Tuesday, March 31, 2020

March 31, 1831 -- Post Office Established in Chicago

March 31, 1831 – The United States government establishes a post office in the tiny hamlet of Chicago and appoints Jonathan N. Bailey as post master.  The post office is located in a log cabin approximately where Wacker Drive meets Lake Street today.  According to information gleaned from the December, 1922 issue of Fort Dearborn Magazine [chicagology.com], before the establishment of the post office, mail was brought to Chicago every other week from Niles, Michigan. The small outpost of Chicago had only about a dozen families at the time, along with the garrison at Fort Dearborn. Post Master Bailey served in his position until November 2, 1832 when his son-in-law, John S. C. Hogan, took over the job, moving the post office to the southwest corner of Franklin and what is today’s Wacker Drive.  Chicagology.com notes that the mail carrier “was necessarily a man of tough fibre and strong nerve, for, burdened as he was with his pack, mail pouch and loaded musket, he was forced to keep on his feet day and night wading through snow so deep at times as to require snow shoes.  When overcome with sleep he wrapped himself in his blanket and lay down in a snow-bank, taking such rest as he could with the wolves howling around him.”  By 1837 these intrepid carriers had been replaced by stage coaches that brought the mail to Chicago with increasing frequency.

March 31, 2003 – Under cover of darkness trucks carrying construction equipment move onto Meigs Field and shortly after midnight bulldozers begin to dig six huge “X” marks into the airstrip, stranding 16 privately owned aircraft on the tarmac of an airport that will never function again.  Mike Daffenberg, an air traffic controller at the airport, says he found out he was out of a job on his way to the airport from DeKalb for his 6:00 a.m. shift.  “I felt I was laid off by the radio this morning,” he said.  [Chicago Tribune, April 1, 2003] Mayor Richard M. Daley is unapologetic, and the Tribune observes, “Still stewing because federal authorities were quicker to restrict airspace over Mickey and Minnie at Disney World and Disneyland than they were for Chicago, Daley said his unilateral closure of Meigs was prompted in part by fears that the nation’s homeland security bureaucracy was moving too slowly to address the city’s needs.”  A spokesman for the Aircraft Pilots and Owners Association, Warren Morningstar, says, “We have our version of shock and awe right in downtown Chicago.  What we really are upset about is that the mayor has no honor, and his word has no value.” 

March 31, 1980 – The City Council Building and Zoning Committee unanimously approves plans for River City on the east side of the river’s South Branch, a residential development that will host 1,500 units on a 12-acre site.  The plan is for townhouses and apartments to be placed in six- to eight-story buildings on former railroad land between Polk Street and Roosevelt Road. This will be the second go-round for architect Bertrand Goldberg’s plan for developing a no-man’s land just south of the Loop.  The Chicago Plan Commission rejected his plan for a group of 72-story residential towers, asserting that it would violate density provisions.  Developers of River City are Chessie Systems, Inc., Jerrold Wexler and Edward Ross of Jupiter Corp., and Goldberg.  Ultimately, the project would be scaled back ever further with about 450 residential units filling a serpentine structure.  The community made news at the beginning of 2018 when residents voted to convert the building from condominiums to rental apartments, a decision that created more furor when preservationists objected to a renovation plan that saw the concrete interior walls of the ten-story building painted white.  In the re-purposed building, one can expect to pay close to $2,000 a month for a two-bedroom apartment and a bit under $3,500 for a three-bedroom unit.

