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.  []

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