Monday, April 20, 2020

April 20, Joan Miró's "Miss Chicago" Unveiled
April 20, 1981 – With a wind-chill factor around 20 degrees, 2,500 people come to the Daley Center to witness the dedication of Joan Miró’s “Miss Chicago,” a 40-foot-high abstract figure of a woman, standing across Washington Street between the First United Methodist Church of Chicago and the Brunswick building.  Missing are the members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra who had to abandon their plans to perform at the ceremony over fears that the cold and wind would irreparably harm their instruments.  According to Chicago’s Public Sculpture website, “The playfully poetic images of Joan Miró’s art comprise a private mythology derived from the artist’s memories of his homeland in Catalonia, Spain.  Using his unique visual symbolism, Miró imbued this sculpture with the mystical presence of an earth deity, both cosmic and worldly.  Shapes and forms found in this composition evoke celestial imagery and common objects.  The bell-shaped base draws the viewer’s gaze downward, symbolizing Miró’s association of the female form with the earth.  The sphere at center represents the moon while the shape of the face is derived from that of a ceramic hook.  The fork projecting from the top of the head is symbolic of a star, with individual tines representing rays of light.”  Okay, if you say so.  The Brunswick Corporation originally commissioned the work in 1969 as a way to celebrate its new building, but the plan was abandoned due to its cost.  In 1979 the plan was revived with the city kicking in a quarter-million bucks which was matched by private donors.  Miró donated the sculpture, just as Pablo Picasso had done with his monumental piece to the north, but it cost a half-million dollars to fabricate and erect the Miró installation.  For more on the sculpture and its history you can turn to this entry in Connecting the Windy City.
April 20, 1972 – At a hearing before the Chicago Landmarks Commission the executive director of the American Institute of Architects, W. R. Hasbrouck, lashes out at building owners who resist having their properties designated landmarks because of a fear that such a designation will impact the marketability of their property.  Hasbrouck says, “We have an irresistible urge to destroy our landmarks.”  [Chicago Tribune, April 21, 1972]  The hearing at which Hasbrouck appears is convened to consider city landmark status for The Rookery building at 209 South La Salle Street. Attorney Oscar D’Angelo who led a group in a failed effort to save the old Chicago Stock Exchange at 30 North La Salle Street, a building designed by Louis Sullivan, tells the hearing that the city needs “to put its own house in order,” noting that the land under the Rookery is owned by the city and leased to the University of Chicago.  At the expiration of the lease in 1985 the city will own both the land and the building.  The Rookery did receive landmark status in 1972, and the city came to own it, just as predicted, in 1982.  In 1988 L. T. Baldwin, III purchased the building and began returning it to its former glory.  The renovation was completed in 1992 with a twelfth story added.  In 2008 the building came under new ownership, and in 2014 it became the oldest high-rise building in the world to achieve LEED Gold Certification.  Most experts agree that it is the oldest certified high-rise building in the world.  It is a significant jewel in the crown of a city abounding in architectural gems.

April 20, 1916 – The Chicago Cubs defeat the Cincinnati Reds, 7-6, in eleven innings.  The Cubs are down three runs going into the bottom of the eighth inning, but the team comes back to tie the game in the ninth.  The Reds aren’t done, though, and it takes three more runs in the bottom of the eleventh inning to win the game with first baseman Vic Saier driving in the walk-off run.  That is not the biggest story of the day, though, for this is the first game that the Cubs play in their new Northside stadium at Wieghman Field.  A caravan of cars nearly a mile long winds its way to the field before game time, and a half-dozen bands participate in the opening festivities.  Fireworks explode in center field while the American flag is raised.  There is even a live donkey on hand, hosted by the Twenty-Fifth Ward Democrats.  A “live and active” black Cub bear is brought to home plate “to do tricks in front of the movie camera.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, April 20, 1916] New seats for the occasion have been built beyond the outfield and 30 minutes before the 3:00 p.m. start, part of the crowd in the right field seats climbs down and stands on the field.  It is declared that a hit into this crowd will be worth two bases, and “The players took great delight in driving the ball into that circle of fans,” accounting for nine ground-rule doubles before the game is completed.  All in all, 20,000 fans stay to see the exciting conclusion to “the biggest and noisiest opening day in Cub history.”  Playing in the new ball park Joe Tinker’s Cubs go on to finish fifth in the National League, 26 games behind the Brooklyn Dodgers, drawing 453,685 fans to its new home at Addison and Clark Streets. In the first game in the new ball park the Chicago Cub is safe at third in the above photo.

April 20, 1900 -- Just three months after the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal opened, the project that was to end all of Chicago's river troubles . . . BAD NEWS. Marine interests pressure the Chicago Sanitary District to order the controlling works in Lockport to be shut down on this date. The depth of the river has dropped so low that at least 20 big ships are unable to make it over the roof of the Washington Boulevard tunnel, and grain shippers are impatient at the delay in getting cargo in and out of the city. In a neat job of parrying criticism, the head of the drainage board says, "The problem with the lake Captains is that they load their vessels too heavily. They often load down to seventeen and eighteen feet draft when they know there is only seventeen feet of water in the river." On top of everything else the tow line between a tug and the steamer Panther snaps, and the ship slams into the steamer Parnell at the Wells Street dock. The photo above shows the controlling works in Lockport, a city that got its name because of the lock located there on the original 1848 Illinois and Michigan Canal.

April 20, 1883 – The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that the dam that separates the Des Plaines River from the Ogden ditch has broken and that “The pumps on the South Branch of the river at Bridgeport, erected at a heavy cost by the city in order to transfer the foul water of the river to the canal, will, it is feared, have their usefulness considerably impaired by a condition of affairs which is daily growing more serious.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, April 20, 1883]  This is bad news for Chicago, which has kept the river flowing, to a greater or lesser degree, into the Illinois and Michigan Canal for close to 20 years, thus sending the city’s sewage westward and away from the lake.  If the Des Plaines is allowed to flow at peak times into the Ogden ditch, engineered by William Butler Ogden and John Wentworth and a dozen other landowners in order to drain their property near Mud Lake, then the direction of the Chicago River will be compromised and potential disaster will lurk.  At the time of the paper’s report “the water [of the Des Plaines] now sweeps freely into the ditch through an aperture twenty or thirty feet wide.” 

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