March 31, 1893 – The Japanese flag is raised at noon on the Wooded Island in Jackson Park, and dedication ceremonies begin at the Hooden, or sacred palace, that will be the Japanese exhibit at the World’s Columbian Exposition.  Nearly every fair official is present, along with a number of businessmen and leading members of the Japanese community in the city.  The 300 or so guests in attendance are allowed to inspect the temple for a short time before the ceremonies begin.  The architect of the three buildings that make up the exhibit, M. Kuru, explains the plan as the festivities begin, saying “… the three buildings here reproduced represent the styles of architecture which were in vogue from the tenth century to the eighteenth.  Although each of these three epochs has an architectural style distinctive of its own and reproduced here with absolute accuracy they are planned under a general architectural design.  The whole plan is taken from the Hoodo, which is now existing in Uji, Japan.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, April 1,1893] The first portion of the ceremony ends with a note of gratitude to the 24 Japanese laborers who constructed the exhibit.  They respond “in a peculiar manner and clapping their hands.”  Then George R. Davis, the Secretary General of the Fair, rises to speak, constructing his own edifice of over-the-top prose.  “In all time past,” he says, “in all time to come, no celebration of the accomplishments of man, has or will, in my opinion, equal the untold splendor of the Columbian Exposition … to no people of the earth does the Columbian Exposition offer grander or more distinguished advantages and opportunities than to our antipodean friends.  Japan stands in the foreground as a wonderful example of the swift progress of modern development and education.  Japan, in the full consciousness of its wealth and power, realizing to the fullest extent the advantages to be secured, has been prompt and generous in support of the Exposition.  I am glad that I may in this public manner give expression to our satisfaction with the result you have accomplished and the zeal which you and your colaborers have shown in your work through the last winter.”  Potter Palmer and Daniel Burnham also deliver addresses after which the President of the South Park Commissioners, Joseph Donnersberger, discloses that at the conclusion of the fair only two buildings are to remain in Jackson Park – the Japanese pavilion and the Life-Saving Station.  “One was for art,” he says, “the other for utility.”  After the ceremony wraps up the assembled dignitaries retire to the Manufactures Building, where a luncheon is served.  In its appraisal of the exhibit the Chicago Daily Tribune reports, “In the government exhibit will be shown many rare and valuable relics and curiosities.  Many of these belong to the Emperor … The work of the interior decoration was placed in the hands of the Tokyo Art Academy … the material used in the construction is unpainted wood and the spectator is filled with admiration for the many ingenious and effective ways in which these people employ their raw material, their methods of getting the best effects from the natural colors of wood, and the exquisite polish they manage to put upon it.”  The Wooded Island and the Japanese exhibit can be seen in the lower right corner of the above photo.  Off the photo to the left is the building that would become today's Museum of Science and Industry.

March 31, 1890 -- The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that "The Accountant," a painting by Rembrandt van Rijn, will remain in Chicago on display at the Art Institute. The treasure comes by way of Chicago oil man P. C. Hanford, who purchased the painting, valued at the time at $60,000. "I did not want to see it go away from Chicago," said Hanford. "I was waiting for some of our rich people to buy it -- one of the men who could spend the money and not feel it. I am not rich, but I love art. I waited till the last moment. We are going to have a World's Fair here and anything that we can get hold of in the way of art we ought to keep here." [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 31, 1890] You won't find the painting at the Art Institute today. Mr. Hanford sold the work on January 31, 1902 for £4,600 or a little over $22,000. 

Monday, March 30, 2020

March 30, 1971 -- Chicago Stock Exchange Gets a Stay of Execution

March 30, 1971 – Mayor Richard J. Daley orders the Chicago Building Commission to deny a permit that would allow the demolition of the old Chicago Stock Exchange building at 30 North La Salle Street.  Daley also appoints a committee to look into ways to preserve and restore a building that architects Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler designed, a magnificent 13-story structure that has stood since 1894.  The announcement appears to be a reversal of the administration’s position concerning the structure, which had previously seen the City Council deny a request to preserve the building as an historical landmark, a designation that would have meant that it could not be significantly altered without the express consent of the Chicago Historical and Architectural Landmarks Commission and the City Council.  Daley's reversal did not last, and the building was torn down in 1972 after an aggressive campaign to save it, an effort that many would assert led to the preservation movement that has since saved so many notable buildings in the city.  Thanks to the efforts of architect John Vinci and the Art Institute of Chicago, the trading room of the Stock Exchange is on display at the museum while its arched entryway is on display outside the Art Institute on the southwest corner of Monroe Street and Columbus Drive.

March 30, 1945 -- Frank Lloyd Wright addresses the Chicago Chapter of the American Institute of Architects at the Casino Club. He talks at length about "the philosophy of organic architecture" [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 31, 1945] and makes this observation when asked about the future of cities, "Cities are just as dated as static and the radio. Americans just want to live. Cities are not important. The reality of buildings consists of space within -- to live in. The old period of putting the outside in -- is gone." The photo above was taken in 1945, the year of the Casino Club address.

March 30, 1902 – The Chicago Daily Tribune runs a feature on two men, Charles Erickson and John Axelson, who are responsible for switching 3,222 streetcars each day, “the hundreds of cable trains that crawl out of the La Salle street tunnel every day and follow one another in rapid succession into different sections of the North Side traversed by the cable system.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 1902] Each man works nine hours on a job that “must be done no matter what the condition of the weather may be, and it must be done without the protection of shelter of any sort.  In winter and summer, when it is cold and when it is hot, when it rains and when the sun shines ….” The job entails making certain that cars running in Wells Street and Clark Street get around the curve at LaSalle Street and Illinois Street.  The key to the operation is the mouth of the LaSalle Street tunnel where as soon as the switchman “sees the sign on the top he knows how to set his switches.”  There is virtually no time during the nine-hour shift when a train is not rounding the curve.  Erickson says, “It’s not such hard work, but you have to keep your eyes open and your hands busy.  In winter it is harder than in summer, because the switches freeze and cannot be handled so easily as in warm weather … The first car from the barns in the morning reaches the curve at 5:45 o’clock, and the last one at night passes here at 12:50.  Between those hours there is scarcely a minute that the man on duty is not busy with the switch.”  The first cable car in the city ran at 2:30 p.m. on January 28, 1882, and the last one arrived at the Twenty-First Street powerhouse on October 21, 1906.  At the turn of the century Chicago had the second largest cable car system of any city in the nation, which would morph into the largest streetcar system in the world in the ensuing decades.  Note that the building behind the switchman in the 1902 Tribune feature still stands today at 500 North La Salle Street.  It is the old powerhouse for the La Salle Street cable cars.

Chicago Historical Society
March 30, 1890 – With the news that the U. S. House of Representatives has granted Chicago the rights to build a World’s Fair with the proviso that the city must provide $10,000,000 to see the project through, the Chicago Daily Tribune solicits comments from readers about what they would do for the city if they had that sum to spend. The answers, according to the Tribune, offer a few pointers to Mayor DeWitt Clinton Cregier.  Here are a scattering of the responses culled from dozens of items, some signed, some unsigned:   

I would at least pay my honest taxes, and that’s more than nine-tenths of our $10,000,000 men of today do. – G. F. Blesch

Offer [Mayor] Cregier a bonus over his salary for the rest of his term to give up the job and let some 11-year-old schoolboy run the Mayor’s office.  The Mayor needs a rest; the boy would do better.

Give half of it to the City of Chicago if the city would do just two things before 1893 – viz.: clear the Lake Front from that intolerable nuisance, the railroad tracks, and make the Lake-Front Park into a beautiful public garden, something after the style of the Boston public garden.  – Franklin Rogers

I would use my best endeavors to abate some of the nuisances, especially the outrageous stenches and the black clouds of soot and smoke that constantly hang like a pall over the city, enveloping and disfiguring everybody and everything.  By such expenditure of my money I would feel sure that I had benefited the entire population and millions of visitors, as well as the City of Chicago.  – H. N. Blood, Rockford, Ill.

I would try and make an honest government in Chicago and start with the root of all evils – first the Aldermen.  I would engage the best of detectives to watch and set traps for them and then pay a lawyer to assist the State’s Attorney to send the boodlers over the road. I would not let up on them till thieves gave up running for office and only honest men could be induced to represent the people.  – Paul Mann

Every year I would pay whatever I was honestly and proportionally entitled to pay in the way of State, county, city, and personal taxes, which is something men rarely do when they become worth the above-named sum, preferring rather to represent themselves as being worth about $687.60 and paying taxes in proportion to that amount, thereby cheating the city out of thousands of dollars every year.  In this way I would be doing for the city a rare and unusual thing, and one which would be appreciated by all decent citizens, though amounting to nothing more than paying my honest bill.  – E. J. W.

I would buy at least 1,000 acres of land and then provide a home and school for Chicago’s most unfortunate children, the poor, feeble-minded, of which Chicago has at least 1,000, among whom at least two-thirds could in some way or another be taught something so they would not be such a burden to their parents and themselves.  – Anna Thonagel

I would put every cent into building an endowment for a Chicago university for manual training that should become the pride, glory and blessing of what is yet designed to be the grandest city on the whole earth.  – Andrew S. Cutler

I would buy St. Louis, annex it to Chicago as one of our suburbs, and make the residents acquainted with the new “slow time” service.  That would be the only suburb that would not kick against slow rides – as they are used to anything slow.  – S. G. Morris

I would quit Chicago before the 1st of April not to be compelled to breathe the same air with the nominated boodle candidates for city representatives.  – C. H.

I think the best service to which $10,000,000 could be put in Chicago would be for the benefit of the physical condition of the people, removing unhealthy and unsightly structures, building conveniently arranged tenement flats with gardens on the roofs, doing away with the smoke nuisance, inaugurating elevated roads and rapid transit, making parks, and widening streets with fountains and free air space. The body is the soil out of which the soul springs.  – C. S. Austin

March 30, 1853 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports on a court case that will continue to have an impact on the city for well over a century.  The case involves a suit which James H. Collins files against the Illinois Central Railroad Company, in which Collins attempts to enjoin the railroad from running its tracks “in the lake at some distance from the shore.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 30, 1853] The nut of the case is that the railroad, by constructing tracks off shore, will impact the value of privately held property along the lake.  The attorney for Collins, John M. Wilson, argues that “the State has the right to use the waters of the Lake for all public purposes,” but that “the State cannot give the company this power.”  The attorney for the railroad argues that “the Legislature of the State of Illinois has passed a law giving to the Illinois Central Railroad Company so much of the lands belonging to the State as they may pass through and as may be necessary for the laying of the track and the construction of depots.”  As the day drags on, a lawyer for Collins says, “It is a conceded point, that if the complainants are the owners of property where the Company proposes to locate their road, that property cannot be taken, except by legal measures, and not then unless due compensation is made … This Company seeks with the strong arm of power to take this property and these advantages, without compensating the owners … There is no authority to sustain the position that one owning land upon a body of water can be cut off from the water and its attendant advantages, without compensation.” In a January, 1951 article the Chicago Tribune made an interesting point about the transaction that came following the Collins vs. I.C. case, “The Illinois Central did not ask for its lake front tracksite.  That was assigned to it by the city.  The lake at that time came right up to Michigan av.  I. C. historians assert the city decided it would be a nice thing to have a railroad between itself and the open lake, and stuck the Illinois Central out there for protection.”  In any event, the railroad got the land, built a trestle, and occupied prime lakefront real estate for a century or more, sparring with the city over its position on lakefront land for most of that time.  The above photo shows the train that carried the body of Abraham Lincoln to the city as it moves along the lakefront trestle in 1865.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

March 29, 2013 -- Chicago River Walk to Be Extended to Lake Street

March 29, 2013 – United States Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announces that a $100 million federal loan to extend Chicago’s river walk from State Street to Lake Street is a “done deal”.  As envisioned, the Riverwalk will focus on the history and ecology of the river, include a zero-depth fountain for children, kayak rentals, and a section with floating gardens.  LaHood says that about 70 percent of the revenue for the loan repayment will come from higher fees that two companies – Mercury Skyline Yacht Charters and Wendella Sightseeing --  will pay the city to dock boats along the river.  It is anticipated that there will be a significant contribution from retail space and other amenities and vendors along the river.  Mayor Rahm Emanuel says, “The truth is, we’re now at a juncture in the history of the city of reintroducing the city to the river and the river to the city.”  [Chicago Tribune, March 29, 2013]  

March 29, 1970 – The Chicago Tribune reports on new construction at 111 East Wacker Drive, beginning with the statement, “To many, the 111 E. Wacker Drive building is just another glass box or another building designed with the distinctive flair of Mies van der Rohe.” [Chicago Tribune, March 29, 1970]  One of the architects on the project, Gerald Johnson, working in the office of Mies van der Rohe, quickly corrects the stereotype, saying, “This is architecture for today and tomorrow.  It is clean and current and will express the twentieth and the twenty-first century.”  How appropriate it is, then, that this “clean and current” commercial tower standing on the south side of the river, is today the home of the Chicago Architecture Center. Johnson points out the volumetric aspects of the building with the glass at ground level giving a sense of openness and a defined formal entrance, the clear glass at this level contrasting with the tinted glass of the windows above.  Gone is the symmetrical rendering of older designs.  Instead, there is a regularity at work with the building’s corner columns rising up from the plaza and running all the way to the top of the building without being covered by the glass of the curtain wall.  Instead of classical ornamentation or terra cotta details one sees in so many earlier Chicago buildings, there is a meticulous order in the details of the plan, a technical precision that one may not notice at first. The terrazzo squares of the floor for example, are laid in five-foot squares with the joints of the floor slabs meeting the joints of the granite wall slabs precisely and bisecting the building’s supporting columns with equal precision.  Johnson says, “There is order in the design and it makes people comfortable, whether they are aware of it or not.”  Although Mies van der Rohe died in 1969, a year before 111 East Wacker Drive opened, a partner in the firm, Joseph Fujikawa oversaw its completion.  It was the first building put up in the new Illinois Center development by Metropolitan Structures, Inc., the firm that descended from real estate developer Herbert Greenwald, who died in the crash of American Airlines Flight 320 on February 3, 1959 and who was responsible for a collaboration with Mies van der Rohe that did much to change the style of architecture in the city.  

March 29, 1968 – Millions of dollars of damage is done to Carson, Pirie, Scott and Co., and minor damage to Wieboldt’s and Montgomery Ward and Co. as fires of suspicion origin call firefighters to State Street.  An estimated 25,000 spectators gather at State and Madison Streets during the noon hour on a Saturday as rumors quickly spread that all of State Street is on fire.  Extra alarms bring 280 firemen and more than 100 pieces of fire equipment to the area.  The most serious fire at Carson’s apparently starts on the sixth floor in a department that houses art and picture frames.  It quickly spreads to the seventh floor as firefighters break big windows on the sixth floor of the State Street side of the building to get water onto the flames.  Fire Commissioner Quinn says that the fire suppression system on the sixth floor of the building was inoperative because of ongoing remodeling work.  A Carson’s official says that losses would run into the millions, and the store would be closed until an inventory could be taken.  Directly across Madison Street firefighters are able to put out the fire at Wieboldt’s with fire extinguishers. Fire equipment is moved two blocks south on State Street when a fire is next reported at Montgomery Ward’s.  Windows are broken on the third and fourth floors so that firefighters can get some of the smoke out of the building.  Another fire is reported at Goldblatt Brothers State Street store, but firefighters find no working fire although an employee reports that he extinguished a corner of a smoldering bedspread in the furniture department by smothering it between his thumb and forefinger.  At least three firefighters are injured and require hospital treatment for smoke inhalation.  Thousands of customers and employees are evacuated from Carson’s and Wieboldt’s, none of them with a stranger story than 23-year-old Pam Meyers, a Carson’s employee.  She is under a hair dryer at the Carson’s hair salon when everyone is ordered to leave the store.  Customers at the beauty shop are taken to the Wieboldt’s salon where Meyers hears the second fire alarm of the day.  Happily, she makes it on time to her wedding that evening at the Church of the Atonement.  The bridegroom, Eugene Holland, shows up without his wedding suit, which is still at the Carson’s store.  Carson’s and the Chicago Tribune each offer $25,000 rewards for information leading to the arrest of the parties responsible for the fires.

March 29, 1917 -- The Chicago City Council receives the design for a city flag, designed by Wallace Rice, and submitted by the Chicago Flag Commission. The commission describes the flag in this way: "Its uppermost stripe, of white, is eight inches broad; the second stripe of blue is nine inches; the central bar, of white is eighteen inches, and the two lower stripes correspond with the uppermost two. Near the staff on the broad white stripe are two six pointed red stars, fourteen inches tall. Viewed locally, the two blue stripes symbolize the Chicago river with its two branches and the three white bars represent the three sides of the city. The red stars stand for the Chicago fire and the World's fair [of 1893], two great influences on the city's history. The six points in the first star stand for transportation, trade, finance, industry, populousness, and healthfulness; those in the second for religion, education, aesthetics, beneficence, justice and civism. Considered nationally the blue stripes stand for the mountain ranges which flank the plain of which Chicago is the center. The central white bar stands for this plain and the two outer white bars for the Atlantic and Pacific coasts." [Chicago Tribune, March 30, 1917]. Two stars have been added to the flag since this first attempt. One corresponds to the establishment of Fort Dearborn in 1807; it was added in 1939. Added in 1933, the final star symbolizes the Century of Progress World's Fair, held on the lakefront in the summers of 1933 and 1934.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

March 28, 1990 -- Milwaukee Clipper Sentenced to Auction

March 28, 1990 – U. S. District Court Judge William Hart issues an order to sell the 85-year-old S. S. Clipper, the former Milwaukee Clipper, at auction on May 2 with only minimum bids of $100,000 accepted.  Alan Amos, the custodian for the 361-foot-long former Great Lakes pleasure cruiser, says that he has received about 30 inquiries about the ship.  He says, “As far as I can recall, none of them came from scrap yards.”  Although there are more than $500,000 in claims filed against the owner of the ship, the vessel will be sold free from those claims, according to Judge Hart. The Clipper was built in 1904 as the Juanita by the Anchor Line of the Erie and Western Transportation Company. According to the National Park Service, “For savvy and well-heeled travelers, the steamer Juanita offered the epitome of first-class Great Lakes coastal maritime travel between Buffalo, New York, and Duluth, Minnesota.” [www.nps.gov]  The Juanita was rebuilt in 1940 and renamed the Milwaukee Clipper. The ship had facilities to load and store 120 cars as well as a dance hall, bar, movie theater, casino, soda fountain, children’s nursery, and cafeteria.  She began service between Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Muskegon, Michigan on June 3, 1941, a service that ended in 1970.  The ship was moored in Muskegon from 1970 to 1977 at which point she was renamed the S. S. Clipper and moved to Chicago’s Navy Pier to serve as a restaurant and floating museum.  In 1983 the ship was named to the National Register of Historic Places and in 1989 she was designated a National Historic Landmark.  In 1990 the S. S. Clipper was moved to Hammond, Indiana as the centerpiece for a new marina, and seven years later an organization purchased the boat and moved it once again to Muskegon, where Milwaukee Clipper Preservation, Inc. set about the enormous task of raising funds to restore the vessel.  Today the ship is a floating museum, moored at a pier in Muskegon at the corner of Lakeshore Drive and McCracken Street.

March 28, 1974 – Appearing before a United States Senate sub-committee on water resources, Mayor Richard J. Daley once again talks about swimming with the fishes.  The committee is reviewing plans for the proposed Deep Tunnel project and its 120 miles of waste water tunnels designed to eliminate flooding and clean up the city’s waterways.  Speaking to the committee chairman, Senator Mike Gravel, the mayor says, “Senator Mike, we hope to clean up the Chicago River so you can fish in the river at noontime.  And with the help of the President of the Forest Preserve District, we hope to have a forest preserve, too, and you can barbecue your fish.” [Chicago Tribune, March 19, 1974]  When Gravel asks Daley to place a value on the benefits that would come from a project as expensive as the Deep Tunnel, the mayor responds, “How do you put a value on young people in the inner city being able to fish in the river, which they never had before?  Would you say $500, or $1,000?  It is very difficult to put a value on that.”  The hearing is held at the headquarters of the Metropolitan Sanitary District as a first step in obtaining federal funds to help carry out the huge project.

March 28, 1943 -- Chicago officially becomes a city with a subway when at 3:18 p.m. a three-car train leaves the elevated tracks south of Arrmitage Avenue and enters the Clybourn-Diviision-State Street tube, today's Red Line. The train carries newspaper reporters and about 150 employees of the subway department. Operating the train is Charles Blade of 1127 Newport Avenue, an elevated lines motorman for 29 years. Since Blade has never seen the inside of a subway, an electrical engineer, C. J. Beck, stands at his shoulder. Although Chicago's first subway will not officially open for another six months, this trip and another one on April 2, 1943, shown in the photo above, are made just in time for the re-election campaign of Mayor Ed. Kelly.  According to the Chicago Daily Tribune, "Women standing in their backyards waved as the train dipped into the ground. Kids lined the railings. A passenger shouted for a bottle of champagne to christen the subway but only a cask of drinking water had been brought along."

March 28, 1930 – The United States Postmaster General, Walter Brown, refuses to approve plans submitted by Chicago architect Ernest R. Graham for a new $14,000,000 post office, sending the plans back to the firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst and White for revision.  Brown says, “This is the first time I have given the matter my personal attention.  Up until 10 days or two weeks ago the whole proposition was handled by subordinates.  Then the exterior plans arrived.  I took one look at them and decided they were no good.  Mr. Graham has submitted plans for an unsightly … building.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 29, 1930] In Chicago an exasperated Graham says, “I have submitted not one but three different sets of plans.  One of those was for a flat roofed building on which airplanes could land … I do not consider any of the plans are of an unsightly building, but efficient in handling the vast amount of mail in the largest post office in the world was a large consideration.” Representatives of Chicago builders and labor unions meet as soon as the news reaches the city.  As the Depression grinds the workers of the city into poverty, there is desperation in trying to get such a massive project off the ground.  A telegram is sent to Washington, D.C. tersely stating, “Unemployment conditions in Chicago very serious.  Possibly more than 60 per cent of building trades have been out of work prior to Jan. 1.  Urgently request that you make every effort with postoffice department to hasten plans at once in order for construction work on new postoffice building in Chicago to be started as soon as possible.”  The pressure had its intended effect; the above photo shows the completed post office building in 1932.

Friday, March 27, 2020

March 27, 1966 -- Lake and Van Buren Become One-Way Streets

March 27, 1966 – Lake and Van Buren Streets become one-way streets on this day with Lake Street carrying eastbound traffic between Wacker Drive and State Street and Van Buren carrying westbound traffic between State Street and Wacker Drive.  Additionally, one-way traffic on Madison Street will be extended from its current ending point at Franklin Street to Jefferson Street.  Except for Lake Street east of State Street every east-west street in the Loop is now a one-way street.  

March 27, 1969 – The Port of Chicago Unification Study Committee forwards a study to the Illinois Economic Development Commission that recommends closure of Navy Pier as a Chicago port in favor of new facilities in the Calumet region.  The announcement precedes by one day hearings in the State of Illinois building, 160 North La Salle Street, into widespread dock thefts that “threaten the future of Chicago as an inland seaport.” [Chicago Tribune, March 28, 1969] The committee’s report is unflinching in its appraisal, stating, “We must question the wisdom of assuming a bonded debt of 11.4 million dollars on a facility that currently is operating at a deficit and has such a limited potential for future use. The future of the port lies in the South Chicago area.” The report describes Navy Pier as a “deficit operation” with annual losses between $644,900 and $843,800 with $11.4 million in bonds still outstanding  It recommends state funds be diverted from Navy Pier to develop a lakefront port at the mouth of the Calumet River, property owned by the Youngstown Steel Company. Other urban ports have begun to adapt to the shipping industry’s approach of shipping merchandise in large steel containers to reduce pilferage, and the commission makes clear that the facilities at Navy Pier will never be adequate to support this new method of operation.  The head of the commission, Arthur B. Gottschalk, says, “We don’t believe money should be spent at Navy Pier to build more warehouses, piers, and jetties which would destroy our beaches and valuable lakefront property.  A container port there is simply out of the question.”  The above photo shows the pier in 1961 when it was still struggling valiantly to do the business of handling the city's shipping needs.

March 27, 1939 – William Bryce Mundie dies at the age of 75.  Mundie was born in Hamilton, Ontario and moved to Chicago in 1884 at the age of 21 where he began working as a draftsman for William Le Baron Jenney.  By 1891 he was a full partner in Jenney’s firm and had married Jenney’s niece.  Mundie was therefore in on the development of the earliest metal-framed commercial buildings, and his expertise led to his being named the supervising architect for the Chicago Board of Education from 1898 to 1905.  He designed Wendell Phillips High School, along with Armour, Coonley, Hamilton, Patrick Henry, Plamondon, Darwin, Jungman and Sullivan elementary schools.  Mundie was a charter member of the Cliff Dwellers, a member of the Union League Club, the Chicago Yacht Club, and a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, for which he served as vice-president for many years.  Muncie's Wendell Phillips High School is pictured above.

March 27, 1935 -- Officials of the Electro-Motive Company, a subsidiary of General Motors Corporation, break ground for a new plant in McCook, at which diesel-electric locomotives will be produced. H. L. Hamilton, the president of the company, says, "This new industry created by the railroads' demand for high speeds is as strange to us as it is to Chicago . . . we are planning in such a way that we can add to the plant as we get experience in the new art of building locomotives with diesel-electric power plants." Just west of Chicago, McCook, with a population of under 400, makes a particularly attractive choice for the locomotive manufacturer. First, it is close to the Indiana Harbor Belt line tracks, so getting raw materials in and finished locomotives out will be fairly easy. Secondly, the area has a bed of Niagara limestone just below the surface, an excellent foundation for the heavy fabricating equipment of the new production facility. In 1938 the first road freight is tested on an 83,764 mile, 11-month run. The test shows that the locomotive can do twice the work of a steam engine at half the cost. With Chicago's ever more stringent ordinances against smoke pollution (the first such legislation went back at least to 1909), the new plant in McCook was profitable from the beginning. It stopped producing locomotives in 1991 when operations were transferred to London, Ontario. Pictured above is demonstrator FT103, the innovation that changed an industry.

Angus S. Hibbard
March 27, 1923 – At a luncheon of the Electric Club of Chicago, held at the Morrison Hotel, Angus S. Hibbard, a consulting engineer and former vice-president of the Chicago Telephone Company, puts forth a plan for placing shops on new fixed bridges as part of his idea to “roof” the Chicago River with a 200-foot boulevard and parking garage.  Hibbard says, “Workers taking their noonday rest, in the parks on top of the garage would have no traffic policeman’s whistle constantly shrieking in their ears ... On either side of the boulevard will be ideal sites for hotels, theaters, or public buildings.  And the bridges, being fixed, will be bridges no longer, but will become integral parts of the cross streets, and might very properly be lined with small shops.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 28, 1923]  The river roof that Hibbard proposes would accommodate autos on its upper deck and four railroad tracks on the lower level.  “The usefulness of the Chicago river is past,” Hibbard says.  The
harbor of the city is on the Calumet, where, I am told, there is more water traffic than there is on the Suez canal.  The type of freight now transported by water is carried in barges too big to make the turns in the Chicago river.”  Mr. Hibbard was no slouch in terms of engineering and management.  At the age of 21 he was made the General Superintendent of the Wisconsin Telephone Company, where he supervised the creation of more than 50 telephone exchanges.  Five years later he went to New York City where in seven years he oversaw extension of telephone lines northward to Boston, Albany and Buffalo; westward to Chicago and Milwaukee; and southward to Washington, D. C.  He was responsible for a number of patents related to the telephone and even designed the "Blue Bell" long distance telephone emblem.  [www.cjow.com]

Thursday, March 26, 2020

March 26, Wells Street Bridge Moved to Dearborn

google earth
March 26, 1888 – A Chicago Daily Tribune article begins with a riddle … “There is no bridge at Wells street, yet there is still a Wells street bridge; there is no Dearborn street bridge, though there is a bridge at Dearborn street.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 27, 1888]  The answer to the puzzle occurred on the preceding day when 3,000 Chicagoans turn out at 5:30 a.m. to watch as the Wells Street bridge is moved off its center pier onto the decks of two pairs of boats  and moved east to Dearborn Street.  Each pair of ships “filled with water till their decks were nearly on a level with the surface of the river" takes a position at opposite ends of the turntable on which the bridge sits.  In order to lift the bridge off the center pier, 16 men man four hand pumps on each boat, working from 10:00 a.m. until noon when it is clear that a portion of the weight of the bridge is resting on the decks of the boats.  At this point steam pumps operating from two tug boats hasten the process until the bridge rests fully on the decks of the boats.  Slowly, the bridge is turned parallel to the banks of the river and slowly floated down to Dearborn Street, squeezing through the draw of the Clark Street bridge where “a half dozen crewmen … threw their shoulders against the pier and prevented a collision, though the end of the scow grated against the heavy timbers with a thrillingly suggestive sound.”  By 6:45 p.m. the bridge is safe at Dearborn Street, where it will wait for mechanical elements left behind at Wells Street to be installed on the pier at Dearborn Street.  The top photo shows the Wells Street bridge that replaced the span floated down to Dearborn Street.  The structure with the clock tower on the other side of the bridge is the terminal for the Chicago and North Western Railroad.  The second photo shows the area as it appears today.

