Wednesday, April 22, 2020

April 22, 1954 -- Congress Expressway Bridge Topped Out
April 22, 1954 – The highest pieces of steel are set in the superstructure of the Congress Street bridges over the South Branch of the Chicago River as Mayor Martin Kennelly and other city officials celebrate the event at 9:00 a.m.  The bridges are scheduled to be completed in 1955.  Construction began on the substructure of the bridges on June 30, 1950 with superstructure beginning on July 21,1953.  A bridge designed to accommodate an expressway that left the central part of the city by moving traffic through a hollowed-out portion of the massive post office building was first proposed in 1939.  Three proposals were considered, a vertical lift bridge, a bascule type bridge, and a fixed bridge.  The bascule bridge ultimately chosen was slightly more expensive than a vertical lift bridge, but three times as expensive as a fixed bridge.  The Chicago River, though, was still very much a working river at this point and throwing a fixed bridge across the South Branch would have severely impacted the commerce that rolled up and down it.   

April 22, 1974 – The second elevated train derailment in two weeks takes place at 1 p.m. at Wacker Drive and Wells Street as the northbound train derails as it approaches the bridge over the Chicago River.  Although there are no serious injuries on the two-car train, 17 people are transported to Henrotin Hospital for treatment. Eleven days earlier 23 passengers are injured just one block north.  That accident occurred when the motorman made the turn from Lake Street onto the Wells Street track at too great a speed.  Today’s accident is the result of a “fail-safe” switch that is triggered when the raised Wells Street bridge is closed and fails to make a complete connection with the elevated tracks.  The above photo shows the front car of the two-car train with its front wheels off the tracks as it sits above Wacker Drive.

April 22, 1971 – The Chicago Tribune learns that the Atcheson, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad’s passenger trains will be moved to Union Station, making it certain that the Dearborn Street station will be closed.  Signs are already posted at Dearborn station, notifying passengers that service will be discontinued on April 30.  The passenger operations of the Atcheson, Topeka and Santa Fe have been taken over by Amtrak and one of the government agency’s principal goals is to consolidate terminals in Chicago since they eat so much of the operating costs of passenger trains.  Chicago’s commuter trains will maintain their present distribution across several stations on the periphery of downtown.  Consolidation of these trains would add as much as 30 minutes to some routes, defeating the purpose of paying for a 30-minute train ride from the suburbs to the city.  The photo above shows the 1976 demolition of the train sheds that lay south of the station.

April 22, 1963 – United States Gypsum Company employees take their places for the first time in the new 19-story building at the corner of Wacker Drive and Monroe Street after two days of moving in preparation.  The company will occupy 11 floors, the lobby and two lower levels with the remaining five floors set aside for lease.  The building will bring together 1,000 people who were formerly spread across four locations on Adams Street and Wells Street. U. S. G. chairman C. H. Shaver says the company felt a responsibility to design a building “compatible with our company’s needs, and an obligation to the community to be harmonious with its environment, aesthetically pleasing, and which exemplifies the highest type of contribution toward enhancing the Chicago skyline.” [Chicago Tribune, April 22, 1963] The tower was razed in the first years of the new millennium to clear the site for the 111 South Wacker Drive building, but while it stood it drew its share of controversy, mostly because the architectural firm of Perkins and Will turned the tower on a 45-degree angle to the streets on which it stood.  Lawrence Perkins, in his Oral History with the Art Institute of Chicago, said of the plan, “It derives from several things. To do it with a perfectly square plan would not have worked because the squares were inefficient.  If you’ve looked at the building, you’ll know that each corner is notched out so that we have eight corners on each floor.  That permits you to get more space nearer the lot line.  But by turning it we are protecting our light and air on all four sides.  We knew that we had a bunch of uncompromising rectangles on the three and now four of the sides of the building.  We were protecting their light and air, we were protecting ours … “  The original U. S. G. building is shown in the photo above.  Below it is its replacement the Lohan Caprille Goettsch 111 South Wacker, completed in 2005.

April 22, 1862 -- The Chicago Tribune reports that one Frederick Boetiger has filed a grievance with the Chicago Common Council that will be referred to the Finance Committee for a determination of damages. It seems that Boetiger had attempted to make his way into the city by way of Division Street, using "all due care and diligence in traversing the same". However, the street was in such bad condition that his horse became "stalled in the mud of the said street and smothered to death within the city limits." Boetiger sought compensation for his lost animal. The street on the far left of the photo above is the same street poor Mr. Boetiger got stuck on back in 1862.

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