Friday, March 6, 2020

March 6, 1914 -- Abraham Lincoln Cools It in Washington Park

March 6, 1914 – In Chicago’s Grant Park sits a bronze statue of a seated Abraham Lincoln, a work that noted sculptor Augustus Saint Gaudens completed in 1907 after a dozen years of work.  It was made possible through the establishment of a $100,000 fund ($2,750,000 in today’s dollars), the bequest of John Crerar.  On this day in 1914 the Chicago Daily Tribune provides a look at the statue, which at the time sat in a storehouse in Washington Park because seven years after St. Gaudens finished the work, Grant Park was still not in a condition that would make it practical to install the statue.  According to t \he Chicago Park District, Saint-Gaudens received the commission to create the statue in 1897, but the first working model was destroyed by fire in the sculptor’s studio in 1904.  By 1906 another model was ready, and architect Daniel Burnham wanted to place the sculpture, along with a sculpture of George Washington, near the Field Museum, which had been proposed for a site in the southern end of Grant Park.  Legal disputes over the use of Grant Park as a site for the museum, however, held up the plan until the end of 1910, and the plan was further delayed by the continuing development of the lakefront park, followed by the chaotic years of World War I.  For five years, from 1908 until 1913, the statue lay in a crate in the basement of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  It was brought to Chicago in September, 1914 and placed in the Washington Park storage building.  South Park Board president John Barton Payne said of the delay, “Until the federal government passes on the question of how far we may project our improvements into the lake and until we know definitely whether we are permitted to construct the proposed strips of land for park and boulevard purposes we can say nothing as to the site for the new Lincoln statue … The erection of the statue can’t be hurried any more than the other lake front matters.  It all depends on the government.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, March 6, 1914]  It wasn’t until 1924 that the South Park Commissioners agreed upon the permanent site for the sculpture, and it was another two years before the statue was finally seated on a marble base designed by New York architect Stanford White.  You won’t find George Washington hanging around in the area … the second part of Burnham’s idea for a “Court of Presidents” never came to fruition.  The above photo shows the sculpture in February, 1931, five years after it was dedicated.     

March 6, 1974 – Workmen set the first column of the extension of Wacker Drive east along the Chicago River to Lake Shore Drive.  The 1,800 foot elevated extension is part of the project to develop Illinois Center, an effort in which Illinois Central Industries and Metropolitan Structures have taken the lead.  The completion of the extension is expected by the end of the year.  The original timetable is a bit on the optimistic side.  Mayor Richard J. Daley dedicated the $15 million project on December 8, 1979.

March 6, 1963 – Fifth Ward Alderman Leon Despres introduces a resolution before the City Council, alleging racial discrimination in the Chicago Fire Department.  Despres alleges that out of a total of 4,514 Chicago fire fighters, there are only 187 African-Americans and that there is only one integrated fire company in the city.  Reaction is swift as Mayor Richard J. Daley and Fire Commissioner Robert J. Quinn deny the allegations.  “I have had conferences with the fire commissioner,” Daley says.  “He assured me they are running the fire department without discrimination of any kind.” [Chicago Tribune, March 8, 1963]  Quinn sidesteps questions about the total number of African-American men in the fire department ranks.  Instead he touts the number of African-American lieutenants in the department, noting that two are in the department’s drill school, three in the task force inspection team, two in preparation of cases for court, and four in the mobile inspections unit.  He also notes that there is an African-American division marshal, a battalion chief, and three captains.  This is the beginning of a long process that will continue for at least another three decades.

March 6, 1959 -- The Chicago Tunnel company petitions to cease operation after nearly 60 years of running a narrow gauge electric railroad beneath the majority of streets in the center of the city.  George W. Lennon, a trustee for the company, asks in Federal District Court for permission to petition the interstate commerce commission to abandon the operation.  The company has been in bankruptcy proceedings since 1956.  Years before twenty of the largest building corporations in the city pledged $325,000 to keep the tunnel system in operation.  The end to the system is guaranteed when this group withdraws its offer on this date.  A plan to use the system in order to save the United States post office 2,958 truck movements through the crowded Loop each year also appears to be dead. At this point in its history the tunnel company operates only two of its original 117 electric locomotives and a small number of its original 3,000 freight cars with only 47 of the 65 miles of freight tunnels in use.  It was forgotten by all but a few until April 13, 1992 when it gave the city one of its most unique experiences after a portion of the tunnel collapsed, and it began transporting millions of gallons of river water into the basements of over 200 tall buildings in the Loop, paralyzing the city’s downtown.

March 6, 1884 -- The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad Company has filed suit in United States Circuit Court, seeking to prevent the Chicago and Evanston Railroad from entering the city by building a bridge over the north branch of the river. The C and NW claims that building such a bridge will require the crossing of C and NW tracks at grade, significantly impacting that railroad's entry into the city at Wells Street. The numbers the railroad cites as part of the suit are significant, especially when one looks at the lonely upraised bridge at Kinzie Street today. The C and NW used the bridge, according to the suit, an average of once every four minutes each day, and carried 111 passenger trains, 15,000 passengers, and 750 freight cars with an average tonnage of 7,200 tons. The upraised bridge and weed-covered tracks, pictured above, on the north side of Fulton House are the only reminders today of this whirlwind of steam, smoke, and clatter in the old days.

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