Friday, March 20, 2020

March 20, 1985 -- Chicago Theatre Heads toward New Life
March 20, 1985 – The Chicago City Council approves a plan to borrow $13.5 million from its federal community development grant fund to help save the Chicago Theatre.  The plan proposes to lend the money to a group of private investors for a period of two years, allowing them to buy the theater and redevelop it.  Led by attorney Marshall Holeb, the investors are ready to sink $10 million of their own money into a project that is expected to cost $28.5 million.  The renovation will be led by the architectural firm of Daniel P. Coffey and Associates, Ltd. with interior design consultants A. T. Heinsbergen and Co. also participating.  The theater was restored to the French Baroque radiance that was a part of the Cornelius W. and George L. Rapp design when it opened in 1921.  The revitalized 3,600-seat venue reopened on September 10, 1986 with a performance by Frank Sinatra.  Included in the project was the restoration of the Page Building, immediately to the north, a project that provided office space to support the revitalized theater and saved a building that is a Chicago landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

March 20, 1967 – The members of the Chicago Blackhawks are honored in the City Council chambers for bringing home Chicago’s first National Hockey League title.  Each player receives a certificate of merit and Mayor Daley presents team captain Pierre Pilote and chairman of the board Arthur M. Wirtz with the five-foot high Mayor Daley trophy.  Despite rain and slush, fans turn out to see the team’s parade which starts at State Street and Wacker Drive, led by the 88-piece Chicago Fire Department band.  Bobby Hull almost misses the festivities at City Hall when he is delayed by autograph seekers and barred from entering the council chambers by the sergeant at arms who tells him there is no more room. Fortunately, fans stationed near the door alert the official that the man trying to get in is the Golden Jet who scored 52 goals and assisted on another 28 during the season and notched another four goals in the play-offs.  The Hawks finished first in regular season play, but lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs, four games to two, in the playoff's semi-finals.
March 20, 1951 – The Illinois Commerce Commission receives a complaint filed by the State’s Attorney’s office on behalf of Miss Vera Johnson.  She charges the railroad with operating a “Jim Crow” car on its City of New Orleans passenger train.  The complaint states that on a trip to Canton, Mississippi on July 1, 1950 Johnson’s ticket was stamped “Car 2” and “she had to walk the length of the train to the last car where a ‘Jim Crow’ car had been provided for exclusive use of Negro passengers on a segregated basis.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 21, 1951]  The charge further states that she was “physically prevented” from sitting elsewhere on the train even though other cars had empty seats.  A spokesman for the railroad denies that there is any segregation on its trains.  The all-coach City of New Orleans, traveling at an average speed close to 60 m.p.h., is shown passing a coal train in 1954 near Kankakee, Illinois in the above photo.

March 20, 1948 -- Marshall Field and Co. opens its restaurant in the passenger terminal building of Chicago Airport, now Midway International Airport. On the evening before the opening Mayor Martin Kennelly is the guest of honor in the new dining room, named the Cloud Room, a 3,600 square foot dining salon that overlooks the landing field of the new airport. Field's pays $90,000 to build out the second floor of the restaurant and $260,000 to equip it. The company agrees to pay the city $2,596 or five percent of its gross business and 40 percent of its net profit.

March 20, 1890 – The City Council’s Finance Committee receives a report from the Secretary of the Board of Health, regarding the impact of the Chicago River on the health of the city’s residents.  It is not a source for optimism, beginning with the first line, “Owing to the increased quantity of sewage that empties into the Chicago River and the small amount removed by the Bridgeport pumps the river, during the last season, was as offensive as at any time before the deep cut in the canal was made, and, in fact, in the history of Chicago.  Not only is the river a nuisance in the present condition, but it is a positive source of danger to the health of the citizens of Chicago which will increase with its growth in population.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 21, 1890] The report paints a dire picture if nothing is done … “Delay in this matter by those in authority, so far as the people of Chicago are concerned, is simply criminal, and as regards the adjoining communities that are imposed upon by this nuisance, an outrage.”  The report recommends an immediate effort to increase the pumping capacity necessary to move the waters of the river and all of its sewage westward into the Illinois and Michigan Canal and Des Plaines River. Tests show that a minimum of 120,000 cubic feet of water must be moved westward each minute to keep the river in a condition that will not affect the health of the city.  In the summer of 1888 the pumps at Bridgeport moved no more than 45,000 cubic feet per minute and during the winter of 1888-89 that fell to 38,000 cubic feet per minute.  The report makes two recommendations, insisting that they be acted on as quickly as possible.  The first is that “pumping works for further relief should be immediately erected at some suitable point of discharge on the Des Plaines River, as recommended by the board in 1879.”  The city should also plan “an increase of the pumping plant at Bridgeport as may be practicable to provide for the present necessities and augmented amount of sewage that will discharged between the present time and the completion of the waterway from Lake Michigan to the Illinois River.”  It will be ten long years before that waterway, the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal opens, which makes the response of the Finance Committee to the report almost laughable, “The report does not say in what manner the expenditure for the improvements above recommended can be provided for, and the matter will no doubt provoke a lively discussion during the pendency of the appropriation bill.”

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