Friday, April 17, 2020

April 17, 1899 -- Chicago River On Fire at Kinzie Street
April 17, 1899 – Once again the Chicago River catches fire with “the flames from the murky ooze rising to a height of fifty feet,” [Chicago Daily Tribune, April 18, 1899] setting the Kinzie Street bridge and the Chicago and North Western Railroad bridge next to it on fire, along with the approaches to the two bridges and the docks between them.  Firemen respond before an alarm can be turned in since the smoke from the oily fire could be clearly seen from the north, south and west sides.  The fire brigades work first to save the two bridges before moving to strike the fire in the North Branch of the river.  The origin of the fire is unclear, but fire officials all agree that the river’s surface was covered with oil, the source of which was probably the Kinzie Street sewer that emptied into the river under the Kinzie Street bridge.  The railroad flag man for the crossing at the west end of the Chicago and North Western bridge, D. C. Stockwell, is within 20 feet of the fire when it starts.  “I can’t tell anything about it, except that I sat here smelling the gas,” he said.  “The first thing I knew the river and the sky was on fire and I was all out of breath from running away.”  The source of the gas is also unclear although some theorize that it came from “the filth in the river bed.”   The Kinzie Street bridge is closed to traffic because of the damage, and it is thought it will take some days to repair it.  Hero of the evening is bridge tender William O’Hara who climbs onto the Kinzie Street bridge while it is on fire and, using a hand wrench, opens the bridge so that the fireboat Yosemite can get to a position where it can fight the flames.  More alarms are turned in for the fire than for any fire since the alarm system was put into operation.  Every manhole from Kinzie Street to Halsted Street belches smoke from the Kinzie Street sewer, resulting in every alarm box on that route registering a call.  Twelve more still alarms are turned in along with the alarms that bridgetenders, who run in opposite directions turned in.  Firemen agree that the Chicago River is a fire hazard, and “A match or a lighted cigar thrown into the river might cause it to burn at any time” and that “…it should be watched with the same care as the picture frame factories and other inflammable things.”  The conditions at the Kinzie Street railroad bridge at the time can be seen in the photo above.

April 17, 1972 – Illinois Governor Richard Ogilvie announces the creation of a task force to study the possibility of a mass transit link between the Chicago Loop and O’Hare International Airport.  William F. Cellini, the state’s Secretary of Transportation, will head the group with a mandate to report findings within 60 days. At a press conference at the State of Illinois building at 160 North La Salle Street, Ogilvie says, “The need for direct, fast and low cost mass transportation [between the Loop and the airport] is an urgent one.”  [Chicago Tribune, April 18, 1972]  The governor adds that serious consideration will be given to extending the present mass transit route along the Kennedy expressway to the airport, adding that he is sensitive to claims by the Chicago and North Western Railroad that such an extension will cripple the railroad financially.  A dozen years later, on September 3, 1984, the first passengers to ride the combination subway and surface train to O’Hare enter the airport.

April 17, 1950 – Speaking in the Crystal Room of the Blackstone Hotel, Walter Gropius, head of the Department of Architecture at Harvard University, speaks of a new era in which art and industry will work together.  The gathering is a celebration of the formal announcement of the addition of the Institute of Design as a degree-granting program at the Illinois Institute of Technology, a department at the school that grew out of the New Bauhaus that Gropius and László Maholy-Nagy established in the city in 1937.  Gropius says, “The artist is coming into the fold of the community.  From his ivory tower he will move closer to the test laboratory and to the factory; he will become a legitimate brother of the scientist, the engineer, and the business man.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, April 17, 1950]  The architect also praises the program at I.I.T. for its commitment to creating such collaboration.

April 17, 1937 – Work begins on a 6,000-foot runway to expand the city’s commercial airport – today’s Midway International Airport.  Three hundred workers under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration turn out to begin construction near Cicero Avenue and Fifty-Fifth Street, a project that will use $2,000,000 in federal funds.  Only half of the one-mile square area is usable at this point, but the Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad has agreed to reroute its tracks on the north half of the tract once the city supplies it with a new right of way.  Even as work begins, the city still holds out hope for a lakefront airport.  During a stopover in the city, Washington Senator J. Hamilton Lewis says that he has recently talked with President Franklin Roosevelt about the lakefront project after Chicago Mayor Edward J. Kelly had offered an explanation of it to the President.  Says Lewis, “The President feels that because of the growing importance of aviation, Chicago as a great traffic center should have aid in developing the facilities.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, April 17, 1937] The President will find disagreement from his Secretary of the Interior, Harold L. Ickes, who says that the price in material for such an undertaking is too great.  The photo above shows the old Municipal Airport’s runways to the left and the new field to the right with the Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad tracks bisecting the main diagonal runways before the tracks were rerouted.

