Thursday, April 30, 2020

April 30, 1922 -- McVickers Theater Demolition Begins

McVickers about 1864 (
McVickers 1865 renovation (
McVickers February, 1871 (
McVickers 1872 (

McVickers 1891 (
McVickers post 1923 (
April 30, 1922 – Just minutes after the last audience member leaves the McVicker’’s Theater, workmen begin demolishing the structure.  J. H. McVicker opened the original McVicker’s Theater in 1857 on West Madison Street near Dearborn Street.  It was destroyed by fire and rebuilt twice on the same spot, after the Great Fire of 1871, and in 1890. Even when it wasn't burning, various renovations changed the appearance and configuration of the theater over the years as well.  The 1890 theater was designed by Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan, who had also extensively re-designed the theater that it replaced.  “It is told of McVicker,” the Tribune reports, “that he was himself a comedian of parts and that his great aspiration always was to play the grave digger in Hamlet.  Each time as Hamlet was played by the various great actors who came from time to time, McVicker always supplanted the regular comedian in the supporting company, and played the grave digger himself.”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 1, 1922]  The original theater cost $85,000 ($2,500,000 in today’s dollars), an impressive sum in a hamlet of around 40,000 people.  After the Adler and Sullivan building was demolished in 1922, yet another McVickers (minus the apostrophe) was built according to a design by the firm of Newhouse and Bernham.  The theater opened on October 26, 1922 and seated well over 2,000 people.  It rolled along for five decades, functioning mostly as a motion picture theater until its luck ran out in 1985 when it was torn down.  Today’s One South Dearborn now occupies the site.  The above photos show the various theaters that stood on the site for over a century.

April 30, 1959 – At 10:30 a.m. the Dutch freighter Prins Johan Willem Friso, slides into a berth at Navy Pier and becomes the first ship to travel through the new St. Lawrence Seaway to Chicago.  Forty American Indians ride a tugboat out to the ship and accompany it back to the dock where Mayor Richard J. Daley and the Fifth Army band greet the ship and its captain, Sander Klein.  From the dock the mayor escorts Klein to Michigan and Ohio Streets where a parade kicks off, heading down Michigan to the Blackstone Hotel for a reception at which the captain is made an honorary citizen of Chicago.  A small amount of the ship’s cargo is offloaded from at the pier, but the bulk of the freight will be taken off in Calumet Harbor where the ship will receive a cargo of industrial and agricultural products bound for European ports.

Marble Place (
Calhoun Place (
Couch Place (
Benton Place (
Holden Court (
Garland Court (
Haddock Place (
Arcade Place (
Court Place (
April 30, 1950 – The Chicago Daily Tribune runs a feature on the nine alleys that run through the Loop, providing an explanation of the significance of their names.  The feature is the result of the discovery of a street sign on “the hitherto nameless alley which runs from Wells st. to state st. between Monroe and Adams st.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, April 30, 1950]  That alley still is Marble Place.  The alley got its name as a result of the marble buildings that were constructed in the early days, the first use of a material other than wood in the center of the city.  Garland Court, which runs from South Water Street to Washington Street, between Wabash and Michigan Avenues, got its name from its sponsor, the Garland Stove Company.  Arcade Place, running from Franklin to State Street between Madison and Monroe Streets, began its life with an arcade over its eastern end.  An alley that led to the old courthouse, Court Place, runs from Franklin to State Street between Randolph and Washington Streets.  Calhoun Place, running from Franklin to State Streets, between Washington and Madison Streets, takes its name from John Calhoun, the editor of the first newspaper in the city.  An alley that runs between Lake Street and Randolph Streets from the river on the west to Michigan Avenue is named for, Ira Couch, the owner of the Tremont House, one of the city’s first hotels.  The Couch family mausoleum, by the way, can still be seen alongside La Salle Street near the Lincoln monument on the north side.  Couch Place becomes Benton Place east of State Street, a tip of the hat to Thomas Hart Benton, a United States senator from Missouri. Today Benton Place is a considerable distance east of State Street, running along a park in the middle of the Lake Shore East development.  Holden Court, which lies between State Street and Wabash avenue and extends in bits and pieces from Adams to near Roosevelt Road and over which elevated tracks run south of Harrison Street is named after C. P. Holden, a city councilman who lobbied for the construction of lake tunnels and water intake cribs to provide clean water to Chicagoans.  Finally, an alley running from Franklin Street to Michigan Avenue between Wacker Drive and Lake Street is named for Edward H. Haddock, a prosperous owner of Loop property during the time of William B. Ogden, the city’s first mayor.

April 30, 1903 -- A new tactic is used in an effort to appropriate land in Grant Park and use it for the construction of public buildings. The Illinois House of Representatives votes on a Senate bill to provide a site for the privately-funded Crerar Library, a legacy of Chicago businessman John Chippewa Crerar who left $2.6 million as an endowment for a free public library. The bill will empower park commissioners to authorize the construction of a free public library building on a site of their choosing, provided district tax payers approve the plan in a municipal election. The Chicago Daily Tribune editorializes, "There is land east of Michigan avenue where a site is available on which the trustees of the Crerar library will erect a handsome building if given an opportunity to do so. The land cannot be put to a better use. The house should give them an opportunity by concurring in the senate bill it is to vote on today." Although the legislation passed, the referendum never made it to the voters. The battle over the library, led by merchant A. Montgomery Ward for much of the rest of the decade, continued all the way to May of 1912 when the library trustees admitted defeat and announced their intention to purchase the land at Randolph and Michigan for the building. That building, designed by Holabird and Roche was delayed by the outbreak of World War I and finally finished in 1919. By the 1950's the building could no longer support all of the library's holdings, and the institution affiliated itself first with the Illinois Institute of Technology and then with the University of Chicago, where the current library, designed by Stubbins Associates, was completed in 1984. The late 1950's photo above shows the 1919 library across Randolph Street from what is now the Chicago Cultural Center and across Michigan Avenue from the Coca Cola sign. 150 North Michigan Avenue occupies this location today.  That is the A. Epstein & Son's design with the diamond top, pictured below the first photo.

April 30, 1886 – At the annual reception of the First Infantry, held a day earlier, word gets around that a fine gift for the organization would be a brand-new Gatling gun.  Members of the Commercial Club who are present get up a subscription list, and by the morning of April 30, $2,000 has been collected, and the gun is ordered by telegraph with the hope that it will reach the city by the evening so that it can be turned over to the regiment.  Representatives of the Commercial Club also assure officers of the First Infantry that when the lease on their present armory expires, “the regiment will find a new and permanent one ready for them.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May, 1886] Five days earlier 25,000 workers had walked in a procession from the west side, near where the Haymarket riot would occur a month later, to a rally on the lakefront near where many of the city’s elite families made their homes.  Their cry was for an eight-hour work day, and anger was in the air.  Following the events of May, the Commercial Club did far more than purchase a Gatling gun … the members made it possible for the United States government to secure land north of the city, next to the Chicago and North Western Railroad tracks, so that infantry and cavalry units could be easily moved into the city in case of trouble. That was the origin of Fort Sheridan.  The First Regiment Armory would be finished by 1890, standing on South Michigan Avenue not far from where those 25,000 workers rallied in 1886.  It is pictured above.

No comments: