Wednesday, May 13, 2020

May 13, 1902 -- Potter Palmer's Will is Filed
May 13, 1902 – The will of Pattter Palmer is filed in the Cook County Probate Court with property going jointly to Mrs. Bertha Honoré Palmer and the couple’s sons, Honoré and Potter, Jr.  According to the document, Mrs. Palmer is given “almost unlimited control” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 14, 1902]  of the disposition of the proceeds, which are estimated to be in excess of $8,000,000 (about $240,000,000 in today’s dollars).  No bequests are made to charity with the exception of one provision that allows Mrs. Palmer to expend $200,000 for a woman’s memorial building if a site can be found in the Lake Front Park.  One interesting provision of the will states, “I also give to my said wife the power to sell during her life any of said pictures, works of art, and household appointments granted in this section, the proceeds of such sale or sales to be used and disposed of by my said wife in such manner as she may think best.  New pictures, works of art, and household appointments bought with the proceeds of such sale shall follow the same course as to ultimate disposition as the original pictures and other household appointments herein granted.”  It is estimated that Potter Palmer had over $1,000,000 (about $30,000,000 in today’s dollars) in such personal property.  Of all the assets that are part of the estate the Palmer House is the most valuable, conservatively estimated to be worth $3,500,000 (about $105,000,000 in today’s dollars).  The Tribune observes, “It is explained that Mr. Palmer gave the almost unlimited power into the hands of his wife solely on account of his great confidence in her ability and judgment, believing that all interests would be best conserved with her at the head of the estate.”  Mrs. Bertha Honoré Palmer is shown int h the above photo, taken two years before the will was opened.

May 13, 1983 –The Chicago Tribune, in its “Community News” column, reports that a six-month project by Friends of the Chicago River has culminated in detailed designs for enhancing six sites along the river with all six proposals under study by the city’s Department of Planning. David Jones, the chairman of the group’s steering committee, names the six areas under consideration for beautification.  The first proposal involves lighting of 18 Chicago River bridges between Michigan Avenue and Congress Parkway. The proposal states, “Think of the effect.  From Wolf Point you would see the whole necklace of lights.” [Chicago Tribune, May 13, 1983] The second location for improvement is Rush Street where a “bilevel, glass-front café behind the Wrigley Building that could seat 80 persons inside and another 150 outside” is proposed. Wolf Point is next where a boat ramp and dock are proposed along a landscaped bulkhead. Part of the plan includes a “small café, an outdoor amphitheater and a floating concert stage” with a high-rise building to be developed.  A “cleaned-up, greened-up turning basin” is proposed for North Avenue where “flowering trees, evergreens and ground cover could keep the basin colorful year-round and could act as buffers against unsightly industrial storage areas.” The fifth site is located on the North Branch of the river where it meets the North Shore Channel, the site of the city’s only waterfall.  “Paths could be landscaped along the bank,” according to the proposal. “Footbridges could be built, providing complete access to the area.  Boat docks could be added, and a sloping terrace on the east bank would allow an unobstructed view of the dock from an existing field house.” Finally, there is Bubbly Creek, located on the South Fork of the South Branch of the river between Thirty-First and Thirty-Ninth Streets.  It “could be developed into a heritage park capitalizing on the history of the site where Father Marquette camped one winter and where ships once unloaded their cargos of lumber … Water quality could be improved with installation of stationary bicycles, which when pedaled, could aerate the water.” Although not a whole lot happened as a result of the report – there are no aerating bicycles at Bubbly Creek -- it was a beginning, an acknowledgment that the river is a resource as important to the city as its beautiful lakefront.  Thirty-five years later the Main Stem of the river is a showcase with its Riverwalk connecting the lake with Lake Street and the South Branch. Projects are still being floated, such as the North Branch Industrial Framework Plan, drafted by the city’s Department of Planning and Development and unveiled in 2017.  Part of that plan can be seen in the above rendering.

May 13, 1950 – At the Eighty-Second annual convention of the American Institute of Architects, Lewis Mumford, for 30 years the architecture critic for The New Yorker magazine, tells the audience, ‘The age of the big city is over … A balanced community, limited in size and area, limited in density, in close contact with the open country, is actually the new urban form for our civilization.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 14, 1950]
May 13, 1935 --  The Chicago Daily Tribune reports that the Illinois highway department has put together “a tentative plan for the construction of a main traffic artery in Congress street such as was proposed in 1908 by Daniel H. Burnham …”  [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 13, 1935].  The plan envisions an elevated highway that runs from Canal Street to Columbus Park, at which point the road would step down to street level at a level low enough to pass under the numerous railroad trestles on the west side.  The entire project, which would include a new bridge over the Chicago River that would carry vehicles though the 1932 post office, is pegged at $21,260,000.  The plan would turn 35 north and south streets into dead-end streets.  Between Canal Street and Columbus Park only eight entry and exit points would be a part of the new highway – at Canal, Morgan, and Loomis Streets, at Oakley Boulevard, and at California, Central Park, Kostner, Laramie and Central Avenues.  The Congress Expressway is another example of how much time often passes between the hatching of a plan that makes sense and its execution.   It would be December of 1955 before the first 2.5 miles of the expressway would open, a section between Mannheim Road and First Avenue.  The photo above shows the Old Post Office in 1953 with the Congress Expressway on the west side.  The bridge and roadway through the post office itself will not start for another year.

May 13, 1889 – The Secretary of War, Redfield Proctor, visits the site of Fort Sheridan, accompanied by a party of officers and gentlemen of the Commercial Club. The group is transported to the barren outpost by a special train that leaves the Northwestern station at Wells Street at 9:00 a.m. and returns at 1 p.m. The post commander, Colonel Lyster, meets the delegation at the north suburban station with an ambulance drawn by four government mules. The Chicago Daily Tribune writes, “The visit . . . was under circumstances most disadvantageous, the day being raw and the roads muddy.” [Chicago Daily Tribune, May 14, 1889] There isn’t much to see – “. . . one story frame barracks – shanties – and other buildings”. On the north end of the post the visitors are shown the proposed site for the commandant’s house. “Notwithstanding the gloomy day,” the paper reports, “the scene was inviting. The grove was blooming with wild flowers, and the angry swash of the turbulent lake many feet below was a recommendation of the spot superior to anything which had met the Secretary’s view during his Western visit.” If first impressions are everything, the new post falls woefully short. The report continues, “. . . it became apparent that construction of the post was not to be on that magnificent plan at first contemplated. The terra cotta pressed brick, the fine hardwood floors, the frescoed walls, and magnificence of palatial quarters had dwindled to plain yellow brick and papered walls. The commandant’s mansion had had a shrinkage from $30,000 to $15,000 and the contracts awarded yesterday called for only $2,000 more than the first appropriation.” The architects involved, Martin Roche and William Holabird, made it all work, though, and the Town of Fort Sheridan is a showplace today. The former quarters of the commandant appear above.

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