March 26, 1962 – Six police squadrols are called to the Front Page Lounge at 530 Rush Street where 39 men and a woman are arrested after two detectives find two men kissing each other at the bar and several other men dancing.  The two men are charged with public indecency.  The other 36 men and the woman, a server at the bar, are charged with disorderly conduct.  Before the raid at the Rush Street bar, charges are also filed against a dozen men arrested in a raid at the Patio Theater 6008 Irving Park Road.  The men are arrested inside the theater on March 25 after police detectives allegedly witness “lewd acts.” [Chicago Tribune, March 27, 1962]

March 26, 1954 – The Chicago Land Clearance Commission authorizes a special study of the $400 million Fort Dearborn redevelopment project proposed for the Near North Side. The study will determine whether the project can be funded with public money as well as investigating the scope of condemnation allowable under state and federal law.  The project as planned will cover 151 acres along the north bank of the river and will include a new $165 million civic center, a University of Illinois campus, and 5,000 units of middle-income housing in privately-funded apartment buildings.  Developer Arthur Rubloff initiated the project five years earlier as an urban renewal effort to revive the old industrial and railroad property north of the river.  The proposed development was met with controversy as two organizations in the area led a resistance effort, claiming that the very prospect of the project had radically destabilized real estate values by creating uncertainty about the area’s future.  [McGowan, Stephen.  Urban Politics:  A Reader] Opposition also came from key business leaders and merchants in the Loop, primarily because of the civic center proposal.  With the publication in 1958 of the Development Plan for the Central Area of Chicago, the opponents won the battle, and the Fort Dearborn project was dead.  The black and white photo captures the area that would be developed under the Fort Dearborn plan. The second photo shows the area as it looks today.

March 26, 1888 – The formal opening of the North Chicago Street Railroad takes place with “speeches, music, enthusiasm, and a crowd, not to mention bunting, flags, and flowers.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 27, 1888] As early as 10:00 a.m. people begin to gather outside the power house at the corner of North Clark and Elm Streets.  At 11:15 a.m. company president Charles Tyson Yerkes appears with dignitaries that include Mayor John Roche, who makes a few brief remarks. The band plays America and there are other speeches and more music before Yerkes finally rises to say, “I find that there is nothing left for me to talk on.  The previous speakers got hold of my notes and I am practically left out.  I thank the people of the North Side for their patience in waiting for the fulfillment of the promises which are made.  They now see the great work upon which we were so long engaged.  I thank the city officials for the aid they have given us.  I wish to thank the press for their uniform kindness.  They have always been on our side.” After the band plays The Beautiful Blue Danube at 12:05 two thousand people rush the tracks, trying to get on the first car.  At 1:05 p.m. the cars make it through the crowds and reach the entrance to the La Salle Street tunnel.  Teams of horses are used to pull the cars over the crossing of tracks at Clark and Wells, and a horse pulling Car Number 186 is spooked by the crowd and dashes into it, throwing several onlookers into the mud and slush.  The first car to return passes out of the tunnel at 1:22 p.m., having made the tour of La Salle, Monroe and Dearborn streets in 17 minutes.  The first serious problem occurs at 5:30 p.m. when an accident with the grip on one car at Wisconsin Street ties up the cars behind it for 45 minutes.

March 26, 1867 -- Dwight Heald Perkins is born in Memphis, Tennessee. If a Chicago architect -- if an architect anywhere -- has been more forgotten by history, it is this guy. So skilled that he was asked to serve as an instructor at M.I.T. after only two years as a student, he returned to Chicago in 1888 and went to work with Burnham and Root in February of 1889. After the conclusion of the 1893 fair Daniel Burnham was forced to downsize the office and regretfully parted with Perkins. But he gave him the commission to design the Steinway Building, a gesture that says much about both men. It was in Perkins's offices in the Steinway building that Frank Lloyd Wright came to work after parting with Louis Sullivan as did a number of other architects who came to prominence in the following decades. The Chicagoland area would be a far different place today if it were not for Perkins. He co-wrote the 1905 Metropolitan Parks Report, a document that began a campaign for planned open space, set aside from development, a report that preceded the great Chicago Plan of 1909 by four years. It was also in 1905 that he was named Chief Architect for the Chicago Board of Education, a post he occupied for five years. In those five years he designed 40 school buildings. If in an entire career an architect could design one building as beautiful as Carl Schurz High School at Milwaukee and Addison, pictured above, he or she could end that career assured of having made an incalculable contribution.