s record might well be made without much chance of there being any dispute over the assertion.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, February 6, 1910]  Noting that most of the automobile establishments extend form Twelfth Street to Thirty-First Street on South Michigan Avenue, the paper estimates that 31 establishments exist with operations that amount to over $4,000,000.  The Studebaker company is building a seven-story building at Twenty-First Street and Michigan at a cost of $400,000.  The Maxwell concern has already occupied its new showroom for the previous two months.  Locomobile’s new showroom is at the southwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Twentieth Street in a brand-new $250,000 establishment.  Packard, Stoddard-Dayton, Courtier, Peerless, and Marmon are all awaiting the construction of buildings.  Already set up for business on Michigan Avenue are Pierce Arrow at 2420, Cadillac at 2412, Overland at 2425, Premier at 2329 and Moline at 1508.  The paper reports, “New cars come in and old ones go out, but still the list grows, and it is hardly likely that even New York eclipses Chicago as to the total number of makes represented.”  The former home of the Premier Automobile Company is shown above.

February 6, 1879 – Thirty-one years after its completion, the Illinois and Michigan canal has fallen far short of its original expectations, and it is clear that the canal must either be dramatically enlarged or a new canal constructed.  There is a scheme afoot that would have the Illinois state legislature file suit for the land between Michigan Avenue and the lake and, once legal jurisdiction is established, sell the land, using the proceeds to complete the necessary improvement of the canal.  In an editorial the Chicago Daily Tribune strongly criticizes the plan.  The editorial states, “With the same fatality which will induce men to abandon work, and look day after day to be made rich by drawing a prize in the lottery, the professed friends of the canal have grasped at the delusive suggestion of recovering the Lake-Front, estimated wildly as worth several millions of dollars; that the State shall sell it, and with the proceeds complete the canal … All of the assumptions of fact leading up to the legal opinion that the Canal Commissioners ‘ceded’ any land illegally to the city are wholly gratuitous, and of course the recitals … that there is an immense property in the City of Chicago belonging to the Canal Fund are all equally fallacious, and the only effect of such extravagant resolutions is to suspend or defeat all further appropriations by the Legislature for the canal.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, February 6, 1879] The editorial basically shouts, “Knock it off” with the legal wrangling and get to work on finding the funding to do the job.  “We suggest,” the editorial concludes, “therefore, that those who so earnestly desire the completion of the canal will not permit themselves to be any further diverted by specious suggestions of the enemies of the canal, but will press directly for such legislation as will preserve the canal from decay and from destruction by its railroad rivals.”  The above photo shows Michigan Avenue and the lakefront in the 1880's just south of what would become the Art Institute.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This picture is looking South from Jackson Street at the Leland Hotel and Hotel Richlieu on Michigan Avenue, Chicago, in 1887. The picture was taken just south of the Interstate Industrial Exposition Building. The Expo building was razed in 1892 for the new Art Institute building.