Wednesday, April 15, 2020

April 15, 1973 -- McCormick Inn Opens
April 15, 1973 – The McCormick Inn, a project that has been in the works for a decade, finally is opened for business.  Plans for the 625-room hotel with about 30,000 square feet of exhibit space were delayed for years as a protracted legal battle was conducted in which the right of the Illinois Central Railroad to sell air rights on its lakefront property was contested.  Most people feel that the hotel has unlimited potential since its sits on Twenty-Third Street, directly across Lake Shore Drive from McCormick Place, the largest convention venue in the nation.  Marcel Lutwak, the executive director of Aristocrat Inns of America, says, “Not so.  A lot of shows at McCormick Place are public shows … People come from miles to a public show, but we only book maybe 40 rooms.  We’re sold out for the Restaurant Show or the Housewares Show, but we need other business, too.”  [Chicago Tribune, April 15, 1973]  Litwak sounded as though he was reading the tea leaves.  The hotel, which cost $30 million to construct, $20 million of which came from the Teamsters’ Union pension fund, is no longer there.  It was demolished in 1993 to make room for the western extension of McCormick Place.  The black and white photo shows the hotel as it stood at Twenty-Third Street.  The second photo shows what stands on the site today.  Note in both photos, way off in the distance, the Lake Meadows Apartments angling southward.

April 15, 1975 -- The White Sox lose to the Texas Rangers in the Chicago team's home opener, but it takes 13 innings for it to happen. At the end of the long game Sox manager Chuck Tanner is livid, aiming his anger at first base umpire Art Frantz, who gave the home run signal to Ranger hitter Tom Grieve in a play that Tanner felt clearly showed fan interference. He is backed up by Sox left fielder Buddy Bradford, who didn't help his case with Frantz much on the play by reaching down and picking up the ball instead of treating it as if the play were still alive. The two teams were locked in a 5 to 5 tie at the end of the ninth and battled into the top of the thirteenth when Dave Nelson singled for the Rangers. After Jim Sundberg struck out, Joe Levito drove in Nelson with a single for the go-ahead run. The Sox would finish the 1975 season second-to-last in the American League West with a record of 75 wins and 86 losses.

April 15, 1962 -- A tough day for fire fighters as three separate blazes put three firemen in the hospital.  The first blaze takes place at Grand Avenue and Tripp in a garage where Tastee Freez trucks are serviced and housed.  Twenty-six vehicles are destroyed, and more than 100 firemen are affected by fumes from the refrigerants in the burning ice cream trucks.  Damage to the trucks is estimated at $400,000 with damage to the building placed at about $50,000.  Meanwhile, a four-alarm fire at the Tivoli Hotel at 6318 Maryland Avenue injures six people while 20 more are carried down ladders to safety.  Fire Marshal Raymond J. Daley says that the fire apparently started in a fourth floor corridor and spread through the upper stories of the building.  Fire fighters also work four hours on a stubborn fire in an auto parts store and a bar at 4416 and 4418 Madison Street.

April 15, 1955 – Ray Kroc, a former salesman for Prince Castle brand multimixer milkshake machines, opens his first McDonald’s restaurant at 400 North Lee Street in Des Plaines.  Kroc had arranged with Californians Richard and Maurice McDonald to set up franchises of their popular Downey, California burgers and fries restaurant on a national level.  The McDonald brothers were to receive one-half of one percent of gross sales. The restaurant sported the golden arches that became the heart of the company’s brand and on the huge sign outside the restaurant a huge caricature of Speedee, the early voice of the company, beckoned customers to drive on in.  Kroc died in 1984, and in that same year the Des Plaines restaurant was torn down. McDonald’s, realizing that the site had historic value in the franchise’s development, erected a replica of the drive-in on the site that functioned as a museum.   The site was plagued with flooding, and the museum was closed to visitors in 2008.  Three years ago, Speedee came down, and the building was demolished.

April 15, 1913 – The South Park Commission decides to initiate plans to improve the lake front from Grant Park to Jackson Park after the Illinois Supreme Court refuses to consider a case protesting a contract between the commission and the Illinois Central Railroad signed during the previous summer, an agreement giving the city riparian rights in exchange for larger terminal facilities for the railroad. The improvement program is an ambitious one, beginning with the demolition of the Illinois Central station at Park Row, approximately where Roosevelt Road runs today.  New boulevards are planned, along with additional bathing beaches, a lengthy lagoon, and the construction of the Field Museum.  Ground is broken for the museum on July 26, 1915.  The railroad terminal remained standing until it was razed in 1974.  Most importantly, another step was taken toward recognizing the significance of the city’s lakefront … and taking action to ensure its importance for the future.  The above photo shows the Field Museum a decade or so later with Soldier Field rising to the south as the land east of the Illinois Central Railroad tracks begins the transformation into public park land.

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