Tuesday, March 3, 2020

March 3, 1911 -- Medinah Temple Construction Announced

March 3, 1911 – Officials of the Medinah Temple announce that a new Medinah Temple to cost a half-million dollars (about $13,500,000 in 2020 dollars) will be built on the property of the Lambert Tree estate at Ontario, Cass and Ohio Streets.  The original home of Judge Lambert Tree, “one of the most pretentious houses on the north side,” will be razed to clear the site for the new temple.  The proposed structure will be designed to resemble a Turkish mosque with a convention hall that will seat 8,000 people.  For more on Judge Lambert Tree you can turn to these entries in Connecting the Windy City here and here.  The new Meidnah Temple, designed by architects Huehl and Schmidt, opened in 1912 with an auditorium that seated 4,200 people and a banquet hall that seated 2,400. The building came close to being razed, but in 2000 a partnership between Friedman Properties, the City of Chicago, the State of Illinois, and Federated Department Stores, saved it from demolition.  Developer Al Friedman received more than $12 million in tax increment financing from the city to underwrite a $60 million redevelopment of the whole block, which included Tree Studios.  In 2003 the temple opened as the first Bloomingdale’s Home Store in the nation.  In June, 2019 Friedman bought the building back from Macy’s for a reported $25 million, saying “It’s personal to me.  This is my life’s work.”  Redevelopment plans are ongoing.  [Chicago Tribune, June 14, 2019]

March 3, 1961 – The Chicago Land Clearance Commission announces that it has begun acquiring 65 acres bounded by Twenty-Sixth and Twenty-Ninth Streets on the north and south and South Park Way (today's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive) and State Street on the east and west.  The commission will use a $5,623,214 capital grant from the federal government and a $6,396,383 loan to finance a project that will see the demolition of 1,343 structures in the area.  The commission reports that “In the new project, 19.6 acres will be devoted to residential uses, 4.4 to public and institutional purposes, 1.9 acres to shops, and 14.9 acres to commercial and industrial purposes.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 4, 1961]  Phil A. Doyle, the commission’s executive director says that new construction will cost between 12 and 15 million dollars and will see the building of 1,000 living units.  The area covered in the acquisition process is pictured above as it appears today.

March 3, 1926 – Michigan Avenue businessmen and property owners form the Michigan Avenue Association to “preserve Michigan avenue as one of the most beautiful and modern business thoroughfares in America.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 4, 1926] Arthur W. Straus, a member of the group’s executive committee, enumerates a set of goals for the enhancement of Michigan Avenue from Oak Street to Roosevelt Road.  They include: (1) elimination of begging, loitering, noises and other nuisances; (2) repair and maintenance of sidewalks and paving and removal of rubbish and snow; (3) police protection and improvement of traffic conditio
ns; (4) improvement of transit service and enforcement of the zoning law; and (5) cooperation with the Chicago Plan Commission, Board of Local Improvements and Lincoln and South Park boards.  Michigan Avenue in 1926 with Oak Street on the north side of the Water Tower is seen in the above photograph.

March 3, 1926 -- Three men die, leaving behind three widows and four young daughters, as an Illinois Central passenger train runs against a red signal and collides with a Michigan Central fast freight. M. C. Tobin, the engineer of the I. C. train, is blamed for the wreck. A. E. Cliff, senior vice-president of the I. C., says, "The route through the interlocking plant [at 67th Street] was set 'proceed' for the Michigan Central train and at 'stop' for the Illinois Central suburban train. The interlocking plant was in proper working order, as confirmed by complete inspection and test following the accident." The family of Thomas A Groggier, the train's fireman who died in the crash, is pictured above.

March 3, 1893 – Two representatives of Lloyd’s of London, one of them the chief surveyor for the firm, join a party on a tour of the Chicago River with the object being “to obtain all possible information about the quality and construction of American lake vessels and the methods used in inspecting and classifying, with a view to reporting the knowledge obtained to the English Lloyds’ underwriters.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 6, 1893] At 10:00 a.m. the group boards the tug James McGorden at the foot of the La Salle Street bridge. The tug passes dozens of propeller ships, berthed for the winter along river docks as stories are exchanged.  Near Canal Street the section of the river near the lumber yards becomes “mingled with grease and other refuse,” and the captain begins to entertain his guests with stories of the worst parts of the river.  “This here is nothing,” he says, “to what you’ll find up near the Stock-yards.  Why, out there I’ve seen the river so thick that the rats and chickens can run across without wetting their feet.  In summer when the sun gets hot it makes the river really dangerous.  It fries and bakes the surface into a crust.  When a tug passes through the gases are stirred up, and any spark will create a blaze.  I remember once I was up along the Stock-yards river branch with a tow.  Somebody held a piece of lighted waste over the side, and in a moment the whole surface of the river along our wake was ablaze.  The flame arose as high as ten feet in places and it was all we could do to beat away without taking fire.”  As the city prepared to open the great World’s Columbian Exposition within months, the sights and sounds, along with the tales of the river, must have impressed this day’s English visitors greatly.  As early as 1870 the south branch of the river between Fourteenth and Sixteenth Streets was the heart of the city's lumber trade as can be see in the above photograph.

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