April 17, 1893 -- The Chicago Daily Tribune provides a list of the world's congresses to be held in the brand new Art Institute building as part of the World's Columbian Exposition. According to the article, "The intention of these congresses is . . . to sum up the progress of the world in each department of the civilized life involved; to make a clear statement of the living questions of the day which still demand attention; and to receive from eminent representatives of all interests, classes, and peoples, suggestions of the practical means by which further progress may be made and the prosperity and peace of the world advanced."[Chicago Daily Tribune, April 17, 1893] The World's Fair Congress Auxiliary paid the Art Institute $200,000 (close to $6 million in today's dollars)  for the use of 33 meeting halls and six committee-rooms in the building, plus two large rooms, each capable of seating 3,000 people. It is planned to hold up to 36 large meetings and 300 special meetings or conferences at the site during each week that the fair runs.  The following is a list of events for the fair's congresses:

May 15 -- Education.  Industry.  Literature and Art.  Moral and Social Reform, Philanthropy and Charity.  Civil Law and Government.  Religion.

May 22 -- Public Press.  Religious Press.  Trade Journals.

May 29 -- Homeopathic Medicine and Surgery.  Eclectic Medicine and Surgery.  Medico-Climatology.

June 5 -- Organizations represented by the National Temperance Society of America, Sons of Temperance, Catholic Temperance Societies, Women's Christian Temperance Union, Non-Partisan Women's Christian Temperance Union, Independent Order of Good Templars, American Medical Temperance Association. Vegetarian Societies.  Social Purity Organizations.

June 12 -- The International Conference and National Conferences of Charities, Correction and Philanthropy.  Instructors of the Feeble Minded.  Humane Societies.  The King's Daughters.  Society of St. Vincent de Paul and kindred organizations.  The Salvation Army.  A Conference on Charities, Correction, and Philanthropy will begin in one of the smaller halls of the Art Institute June 8.  This will be preliminary to the General Congress.

June 19 -- Bankers and Financiers.  Boards of Trade, Railway Commerce, Building Associations, Merchants, and Insurance Congresses, including:  Fire, Marine, Life and Accident, Mutual Benefit and Assessment, Fidelity and Casualty, Conference on Insurance Specialties.

July 3 -- Musical Art. Musical Education.

July 10 -- Authors.  Historians and Historical Students.  Librarians.  Philologists and Folk-Lore.

July 17 -- College and University Faculties, including University Extension, College and University Students, College Fraternities, Public School Authorities, Representative Youth of Public Schools, Kindergarten Education, Manual and Art Training, Physical Culture, Business and Commercial Colleges, Stenographers, Educators of the Deaf, Educators of the Blind, Chautauqua Educations, Social Settlements, and a General Educational Congress, in which all branches of education will be represented.

July 31 -- Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Mining and Metallurgical Engineering, Engineering Education, Military Engineering.  Marine Engineering and Naval Architecture.  Aerial Navigation. 

July 31 -- Architecture.  Painting and Sculpture.  Decorative Art.  Photographic Art.  Conference on Art Museums and Schools.

August 7 -- Jurisprudence and Law Reform.  Civil Service Reform.  Suffrage, in Republic, Kingdom and Empire.  Government of Cities.  Patents and Trade Marks, social and Economic.  Science -- Weights, Measures, Coinage and Postage.  Arbitration and Peace.

August 14 -- Dental.  Pharmaceutical.  Medical Jurisprudence.  Horticulture.  Congress on Africa, the Continent, and the People.

August 21 -- Astronomy.  Anthropology.  Chemistry.  Electricity.  Geology.  Indian Ethnology. Meteorology.  Philosophy.  Psychical Research.  Zoology.

August 28 -- The Condition of Labor. Work and Wages of Women and Children.  Statistics of Labor.    Literature and Philosophy of the Labor Movement.  Labor Legislation.  Living Questions and Means of Progress. Arbitration and Other Remedies.

August 28 -- Economic Science.  Science of Statistics.  Taxation and Revenues.  Separate Conference on what is called "The Single Tax."  Profit-Sharing.  Weights, Measures, Coinage, Postage.

September 5 -- A series of union meetings in which representatives of various religious organizations will meet for the consideration of subjects of common interest and sympathy.  Denominational presentations to the religious world as represented in the parliament of religions of the faith and distinguishing characteristics of each denomination, and the special service it has rendered to mankind.  Informal conferences in which the leaders of a particular denomination will be present to answer inquiries for further information.  Denominational Congresses in which the work of the denominations will be more fully set forth and the proper business of the body be transacted.  The Art Building will be so occupied that these Denominational Congresses cannot be held in it.  They will for that reason be held in Chicago churches, which will be placed at the disposal of the denominations for that purpose.  Congresses of Missionary Societies.  Congresses of Religious Societies.

September 28 -- On Physiological Grounds.  On Economical Grounds.  On Governmental Grounds.  On Social and Moral Grounds.  On Religious Grounds.

October 13 -- Sanitary Legislation.  Jurisdiction and Work of Public Health Authorities.  Prevention, Control and Mitigation of Epidemics and Contagious Diseases.  Food Inspection and Other Food Problems.

October 16 -- General Farm Culture.  Animal Industry.  Fisheries.  Forestry.  Veterinary Surgery.  Good Roads.  Household Economics.  Agricultural Organizations and Legislation.  Agricultural Education and Experiment, including Agricultural Chemistry, Practical Geology, Economic Climatology, Economic Entomology and Practical Botany, and other scientific subjects.

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