Thursday, April 23, 2020

April 23, 1925 -- Chicago Fire Department Battles Massive Elevator Fire
April 23, 1925 – An entire area of Bridgeport is threatened with destruction as two grain elevators containing more than two million bushels of corn and oats are destroyed by fire and embers from the conflagration start over a dozen other fires in the area.  Fire brands fall over a ten-block area as 50,000 people watch firefighters battle the flames through the early morning hours.  An initial 4-11 alarm is followed by seven special calls, bringing 44 fire engines, four hook and ladder trucks, three fire boats, three fire squads and a water tower to the scene.  There are no fire hydrants in the lot on which the two elevators are located, and fire crews battle low water pressure for the first hour of their attack.  Most of the fire trucks are driven close to the river and take water directly from it as the fireboats Graeme Stewart, Joseph Medill, and Dennis J. Swenie attack the blaze from the river.  At the most dangerous point in the blaze 60 firefighters narrowly escape when the 150-foot north wall of one elevator crashes to the ground.  This also has the effect of dumping tens of thousands of bushes of grain into the river, completely blocking the South Branch.  Chief Arthur Seyferlich decides early on that there is no chance of saving the grain elevators, and he dispatches a number of his men to the roof of the Omaha Packing Company across the river where they soak the plant and adjoining structures to save them.  Emanuel F. Rosenbaum, president of the company that owns the elevators, estimates damages to amount to $2,250,000.  “Both elevators had a capacity of something more that 2,000,000 bushels (close to $37,000,000 in today's dollars) and they were filled to capacity,” he says.  The Rock Island elevator is shown in the distance in the right hand corner of the photo above.

April 23, 1992 – The Lake County Forest Preserve commissioners vote to protest a decision by the Department of Defense regarding the fate of Ft. Sheridan.  Playing both offense and defense, the commissioners vote to write a strongly worded letter to the Pentagon while stating that they still want to get their hands on 250 acres of the base that are comprised of a golf course, ravines and Lake Michigan shoreline.  This follows an earlier announcement that half of the 250 acres would go toward a veteran’s cemetery with the remainder put up for bid by local governments.  Andrea Moore, the president of the district, says, “I don’t think the Department of Defense ever intended that there be much local use of the land.  They have cut the natural resources in half.  How do you manage half a ravine?”  [Chicago Tribune, April 24, 1992] Commissioner Robert Buhai of Highland Park says that while the communities involved in the Ft. Sheridan commission had worked hard to preserve much of the land for public use, Lake Forest had actively lobbied veterans’ groups for the national cemetery.  He says, “The clout that Lake Forest had has superseded everything else.” All of the controversy comes as the clock ticks steadily closer to the closing of the base on May 31, 1993.  The district did not get its golf course.  Instead, it received much of the area covered by the former golf course, a military air strip, rifle range, and Nike missile site.  The restored prairie area contains roughly 4.5 miles of trails for hiking, 3.7 miles for cross-country skiing and 1.3 miles for bicycling.  

April 23, 1970 – The Chicago Tribune reports that the Commission on Chicago Historical and Architectural Landmarks has voted unanimously to give landmark status to two Chicago historical sites – the Hull House mansion at 750 South Halsted Street and a block of 40 row houses on Alta Vista Terrace, not far from Wrigley Field.  The Hull House mansion was built in 1856 for Charles J. Hull, a Chicago real estate broker but by 1910 had become the center for a 13-building complex that was home to the social settlement community of Jane Addams.  The mansion and one other building are the only two structures that remain after the University of Illinois leveled the area for the building of its Chicago campus.  The Alta Vista Terrace area is only the second such district to be designated as a landmark, the first being the area surrounding the Chicago Water Tower on Michigan Avenue.  Hearings within the month will determine the status of the Leiter I building at 208 West Monroe Street and the Monadnock Building at 55 West Jackson Boulevard.  Leiter I would not make the cut and would be demolished in 1972.  The Monadnock, fortunately, received landmark status and was meticulously restored.  Alta Vista Terrace is shown in the above photo.

chicago tribune photo
April 23, 1962 – The Home Federal Saving and Loan Association’s new 16-story building at the southeast corner of State and Adams Streets is topped out.  One of the last beams to be hoisted in place carries a broom with it to signify a “clean sweep,” a building’s superstructure erected without a fatality.  The bank’s president, Otto L. Preisler, signals a construction crew to begin lifting the final beam into place, using a walkie-talkie.  In the black and white photo above architect William Hartman joins other dignitaries as they watch the last piece of structural steel placed at the top of what is today 11 East Adams.  The building as it appears today is shown in the second photo.

April 23, 1955 -- The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that mass injections of the Salk anti-polio vaccine for Chicago first and second graders in 65 parochial schools will begin on April 25. Herman Bundesen, the president of the Board of Health, also announces that the rest of the 16,200 boys and girls in these schools, along with students in 38 private and five Jewish schools will begin receiving vaccinations on April 26. The first shot will be given by Dr. Bundesen at Immaculate Conception School, 1415 N. Park Avenue. Reverend Monsignor Daniel Cunningham, Superintendent of Catholic schools in the city, will be present as well as Mayor Richard J. Daley. Chicago School Superintendent Benjamin C. Willis reports that shots for public school youngsters will begin on May 2 with 89 percent of parental permission slips for first and second graders already returned.

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